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False hope and saving bio-diversity – “an inconvenient truth” for WWF and environmental NGOs

According to WWF UK and most other environmental organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it is demand from wealthy nations that is the real problem and the world’s unsustainable population growth is not a fundamental concern, merely something to ignore, because it is an ‘inconvenient truth’.

This month WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) celebrates its 50th year of work.

Launched in the UK in October 1961, WWF can be justly proud of what it has achieved, its dedicated volunteers and its ‘Living Planet reports’, published with the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London. But there is a profound challenge that WWF and many environmental groups choose to ignore - a problem that will soon become a disaster, unless we wake up.

Writing in the February 2011 ‘Action’ magazine for members, WWF UK’s chief executive, David Nussbaum, tells us:

“you can only achieve these successes if you have a trenchant grasp on the threats.” “Statistics aside, there’s one single pattern that stands out above all others: that demand from wealthy nations is driving the extraction of natural resources in poorer countries.”

According to WWF UK and most other environmental organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it is demand from wealthy nations that is the real problem and the world’s unsustainable population growth is not a fundamental concern, merely something to ignore, because it is an ‘inconvenient truth’.

Instead they like to tell us that ‘if only people in developed nations each reduced our environmental demand, human numbers would not be a problem. But our economic system, predicated on ever more growth, is driving us in the opposite direction. Even if all the efficiency and renewable alternatives could be implemented the savings would be quickly wasted if populations continue to grow.
In October 2011 WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) celebrated its 50th year of work.

Launched in the UK in October 1961, WWF can be justly proud of what it has achieved, its dedicated volunteers and its ‘Living Planet reports’, published with the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London. But there is a profound challenge that WWF and many environmental groups choose to ignore - a problem that will soon become a disaster, unless we wake up.

Writing in the February 2011 ‘Action’ magazine for members, WWF UK’s chief executive, David Nussbaum, tells us: “you can only achieve these successes if you have a trenchant grasp on the threats.” “Statistics aside, there’s one single pattern that stands out above all others: that demand from wealthy nations is driving the extraction of natural resources in poorer countries.”

According to WWF UK and most other environmental organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it is demand from wealthy nations that is the real problem and the world’s unsustainable population growth is not a fundamental concern, merely something to ignore, because it is an ‘inconvenient truth’.

Instead they like to tell us that ‘if only people in developed nations each reduced our environmental demand, human numbers would not be a problem. But our economic system, predicated on ever more growth, is driving us in the opposite direction. Even if all the efficiency and renewable alternatives could be implemented the savings would be quickly wasted if populations continue to grow.

In a fund-raising message on December 1, 2011, Peter Seligmann, chief executive of one of America’s biggest environmental groups - Conservation International, invited supporters to watch a video saying: Right now, there are 7 billion people on Earth, all of whom need nature for food, water, clean air, energy, jobs and more. Yet we are drawing down our resources as never before. The need to provide for 7 billion people - and the 80 million more who join us each year - is our new reality. We are placing a crushing burden on Earth’s ability to support us. But there is hope. Conservation International has an ambitious plan to change the way the world thinks about nature.

It looked as if Conservation International had woken up to the population challenge, but, go to the video link and it is all about getting your donation to preserve natural habitat. Beyond the seven million tag, they don't even talk about the need to reduce population growth as part of the solution.

For several decades there has been a willful blindness in recognising that relentless human population growth is one of the pre-eminent problems we face. A problem that is driving the astonishing growth of fossil fuel use and its depletion, climate warming, bio-diversity loss and species extinction, the growing shortage of fresh water to meet human needs - and as a consequence of these changes – the prospect that agriculture will be unable to produce enough food to feed us

In most countries today existing populations are not living environmentally sustainably. If current birth rates persist, the United Nations Population Division warned in March 2009 that our population will exceed 11 billion by 2050.

It is not a question of ‘either or’ and who needs to act. We are in this together. Rich nations are consuming too much and populations continue to rise. Legitimate aspirations to raise living standards in high population countries like China and India are consuming ever-more resources. In many developing countries with acute water and food shortages, populations are projected to double or triple in size within 40 years.

In Australia, with most of the country desert, the population is set to double every 33 years, fuelled mainly by high immigration. America, Canada and the UK’s already high environmental impact is also growing due to rising demographic pressures.

Egypt's population, dependent on a small strip of fertile land in the Nile Valley increased from 10 million in 1900 to 85 million in 2010 and is projected to be 130 million by 2050. Madagascar's beleaguered rainforest is surely threatened not just by logging companies but by continuing high population growth, projected to more than double by 2050.

In Ethiopia people are suffering enormously from the fact that their ancestors stripped the country of its forests because they needed to grow more food and get firewood to cook it. Ethiopia’s population in 1900 was just 12 million. Its current population of 85 million is projected to rise to 174 million by 2050, despite well-publicised famines.

