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A report issued this month (August 2018) by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has found that almost half-a-million homes could be built on UK green belt land. The report also showed that more than 24,000 new homes were approved on greenfield sites since 2009 as part of a government move to release land for badly needed affordable housing.

With the UK population having exceeded  66.3 million and projected to increase by  3.6 million (5.5%) over the next 10 years, housing pressure will continue to increase with dire consequences for human quality of life both in the cities where the 81% of the population lives, and the UK’s remaining countryside. The UK has lost significantly more nature over the long-term than the global average; conservationists have described it as “one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world”.

The world population is increasing. Very fast. Population growth is putting the world’s economies and environments under pressure. It is changing habitations patterns.  The unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, pollution and climate change is a growing concern all over the world. Humans have become a biological and geological force never previously witnessed.
Population growth has already started to slow down, and the UN experts expect that it will keep slowing down over the next few decades. Still, it  is estimated that about 80 million people are being added to the world’s population annually. The world population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100 in a dangerously warming world.

Robert Engelman, writer and former journalist, is the vice president for programs at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental research organization based in Washington, DC.  In his informative book More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want, he examines population control from a woman’s point of view.  

Engelman gives a comprehensive scientific, historical, sociological and cultural perspective on how population and attitudes have evolved over the eons and discusses the various religious and social doctrines on birth control methods. He contends that women more than men understood the risks of childbearing and especially the risks of frequent childbearing all the times. Women have always sought ways to prevent pregnancy and childbirth, their efforts, however, have often run afoul of group interests in having more children and a larger population in order to supply leaders with workers, soldiers, and devotees. The development of “agriculture led to the social arrangements that most effectively severed women from the realization of their reproductive intentions-until the breakthroughs of contraception and women’s demands for equal rights over the last two centuries began to turn the tide.”

We are in a far better place today than in the nineteen or the twentieth century when the world population nearly quadrupled. However, while average global fertility has dropped from about 6 births per woman on average in 1800 to 2.4 births per woman today (World Bank, 2016), considerable uncertainty exists about the future. Population is one of the central and challenging questions of this century.

We don’t know what will happen in the next few decades. What we know is that when reproductive health care becomes a public and political priority, the parents, decide to have fewer children. Once the women escape extreme poverty, are educated and have information about and access to contraceptives, across countries, cultures and religions, they have fewer, healthier and well-educated children.  Once women enjoy status and social standing, legal protections, and the recognised capacity to make decision about when and how often to bear children it is likely to postpone childbearing and to have fewer children compared to women who are deprived of these rights.
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