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Transition Westcombe and Transition Ashburnham Joint Meeting

Reducing population and consumption in the U.K.

Wednesday May 19th 2010, 7.30pm at Mycenae House, Mycenae Road, SE3

In the Global Footprint Network’s 2003 report scientists stated that the
global human ecological footprint exceeded the carrying capacity of the
earth by some 25%, and that this figure was rising by 8% per year. The
ecological footprint is calculated by multiplying the human population
of each country by their annual per capita consumption. The key factors
behind the need to voluntarily reduce population and consumption in the
UK and worldwide are climate change and other environmental damage, plus
human energy requirements.

This Greenwich meeting of residents as well as local faith and non-faith
groups will be exploring the ethical aspects of voluntarily reducing
population and consumption, in small table discussions. Komathi Kolandai
has researched the viewpoints of the major religions, which all advocate
simpler lifestyles without excessive consumption, and also all stress
the quality of family life rather than the quantity of children. For his
full text, go to:
www.lumes.lu.se/database/Alumni/98.99/theses/kolandai_komathi.pdf .

Consumption reduction. In the U.K. it has been estimated that we could
reduce our consumption by 30% by putting in place energy saving measures
and living more simply. This could be achieved through resource
conservation, needs-based consumption, waste reduction and by using
alternative resources. But even if we achieve that target then we would
still need to reduce our population in order to get closer to the U.K.’s
ecological carrying capacity.

Population reduction. The Optimum Population Trust recommends that the
U.K. population of 61 million should be allowed to stabilise and
decrease by not less than 0.25% a year to an environmentally sustainable
level. It could do this by bringing immigration into numerical balance
with emigration, by making greater efforts to reduce teenage
pregnancies, and by encouraging couples to "Stop at Two" children. At
present consumption levels, the theoretical goal for an environmentally
sustainable population for the UK may be lower than 30 million people,
although in practice this may not be achieved, or not for a very long time.

Population issues are often seen in terms of human rights, and some may
still feel the right to have more than 2 children is an absolute
freedom. But the United Nations General Assembly has recently approved a
Bolivian resolution for an Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother
Earth, which will set human rights against human responsibilities not to
destroy earth’s ecology and climate for many other species, as well as
for future generations of humans. With the acceptance of earth rights,
legal systems could take account of the rights of the natural world –
for example, mountains, forests, oceans, rivers and animals. The
Declaration could follow the same course as the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR), which was not legally binding when first proclaimed
but seven decades later, the UDHR has been incorporated into the laws of
many countries, and is the basis for the International Criminal Court.

Despite well-publicized media coverage of some mistakes, the scientific
community is still convinced of the fundamental accuracy of the
conclusions of the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change which
reported 95% certainty of human-caused climate change. The U.K.’s Royal
Society supported this view by publishing ‘Preventing dangerous climate
change’ in 2009, which underlined the need for us to start making
changes now to avoid the worst future scenarios. There is still no
internationally binding agreement on climate change, which makes it more
important, as a nation, to start reducing our population and consumption
from their current levels towards a U.K. sized ecological footprint.

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