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Opening address given by Professor John Guillebaud of University College, London via video link.

John Guillebaud is Emeritus professor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health, University College, London. He is Honorary Community Consultant in Reproductive Health, Oxford, and a consultant for WHO and other international and national bodies. Material in his report is contained in “Return of the Population Growth Factor”, a report summary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Heath, Westminster, London, January 2007.

Back to: SPA Canberra Conference 2008 page.

Population growth and the MDG's.

Population growth and the Millenium Development Goals. Canberra, Australia. March 14-15, 2008.

Three quarters of the planet’s surface is salt water. Half of what is left is mountain or desert, so the world looks deceptively spacious. In the 1960s there were half as many people as there are now. Now there is a “youth bulge” and we are getting close to the point of impossibility, where we will have population numbers by “death control”. One method of contraception is the pill; more traditional methods of population control are the knife, the gun, the empty bowl and alcohol. Recent additions to methods are

AIDS, genocide and new viruses. Now we must add in climate change.

Multiply the increasing population by environmental footprint, and the human world needs a new city every week.

This destroys habitats, burns fossil fuel, increases carbon. An absent human has no footprint. All human flesh on one side of the scale increasingly outweighs all other flesh on earth, now by about 97% to 3%. This is unsustainable. “Anyone who thinks exponential growth can go on forever is either a madman or an economist.” [Kenneth Boulder] At present we are consuming at a rate of 130% of the world’s total biological capacity.

The UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health has a website with suggestions. Family planning is vastly under resourced and is by far the cheapest option to deal with climate change.

Family planning is essential to combat poverty and social disruption and must be properly resourced.

Family planning would help sustain the delivery of education, because 2 million additional elementary teachers are required each year to serve present birth rates.

Family planning is the elephant on the table and the subject is avoided from fear of accusations of being coercive (China), something that invisibly follows after education for women (political avoidance), or is anti-life (Roman Catholic Church and fundamentalist sects).

Family planning enables women and babies to survive and thrive. It enables women to gain education before childbearing and makes women’s employment and participation in civil life possible.

Spacing the births of children reduces mortality, saving 60%. Women die of progeny they did not want. Shortages of essentials are caused by increases in population, increasing numbers of people in poverty.