The precautionary principle is an official guiding policy that says: “even where it is not certain that serious or irreversible harm will be caused, if it is likely, action should be taken to prevent it.” (Beder, 2006). Overpopulation is an issue where precautionary principal is taken into consideration as environmentalist, and the world as a whole are starting to see overpopulation as a threat to environment. In the article “Overpopulation is the Biggest Threat to Our Climate”, the author Roger Martin makes an unequivocal statement of the precautionary principle. He gives warning of the consequences of overpopulation, which will be met, if not dealt with in a timely fashion. In this blog post, I will analyse the precautionary principle, a key principle discussed in Sharon Beder’s Environmental Principals and Policies an Interdisciplinary Introduction, and the way in which is was used in Roger Martin’s article.
“Our planet is finite, it cannot support an infinite number of people, so population growth, caused by more births than deaths, will definitely stop one day. And when it stops, it will be because of either fewer births or more deaths (or some combination) ” (Martin, 2009)
He suggests that due to overpopulation environmental problems such as high carbon emissions are worsening. It is up to the governments then, to implement a regulation on population, such as family planning, to lower population growth, thus help lower carbon emissions. Where there is no certainty of the outcomes of such actions, the results are better than the situation at hand; therefore it is safe to proceed with any implementations set fit by the government. Applying limits on the number of births maybe one way to prevent environmental damage. Introducing incentives to families with less children and having a fee to pay for large families may be another, and simple introducing contraception into population may be a third.
The implementation of contraception in developing countries will reduce the population rate and help lower people’s “carbon footprint” or negative impact on the environment. Implementing contraception would not deprive people from having children like China’s One-Child-Policy, but rather control the amount of children families want, and help regulate when they want them. Developments such as the UN have statistics that correlate with similar problems, and the solutions, which they propose, agree with Martin’s precautionary thinking.
I believe that Martin’s precautionary thinking is correct, however he fails to address the fact that it is not only developed countries that have already implemented changes to try and create a more sustainable world. Developing countries have also implemented changes to create a more sustainable environment. These developing countries turn to the developed countries for support, since many of them don’t have the means to implement population control measures for their countries.
Although Martin fails to recognize the point stated above, the precautionary principle behind his article was well constructed. The principle was applied in Martin’s ideas as it proceeded with action due to uncertainty of the outcomes of overpopulation. With the use of ‘family planning’, regulations on population, and/or contraception; populations around the world can be controlled. With fewer people population our earth, the impact humans play on our environment will decrease, leaving a healthier, more sustainable planet.
Martin, Roger. mixmysalad. 20 october 2009.
"UN Population Division Brief." March 2009. www.unpopulation.org. Accessed: December 24, 2009.