It’s back to the 1970s at the British Medical Journal as an editorial calls for doctors to advise couples to stop at two children, or at least to “have one less” than first intended. The journal has never relinquished the view that the world is overpopulated and it fears that this message has become unpopular owing to the draconian methods of population control used in countries such as China and India.

Professor of family planning John Guillebaud — whom Spiked calls a “life-long Malthusian” — and GP Pip Hayes, urge doctors to “break a deafening silence” over the use of “family planning” (read, contraception and abortion) which they say is necessary to reduce the environmental impact of a rising global population.

Government figures for 2007 show that average fertility rates in England and Wales were 1.91 children per woman — one of the highest in the developed world, although still below the 2.1 needed to replace the population naturally. Britain also has extensive immigration, and all developed countries have increasing life expectancy. Guillebaud argues that bringing the UK’s fertility rate down to 1.7 would lead to a halving of the population within six generations. He and Hayes are even more concerned about rising population in the developing world.

“We must not put pressure on people,” says Guillebaud, “but by providing information on population and the environment [including through schools] and appropriate contraception for everyone … doctors should help to bring family size into the arena of environmental ethics, analogous to avoiding patio heaters and high-carbon cars.” Guardian (UK), July 25


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet