INEOS makes the basic raw materials essential for many products upon which society increasingly depends. Our business is driven by growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
As the world’s population grows, and as countries develop, the demand for the commodity chemicals that go into transportation, construction, electronics, agriculture and healthcare grow with it.
But after the birth of the 7 billionth baby at the end of 2011, many are predicting doom and gloom with unsustainable population levels and food shortages.
Should we be worried?
Or will society continue to adapt and benefit from new talent, new invention and a constant evolution of the human spirit?
We look at what commentators, journalists and politicians think.
The booming population growth accelerates poverty and is an indicator for worldwide environmental problems. Furthermore, population growth results in increasing world market prices.
Renate Bähr, working manager for the Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (German Foundation for world population)
Population growth must be stopped. The world’s resources cannot sustain current levels of population growth. There cannot be more people on this Earth than can be fed. The sooner we stabilise our numbers, the sooner we stop running up the down escalator – and we have some chance of reaching the top; that is to say, a decent life for all. Yet there seems to be some bizarre taboo around the subject. This taboo doesn’t just inhibit politicians and civil servants who attend the big conferences. It even affects the environmental and developmental non-governmental organisations, the people who claim to care most passionately about a sustainable and prosperous future for our children.
Sir David Attenborough, Britain’s best known natural history filmmaker.
The world population is outrunning its basic support systems. That’s why the world’s forests are shrinking, its fisheries are collapsing, its grasslands are turning into deserts from overgrazing, why soil is eroding and why water tables are falling now in 18 countries that contain half the world’s people. Land has become the new gold. It’s an early view of the sort of thing we’ll be seeing. It becomes an every country- for-itself world – whether it’s oil, water, grain or copper.
Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, an environmental organisation in Washington.
Our population is rising while our ability to sustain life on Earth is shrinking. We must change before nature does it for us. Every additional person needs food, water and energy and produces more waste and pollution, so ratchets up our total impact on the planet, and ratchets down everyone else’s share – the rich far more than the poor. By definition, total impact and consumption are worked out by measuring the average per person multiplied by the number of people. Thus all environmental (and many economic and social) problems are easier to solve with fewer people, and ultimately impossible with ever more.
Roger Martin, chairman of the charity Population Matters.
Although I am hard-wired to regard people as ingenious and society as resilient to change, my conviction that it had been disastrous to neglect efforts to reduce population growth crystallised when I visited Afghanistan and Pakistan. The struggles to build schools and clinics more quickly than the demand for them rose, seemed almost impossible, as did the battle to persuade people that government might improve their lives more than the Taliban. Sitting in Peshawar, listening to a woman in her mid-20s who had seven children and said with distress that she didn’t want any more, it seemed only humane that she should have the means to bring about her wish.
Bronwen Maddox, editor of Prospect magazine.
We live on an over-crowded planet. One effect of this is that natural disasters, such as the tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, claim many more lives than they would have done in the past. Another is that conflicts tend increasingly to be for natural resources, such as oil and water. Only co-operation can save us – and for that we must depend on a reformed United Nations.
Martin Bell, the BBC’s former Washington correspondent and ex-Member of Parliament.
It is likely that the world’s population will grow by about three billion between now and 2050, especially in the less developed countries. We have never experienced a comparable growth in such a short time. The 21st century will be remembered for its aging population – not only in Europe and Japan, but also in China, Latin America and, after 2050, also in India. But individuals and society profit from rising life expectancy. This is an improvement. Besides, our skills and knowledge will be available for longer. However, health care, the labour market and the welfare systems will have to be adapted.
Population scientist Rainer Münz.
It has been a race between the exhaustibility of resources and innovation, and so far innovation has won. We have several thousand years of human history to support us on that, so I’m reasonably optimistic.
Willem Buiter, Citi’s chief economist and son of Dutch economist Harm Buiter
Thomas Malthus, who predicted in 1798 that unchecked population growth would doom the Earth to starvation, has been proven wrong for the past 200 years, so why should he be right in the next 100?
Robert Aliber, a professor of international economics and finance at Chicago University.
Population anxiety is usually ill-informed and often ill-intentioned – targeted against the poor who ‘breed like rabbits’ or immigrants who ‘swamp’ natives. In these circumstances, population fear-mongering is a kind of terrorism and the ‘population bomb’ is a hoax. The real danger is that as people multiply, we will value them less. We should prize human life and try to continue to count it as precious, no matter how much of it we have.
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, author of The World: A Global History.
We welcome the 7 billionth world citizen. In my opinion, the key to improve the quality of life for people, born and not yet born, is in the hands of the women. Women can handle this only when they are not hungry, when they can go to school and plan their family. This is not possible when they are poor. We, in the West, have to make the choice of redistributing prosperity and wealth. We have to guarantee that the 7 billionth baby will go to school, can make her own choice of whom to marry and whether and how many children she wants.
Johan Braeckman, Philosophy Professor, University of Ghent