DSCN0276 We are dying of fewer things, getting born with fewer tragedies, dying later and consuming more and more of one commodity which is not sustainable. Why are researchers doing stuff likely to make things worse? Why do the Greens only rarely refer to this? The Slog investigates. 

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The global population is currently growing at a year on year rate of around 1.07%. The goforits point out that the rate is falling – and it is, from 1.09% in 2018, 1.12% in 2017 and 1.14% in 2016. They keep on insisting that, as people become better off, they will have fewer children. There are cultural holes in that argument depending on where you are in the world, but either way the statistic nobody likes to point out is that, once they improve their life quality, they use four times as much water.

The other thing that always seems to fall off the flat Earth of demographic data is that – unlike Homo sapiens – the amount of potable water on the earth has stayed exactly the same since its formation. The human population has trebled in the last 64 years. That is, in just one lifetime.

Equally, the 1.07% average is hopelessly misleading. Three main regions of the planet have population growth rates far in excess of that….and guess what? They’re all in places where water is scarce and/or often dirty.

India’s population growth rate is twice that of the US. By 2050 the Middle East and Africa will be home to around 3.4 billion people – double the numbers we see today. In Qatar and Oman, the growth rate is in excess of 6% per annum. In sub-Saharan Africa, the average growth rate is 3.8%. The rate of increase in the Philippines is 50% higher than the global average.

This unprecedented growth is largely due to the fact that infant mortality rates are down, and life expectancy is up. More and more people will be using more and more water over longer and longer lifespans.

Last but not least, it’s always a mind-concentrating process to go back to the raw numbers. This year, the net increase in population globally will be 82 million.

A new United Kingdom is going to be created every year. All of them will die if deprived of clean water for 72 hours.

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There are, quite simply, far too many of us. Not too many to feed: a more compassionate approach to food production – more of it in the places that need it most – would enable a population of 24 billion to exist quite happily. Last year, more people across the world died of obesity than starvation. The problem is a static supply of drinking water.

“That’s OK,” say the goforits, “we’ll have to desalinate more salt water”.

Let’s do that, and screw up the central root structure of the Earth’s food chain. We ate almost all the cod and killed most of the whales, so why stop there?

“I know,” says a well-meaning fertility researcher, “let’s lengthen the time women can ovulate”.

Hard to believe I know, but that is exactly what Britain’s fertility boffins just announced. The Sunday Times today says the surgery, ‘which takes as little as 30 minutes, will extend their fertility although doctors insist the aim is to postpone the menopause, rather than allow women to have babies in their sixties.’ 

I italicise the last few words there to illustrate the childish naivety of the scientist – which, in an ever-changing world, is one of the few things that remain constant. I know how unpleasant (and marriage-wrecking) the symptoms of menopause can be, but in the vast majority of cases these can be alleviated. However – and without pointing fingers in any direction here – just how much imagination does it require to see how those adherents of a warlike philosophy or hegemenous religion/ideology could use this development to double the child output of their females?

Some may regard the reason for my concern as science fictional fearmongering, even racism. But the specifics of potential problems down the road are not really the point. The problem we seem to have as a species is that first, if we can do something, we will – and to Hell with the consequences; second, we see data absolutely staring us in the face (about which there is very little room for debate) but choose to have bitter rows about highly debatable climatological changes rather than do something positive about running out of water; and third, not only do we do nothing about population problems, we spend billions of dollars, pounds and euros every year on research to increase both longevity and fertility.

Bonkers or what?

I have written such things before, and I do not hesitate to repeat them: it is far more practical and compassionate for the greatest number to have the quality of their life on Earth improved rather than the length of it increased. The idea, for instance, that the aim should be to expand individual lifespans without thinking of the unexploded dementia bomb waiting down the road strikes me as a pinnacle of irrresponsibility worthy of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

Were the decision mine, I would halt all longevity research now and for the foreseeable future. I would halt all fertility research using public funds. I would use that money not to make Fred and Mabel Doolally live to the age of 127, but to push ahead with stem cell development to ensure that the wisdom acquired by Fred and Mabel was saved for humanity, not lost to it.

Were the decision mine, I would ask the Greens to stop creating faux climate ’emergencies’, and instead start coming up with credible data outcomes to which more and more people could sign up. The answer to our energy problems is not wind power or wave power, and never will be. The answers are safer nuclear power using Thorium not Uranium (a path Britain is idiotically ignoring); urgent research into the taming of the sun, most likely by fusion technology; moving past oil and all the foul geopolitics that go with it; rapid development of harmless geothermic energy; and paying attention to the now well established fact that coal can be treated in such a way as to reduce its carbon “footprint” (a cliché still waiting to be proved dangerous) by 97.4%.

Above all however – and this question is directed at Caroline Lucas and her Master’s Degree in English Literature – if the Greens really have no agenda when it comes to forcing panic measures down our throats, when are they going to start talking about the real eco-emergency: running out of a substance the lack of which kills everyone within a week?

The next major war will not be about energy, it will be about water. Take a look at the Danube and other large East European rivers and their tributaries. NATO is, I know, already concerned about this – as is Mr Putin. Cutting off the West’s water supply would produce the sort of geopolitical problem I don’t even like to think about.

Yesterday in Britain, a study emerged to show that many of our rivers’ waters are not even safe to swim in any more, let alone drink. One of the classic problems of the neoliberal “philosphy” haha is that it is far more anxious about the feelings of private shareholders than a largely innocent public.

Water supply, volume and quality is absolutely key to the maintenance of all land-based life on Earth – and even much of that in the seas themselves. Neglected investment in water infrastructure and conservation not only leads to massive waste of a rare commodity, it is an ever-present public health hazard.

“Great,” say the goforits, “there’ll be a gigantic pandemic that wipes out 70% of the human race. Sorted!”

I’m not a goforit. I’m more of a tooth-sucker myself.