The Guardian (UK), July 25 2008
British couples should consider having no more than two children to help reduce the environmental impact of the rising global population, doctors have said. An editorial in the British Medical Journal today calls on GPs to encourage the view that bigger families are as environmentally dubious as owning a patio heater or driving a gas-guzzler. Writing in the journal, John Guillebaud, professor of family planning at University College, London and Pip Hayes, a GP based in Exeter, urge doctors to “break a deafening silence” over the use of family planning to curb the rise in population, which has been viewed by many in the community as a taboo subject.
Managing the impact of a soaring human population will be one of the most politically fraught issues governments will have to grapple with in coming decades. Although the rate of population growth has slowed since the 80s, the UN estimates the world’s population has increased by about 76 million a year this century, which drives up greenhouse gas emissions and exacerbates the destruction of wildlife habitats. Previous efforts to limit population growth in India in the 70s and in China, with its one child policy, have made any attempt to raise the issue in Britain highly controversial. The authors call on schools and GPs to develop education programmes to explain how a rising population is environmentally unsustainable, and how families who have no more than two children will help ensure the population remains steady or even falls.