How will governments provide all the schools, jobs and the food to feed populations that are set to more than double and in some countries triple in size in the next 40 years? Governments will be struggling with millions of unemployed and hungry populations attracted to violence and extremism. You can try reducing consumption all you want, but when you keep adding 100 million and another 100 million, you simply drive every human to a lower and lower standard of living. You cannot escape that reality.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assessment in October 2008 found a quarter of all mammal species on the planet are now under threat of extinction.

In evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group in 2006, Sir David King, then UK Government chief scientist, warned: “It is self-evident that the massive growth in the human population through the 20th century has had more impact on bio-diversity than any other single factor.”

Since the 1970s WWFs high-profile Save the Tiger campaign has repeatedly asked the public for money. Yet 35 years later WWF tells us that tiger populations are in ever more drastic decline.

It is worrying that global environmental organisations like WWF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and others appear blind to these warnings. Since the 1970s, most environmental organisations, for a variety of ‘politically correct’ assumptions on who not to ‘offend’, wilfully neglect their responsibility to talk about the subject.

When pressed with the fact that human numbers are in massive overshoot and impacting hugely on bio-diversity, WWF obfuscates and pretends that it is somehow sustainable – even cutting off debate in its supporter magazine. Not only are they deluding themselves by refusing to talk openly about the fundamental cause of our ever rising impact on the planet, they are deluding their supporters who fund them.

Even if areas dedicated to conserving plants, animals, and other species that provide Earth's life support system increased tenfold, it would not be enough without dealing with the big issues of population, over-consumption and inefficient resource use.

While the number of protected areas on land and sea has increased dramatically since the 1980s, now totalling over 100,000 in number, covering 17 million square kilometres of land and two million square kilometres of oceans, protecting bits of nature here and there will not prevent humanity from losing our life support system.

The report’s lead author Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii points out that global expenditure on protected areas is estimated at six billion dollars per year and many areas are insufficiently funded for effective management. Effectively managing existing protected areas, he says, requires an estimated 24 billion dollars per year - four times the current expenditure.

One thing WWF doesn’t like to emphasise - except in an obscure footnote, is that the Living Planet Report’s regularly updated global human footprint calculation makes no allowance for set aside natural habitat to sustain bio-diversity and wildlife. Yet this was WWF’s primary mission.

They would do well to remember the words of WWF’s co-founder, Sir Peter Scott in his 1996 autobiography: “If the human population of the world continues to increase at it’s present rate, there will soon be no place for wildlife or wild places….But I believe that sooner or later man will learn to limit his overpopulation. Then he will become much more widely concerned with optimum rather than maximum, quality rather than quantity.”

He later remarked on a visit to an elephant project in Zambia: “You know, I have often thought that at the end of the day, we would have saved more wildlife if we had spent all WWF’s money on buying condoms.”

People should be asking whether major environmental organisations are ‘fully fit for purpose’? Are they instead, ‘rearranging the deck chairs and polishing the furniture while the planet is sinking? Is a generous legacy gift ultimately going to be a lost opportunity, unless global environmental groups start talking openly about population?

In early 2011 WWF produced a report with the Ecofys consultancy, claiming it was possible to cut emissions and move to a 100% Renewable Energy world by 2050. There were many sensible ideas in the report, but the potential for reducing population growth and the beneficial impact this would also have on emissions, energy demand and bio-diversity was never mentioned.

Part of the report’s solution was to persuade people to eat half as much meat to make the calculations realistic. It is amazing that so many 'green' groups promote this restriction as a 'highly desirable and necessary' option, yet refuse to contemplate the alternative of having less children, because it impacts on people's 'freedom of choice'.

The more crowded we become, the more governments will restrict our activities. There will be precious little choice of any kind left, if we go on multiplying with no thought for the future.

Saving the planet and greenwash

Green groups, like politicians, like to stress how alternative technologies will save the day. A huge problem is most alternative energy sources are poor net energy performers. Hydrogen provides only a quarter the energy as the same volume of petrol. Ethanol, produced from corn or sugarcane, contains 33 per cent less energy and competes with food production, while wind and solar are intermittent.

Apart from bicycles, there are virtually no functioning forms of transportation that are not powered by oil. Most jobs would cease to exist without it.

Governments now plan to spend billions by substantially increasing nuclear generation.
Experts say even doubling the number of reactors across the world could see commercially extractable uranium ore run out in just 20 to 30 years. Unless there is an unlikely breakthrough with fusion power and we drastically cut demand, we are on course to exhaust the energy we need in the lifetime of many people alive today.

The Stockholm International Water Institute calculated in 2008 that 1.4 billion people live in regions where existing water cannot meet the agricultural, industrial, municipal and environmental needs of all.

