The Madrid conference appears to have ended with agreement that everybody will turn up next year in Glasgow, to talk about the same issues again, suggesting, to me, that they failed to agree about anything.
Not that it matters. While we wrangle fruitlessly over emissions, while we play at politics where East meets West, South meets North, while we gamely sort our tins from our plastics and recycle everything we can, the kids are still being born.
The kids are still being born!
Because there really is only one solution to climate change, and we know it, all of us. Yet we dare not speak its name.
We have to control our population growth, reverse it, even, before Nature takes action on our behalf. In the 20th Century, the world population nearly quadrupled, from 1650 million to 6008 million. The population of India grew from 802 million in 1986 to 1339 million today, Mexico 77.74 million to 129.2 million in the same period. These are not unique, merely examples, and although ‘First World’ countries do better, they are by no means immune. By 2050, world population is forecast to reach 9.8 billion, by 21001, 11.2 billion.
If that isn’t scary enough, forecast figures are cast on a prognosis of reduced fertility, and the assumption that ‘peak child’ (a curious term for the highest point in the growth curve) is already past. Is it?
Few really believe a world population of 11.2 billion is sustainable for any duration. On the road to 2100 species extinctions will be so damaging the fly-blown, disease-ridden life that results will not be one any of us would wish upon ourselves.
This isn’t pleasant, but logic has no conscience, and although defeat of logical argument is the genius of the human spirit, this one won’t go away. It is, truly, the elephant in the room, yet we seem able to virtually ignore it, step around it, clamber over it while we bicker about a new coal mine and argue carbon footprints; stop-gaps and patches – laudable in themselves, but letting the real damage be wrought unchecked.
I suppose we ignore the problem because we are unwilling to countenance the solutions, but we are running out of time. Unacceptable as this seems, the age of free choice is past – a family and children must become a privilege earned rather than a right; old age an option, not an inevitability. This opens all sorts of doors of course, releases all kinds of demons – no-one wants to see promotion of a master-race, or some form of murder of the first-born, but where there is a will there must be a way to curb fertility without such excesses.
If the challenge can be met humanely, it will require us to think deeply about our religious beliefs and reset some of the foundation stones of our philosophy. Our own and the next two generations will play a vital role. If we fail, the second half of this century will descend into chaos.
I hope by the time the climate-change roadshow hits Glasgow next year they will have evolved into a more progressive way of thinking: I hope, rather than believe. Personally, I’m pretty certain we are destined to go ploughing cheerfully on into the abyss, But then I would be, wouldn’t I?
Because there’s a great novel in it.