Chris Packham does a brilliant job at addressing the issue of overpopulation

By Nina Steele 

It is the subject most public figures would rather not address because of the inevitable backlash. No wonder the issue of overpopulation, one of the most pressing issues of our time, is often referred to as ‘the elephant in the room’. Thankfully, there are still a few high profile people out there with enough courage to take on the issue head-on. Chris Packham, who also happens to be childfree, is one of those brave souls.

In a BBC documentary entitled: “Chris Packham: 7.7 Billion People and Counting”, the naturalist and TV presenter visits some of the world’s most populated places to highlight the impact overpopulation is having on everyday life and the environment.

His first stop is São Paulo, Brazil. The city went from a population of around 4 million in 1960 to 22 million today. With rapid growth come the inevitable impact on resources. Water shortages in the city have led to the proliferation of private wells. It is estimated that there are currently over 13,000 private wells in the city and counting. Poor people who bear the brunt of the shortage, since they cannot afford to build their own wells, are taking to the street in protest.

Chris’ next stop is Lagos. Another of the so-called megacities. The city went from a population of 1.4 million in 1970 to around 20 million people today. We also learn from the documentary that as a country, Nigeria has one of the highest birth rates in the world, with women having 5 children on average. Also, as reported on this website before, Nigeria’s population is predicted to double by 2050 to 400 million. If those estimates turn out to be true, it will become the third most populated country in the world.

More people means more resources needed to meet their needs. This imbalance impacts negatively on other life forms and the biodiversity that is crucial for life on earth. Even though most of the growth is happening in developing countries, the truth remains that much of the consumption is happening in rich countries. So the real issue now is what will happen when consumption levels in developing countries get to the level of the West? Add to that projections of the world population reaching 10 billion in 2050, and we have a potential catastrophe waiting to happen.

Chris addressed his own choice not to have children. When asked whether his choice was as a result of environmental concerns or much more personal, he said: “I think it started off personal and then it became a complex of many things and environment was one of them”. He goes on to say: “The greatest thing would have been a fear for a child’s future”. Definitely a documentary to watch.

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