And then there is the impact of climate change. The accelerating icecap melt will make at least a metre rise in sea level probable by 2100 - threatening the world's major cities and fertile crop-growing deltas.

Population Matters

If governments and major environmental groups won’t talk population, then they are not serious about cutting emissions, managing the water supply, managing food supplies, and a secure quality of life for our people. Do we plan for a secure and better life or do we carry on blindly towards a minefield of lethal limits, trashing the planet and our children's future?

Unless green groups and others open their eyes to the key impact of population growth we will be swept aside when the ethics and politics of scarcity replaces the ethics and politics of transient abundance. When affordable oil and fossil fuel runs out and we find that the hope of renewable alternatives no way meet our ever growing demand.

We still have a choice. The world badly needs a grown-up, rational discussion of the population issue. The High Priests of the Green movement need to gain some courage. Al Gore and all the other Priests need to begin to speak openly and accurately about the critical role of our rapidly rising population on a planet of rapidly diminishing resources, to the large following of people who trust them.

It would be a tragedy if population growth became a catastrophe - a catastrophe we were too polite to talk about. Our children will not thank us for inheriting a world driven to the abyss.

Comments

"Demographic pressure" is the UN's politically-correct term for human overpopulation. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) warned that it posed "mighty challenges for easing poverty and conserving the environment". At the same time, the UN and other aid organisations are reluctant to impinge on individual and family human rights to have as many children as they want. Many countries are lagging behind in providing facilities for family planning.

Our planet's well-being and long-term ability to provide the resources and "carrying capacity" relies on intact ecosystems and biodiversity - the engine room of soils, vegetation, and the diverse species needed for food and water production.

Human needs and desires must be subservient to the overall health of our planet or populations will continue to outstrip ecological limits.

The developed "rich" nations top-heavy with "ageing populations" are heading towards self-sufficient population sizes. This is due to greater education, access to knowledge and the ability to plan. They are not obliged to absorb the world's excessive numbers of people. This will only spread the overpopulation problem. Each nation must take responsibility for their own territories. We need to give aid, but it must not exclude assistance with family planning and contraception.

There's too much lip-service being played to being "sustainable", but it's usually inadequate band-aid, or short-term solutions. The biggest threat to sustainability is our own human population growth - out of control in developing nations and deliberately being promoted in developed countries for the economic benefits.

Instead of Australia being obliged to contribute between $1.9 billion and $2.7 billion a year by 2020 to meet international commitments to help poor countries cope with climate change, we should be addressing the source of the problem - rampant population growth.

With the 7 billionth baby to be born this month, climate change will be a convenient scape-goat to blame the planet's problems on, instead of the source. Anthropogenic climate change can be more easily dealt with if our global population is contained to sustainable levels.

The UN and other aid agencies are tip-toeing around the issue of family planning, for fears of offending cultural and religious freedoms.

The well-being of the vessel carrying us all, our small blue planet, transcends our desires, rights, politics, economics and other human whims.

We need a "big picture" view of our future, and accept that an "ageing population" is a stepping stone to self sufficiency.

Throwing money towards climate change in developing nations while populations continue to explode will be a waste of resources. We need a global policy of family planning, and Australia must end our own hypocritical excessive drive for economic growth on the back of unsustainable population growth.

There is a report in Queensland Times that wildlife carer Marilyn Spletter has little hope for the survival of koalas in SE Queensland.
She is a Hattonvale resident and vice president of the Ipswich Koala Protection Society.
There are diseases such as cystitis and conjunctivitis, but Mrs Spletter said the main danger for koalas was loss of their habitat through development.
These "developments" are the most forceful and formidable environmental threat wildlife have to contend with now. It means slashing trees and vegetation and covering the ground with concrete and lawns.
"Developments" is a polite and politically-correct world to hide the unpopular "population growth".
"Eventually there's going to be no koalas in the wild in south-east Queensland," she said.
SE Queensland is one of the places where they were prevalent.
Queensland Times
All populations of all species subject to the Couttsian Growth Model (and Couttsian Shrinkage) at all times. Nature pits these populations in a struggle for existence, a struggle of endless, powerful exponential forces restrained within limits to growth. Often these forces balance out and may not approach the limits to growth, or rise and fall in dynamic equilibrium. However, koalas have few defences against human technology, introduced animals and strong political and economic growth forces.
Animals have an extraordinary boom-bust population cycle, with periods of "plagues" followed by years of very low density. The human plague will inevitably follow the same predictable pattern, but for slow-evolving species like our Australian marsupials, the "bust" of human decline may not come soon enough to save our dear and iconic Koalas.

