Talking About Babies
Hello and welcome to the Sustainable Futures Report for Friday 9th August. I'm Anthony Day.
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I had plans and endless material for this next episode but then I was asked to appear on Talk Radio and I thought I would share the broadcast with you. !t went like this. I got a text which said, “Would you be free for a chat with Dan Wootton today about the birthdate (sic) in England and Wales at an all-time low? And then a further message: “Can I take a line on why you think it's so low? Well I'm no population expert so I sought out the origins of this story, which was a report from the Office of National Statistics, and I sent back an email which said, “Yes, the birth rate in England and Wales has reached its lowest level according to a report from the ONS, but this is part of an ongoing trend. The birthrate declined over the last six years in England & Wales and in the rest of the world.
“One reason for the decline is an ageing population. Another is personal choice: women are taking advantage of education and career opportunities and having children later. Couples are also delaying starting a family until they are able to buy a house. Family income levels and the government’s withdrawal of benefits from the third child may also play a part.
“Hope this is what you wanted. I presume Dan will be asking whether I think this decline is a good thing…”
I didn't really think I'd been briefed about the interview. In fact it turned out not to be an interview at all. Here's what happened:
[Broadcast - sorry, no transcript this time.]
Well I had no idea that there was going to be a discussion. I've been on Talk Radio a number of times and it's just been me and the presenter. I clearly disagreed with Dr Gita. She appears to be an infertility expert and I would certainly support anything she can do to help childless couples. Where I disagreed with her was her suggestion that the government should take action to encourage people to have more children, and to raise the UK birthrate back up to replacement level. As I said, if we do that then we are contributing to global population growth and children born in Western nations have a much more serious impact on the world than those born elsewhere.
I’m very relaxed about a possible decline in the UK population. It would reduce the pressure on schools, on hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, on housing and on the whole range of public services. It might cut traffic jams a bit as well. If we have skill gaps, in some cases migration can provide a solution. We are warned that artificial intelligence is likely to take away jobs, so it clearly makes no sense to bring up children to unemployment. And it will be 20 years plus before children born this year will be able to fill those skill gaps.
I got another text from Talk Radio the next day.
“Would you be free for a chat with Katie Perrior about some people opting not to have kids because they are scared for the planet?”
Actually I had very busy weekend and I didn't see the message until after the broadcast had gone out. I was sorry I missed it because my view is that everyone has a right to a family as long as they have no more than two children. And if they already have more than two children, well, every child should be loved and cherished - and brought up to be environmentally aware.
There has been pressure from certain reports and articles which suggest that having a child causes the greatest carbon footprint of all. In fact I commented on the work of Seth Wynes last July, and the previous April. He suggested that having a child would lead to a carbon footprint of some 60 tonnes per annum.
Apparently he has a new book out, about how to live a low carbon lifestyle. It was reviewed in the i newspaper this last weekend. The reviewer says, “Having fewer children - annual saving 58.6 tonnes each. …Although it is in his PhD thesis, Wynes left this one out of his book.” Hardly surprising when his PhD thesis attracted wide criticism for mis-interpreting previous research and drawing what many saw as totally false conclusions.
No-one should be browbeaten into not having children because of their effect on the planet. There is no doubt that children will face a challenging future, as we all do already, but that’s another issue.
…a few points from the news.
In Shooting the Messenger Corner we have Australian journalist Andrew Bolt who commented on Greta Thunberg’s autism, calling her “deeply disturbed”, “freakishly influential” and “strange”. "I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru," he wrote.
She responded, “I am indeed ”deeply disturbed” about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science. Where are the adults?”
Also in Shooting the Messenger Corner we have Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil. Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) has released satellite data showing a rise in Amazon deforestation, which the far-right president has called “lies”. The director of the institute has been removed from his post.
It’s clear that the forces of denial are gathering, but however loud they shout they won’t change the science. The danger is that they might change the popular perception of the science and they will probably promote the ongoing lie that scientists are not yet sure. Our role is to tell the truth.
That’s it for another week.
Thank you again for listening. In fact more and more of you are listening and the audience reached record levels in July even though there were only four Fridays and therefore only four episodes. We’ll see how this month goes - but I am going to have the Bank Holiday weekend off.
And that’s it.
I’m Anthony Day.
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Until next week.