Three’s a crowd? The battle over population and reproduction

Saturday 31 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Lecture Theatre 1

A high-profile campaign by the Optimum Population Trust, supported by such luminaries as government advisor Jonathon Porritt and broadcaster David Attenborough, seeks to encourage couples worldwide to limit their families to two children. The ‘Stop At Two’ campaign is premised on the idea that unrestrained population growth will damage the environment. But some argue that fears about the environmental effects of population growth represent a new form of Malthusianism, the old idea that population growth will push society up against natural limits.

Critics of the ‘Stop At Two’ campaign point out that Malthusianism was discredited by historical developments, and suggest the same will be true of today’s fears. They argue that we can tackle environmental problems without limiting the world population, and that ‘reproductive choice’ should mean people make decisions about having children based on their own desires and circumstances. Some worry that Western NGOs campaigning for contraception and sex education in the developing world under the banner of women’s rights are in fact promoting a Malthusian agenda, pointing to the repressive history of state population control programmes. But sympathisers with the ‘Stop At Two’ campaign stress this is about individuals making choices; and what is wrong with encouraging them to take the environment into account?

Where does ‘family planning’ stop being about individuals and couples making their own reproductive decisions and become a moral imperative that people should make the ‘right choices’? Are fears about population growth a new form of an old panic, or is the expanding carbon footprint a problem we need to address by limiting population growth? What circumstances and concerns do people take into account when they plan their families today?



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Speakers
Dr Austen Ivereigh
Catholic commentator; joint co-ordinator, Catholic Voices

Dr Ellie Lee
reader in social policy, University of Kent, Canterbury; director, Centre for Parenting Culture Studies

Adrian Stott
principal, Enable Solutions; trustee, Optimum Population Trust

Professor Sir Mark Walport
director, Wellcome Trust; Government Chief Scientific Adviser (from April 2013)

Chair:
Tony Gilland
associate fellow, Institute of Ideas


Produced by
Tony Gilland associate fellow, Institute of Ideas
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