Couttsian Growth Model - An Exponentialist Glossary

HRH Prince Philip was the first UK president of W.W.F.in 1961 and from 1981-96 he was the International president and it seems he may be still active in the organization. In a film recorded interview for his 90th birthday his involvement with W.W.F. is detailed. In answer to a question as what is the most serious challenge in conservation, he answered unhesitatingly "the growing human population" In answer to the next question "what do you think can be done about it he said said "voluntary family limitation" You can view the interview on the 2nd of 2 YouTube items "The Duke at 90" mid way through. One would think that holding such an unequivocal view that he might have had some influence in the organization but apparently not.

... For several decades there has been a willful blindness in recognising that relentless human population growth is one of the pre-eminent problems we face.

A problem that is driving the astonishing growth of fossil fuel use and its depletion, climate warming, bio-diversity loss and species extinction, the growing shortage of fresh water to meet human needs - and as a consequence of these changes – the prospect that agriculture will be unable to produce enough food to feed us...

According to WWF UK and most other environmental organisations like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, it is demand from wealthy nations that is the real problem and the world’s unsustainable population growth is not a fundamental concern, merely something to ignore, because it is an ‘inconvenient truth’.

... Hmnn ... Well, I think that the truly inconvenient truth is that no one wants to be the one to tell women that they are producing way in excess of demand.

And you just can't beat biology.

The survival of the planet may depend on a re-think on the supposed 'God - Given Right' to produce indiscriminate amounts of people who are totally dependent for their survival on what this planet can provide and sustain them with - in an appropriate ratio of people to produce; (the nourishing kind.)

Yes wealthy nations are caught up in a never ending drive for more - all senseless and ill thought out for long term strategies; a culture that dreamt up the term 110% - (when did 100% stop being good enough?) - cannot be brought to heel.

It is up to individuals - 'ordinary people' to recognise their own worth - here's the thing: What makes a 'commodity valuable?

Scarcity; rarity.

Yes the really inconvenient truth is that a biological urge prevents the commonsense necessary for humanity to rectify matters.

It would take a huge shift in consciousness - a grand marketing scheme - to get women to see a bigger picture - one of survival of a species - not just the 'Jones' Genes'.

Dear Agent Provocateur,

With due respect, it cannot be just to get women to see the bigger picture. We need to get men to see it. My own experience is that it is men who push population growth policies and who stand in the way of women getting contraceptives and that they make it look as if women want lots of children by pushing this message in male dominated media. Who dominates the world? Men. Who dominates population policy world wide? Men. Children have two parents. A man is always involved in producing any child - yet we talk almost exclusively about the responsibility of women.

Highly suspicious.

What do you think?

Agent Provocateur says:

Yes the really inconvenient truth is that a biological urge prevents the commonsense necessary for humanity to rectify matters.

It would take a huge shift in consciousness - a grand marketing scheme - to get women to see a bigger picture - one of survival of a species - not just the 'Jones' Genes'.

I implore everyone to listen to the sound file linked below from the most recent program of Hindsight on Radio National: Malthus and the New World at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/hindsight/stories/2011/3349279.htm

In it, historian Alison Bashford reveals the full breadth of Malthus' work. Pertinent to the quote above is his deep interest toward the population constraints traditionally employed by various cultures, and his recognition of the vital nexus between these population constraints and the maintenance of a viable balance between local human demand and local subsistence yields.

Furthermore, Malthus articulated very detailed concerns regarding the aggressive application of colonial population growth toward the rapid increase of colonial economic output as well as toward the displacement of traditional owners.

It appears it was these profoundly spectacular rates of colonial population growth that stimulated the base of his concern for future maintenance of adequate land and food supply. However it would also appear that these huge growth rates very soon found their way back to the homelands in concert with the bounteous importation of natural resources and the escalation of urbanised industrial process.

It is imperative to note that Malthus saw rampant population growth as a concern that was NEW to his time, and thus one that urgently needed to be newly understood, lest starvation and pestilence possibly soon follow. He did not perceive it as a natural or an historical legacy. Neither should we.

Accounts of this 'modernity', and historical peculiarity, of widespread population growth by Malthus, and by various others, have been broadly obscured and distorted. In this and other ways we have been led into the belief that human population growth is, and always has been, a completely normal, inevitable function of society. This view is fatally debilitating to the effective pursuit of necessary and achievable reform.

Widespread misunderstanding of Malthus sees him largely as a misanthrope and an ideologue rather than as a person of fundamental goodwill and incisive perception and insight. This is most directly a product of the huge size of his comprehensive 1803 published work. Due to the sheer costs of its production, this work has most often been re-published in abbreviated form. Even 'complete' versions have commonly had 10 chapters abridged. The full work is extremely rare.

Many scholars, let alone lay commentators, are unaware that they've never fully read nor considered the extent of what Malthus was actually on about. The 'Malthus was wrong!' acolytes that shallowly overpopulate most internet forums suddenly take on an even more vacantly derivative appearance.