PSN holds event at the Royal Geographical Society

December 6, 2006


Key figures from the fields of media, politics and business voiced their concerns about the effects of global population growth at a PSN event held at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 6th December 2006.

Credit: PSN


Raising the profile of population issues

Entitled Population Increase: the Greatest Challenge? the event was facilitated by Toby Aykroyd, PSN Chairman, and attended by an audience of 500 which included representatives of a wide range of organizations. It aimed to raise the profile of the population issue – particularly its impact on poverty, economic development, climate change, loss of biodiversity and international conflict.

The evening opened with a recorded message from John Simpson, renowned broadcaster and Senior Editor of the BBC’s International News, called away at short notice to conduct an interview in Iraq. He expressed his concern about how the population issue had seemingly all but disappeared from the agenda despite its great importance.

Presentation by Richard Ottaway MP

Richard Ottaway MP, Chairman of the recent Hearings on population by the All Party Parliamentary Group at Westminster, gave the initial presentation.  

Reviewing the impact of population increase on each of the Millennium Development Goals as set by the United Nations, he observed that few if any of these would be attained unless the rate of population increase was significantly curbed. This is widely acknowledged as a problem among developing country governments, yet there is still a high unmet demand for family planning services.

Presentation by Lord Adair Turner

The main presentation was provided by Lord Adair Turner, former director general of the Confederation of British Industry, and Chairman of the recent Pensions Commission as well as trustee of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Lord Turner began by discounting fears about rising levels of age dependency in many European countries, highlighting the inappropriateness of seeking to address this by encouraging higher birth rates. He then reviewed the role played in economic development by population growth - particularly contrasting the falling fertility levels in East Asia, which has enjoyed substantial economic growth over the last 30 years, with the high rates remaining in sub Saharan Africa where GDP per capita has stagnated or even shrunk in many countries.

This situation is likely to be exacerbated by climate change, itself directly linked to rising levels of population.  

On a global basis, median projections suggesting a population increase of some 40% by 2050 may prove optimistic – making it all the more vital that the need for stabilisation is rapidly appreciated and acted upon.