East London Humanists Chair Paul Kaufman on population growth

PUBLISHED: 14:54 20 March 2013 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 March 2013



The election of a new Pope is a good time to reflect on how old religious values can be squared with urgent 21st century issues such as population growth.

The scriptures were written at a time when the problems of a finite world and an unsustainable population were simply not considered. Now the earth is running out of raw materials. The last remaining forests are being gobbled up and the oceans are being stripped of fish. Meanwhile thousands die in child birth and millions do not have enough food or clean water to live decent lives.

The planet simply cannot sustain the current rate of growth, from three billion in 1959 to over seven billion today. Even in a relatively affluent country such as ours we notice the dramatic rise in the price of food and fuel.

Of course there are strong moral and political arguments around sharing resources more fairly and reducing excessive consumption. But redistribution, GM foods or vegetarianism will not ultimately solve the problem of too many people on a ‘shrinking’ planet.

Also in ancient times there was no understanding of the scientific causes of disease and plagues were considered to be acts of divine retribution. Now in many parts of the world the refusal to promote the use of condoms on religious grounds has contributed hugely to the misery caused by hiv/aids. Piously advising restraint is of no help to partners or children who are infected through no fault of their own.

Humanists look for ethical solutions by applying human values, human knowledge and rational argument. Our proposals include education and the promotion of family planning.

We question whether it should continue to be considered a ‘blessing’ to have a large family if the price is the destruction of our natural environment; or how it can be morally justified to ‘go forth and multiply’ to such an extent that it leads to the extinction of other species with which we share the planet; or the ethics of opposing family planning if this condemns future generations to live in a barren world.

Related articles

Latest East London News Stories

Detectives have launched an investigation after a woman was raped in the basement of a building in Whitechapel.


Britain’s tallest rental apartment block has been topped out at Canary Wharf after reaching 60 storeys.

Yesterday, 16:00

Santa Claus is planning to zoom down the Thames on his modern-day speedboat sleigh to switch the Christmas lights on at the historic St Katharine Docks.

Yesterday, 14:00

Youngsters are starting the school day in Bethnal Green with a square meal paid for by a three-year funding deal from a parcel delivery depot.

Yesterday, 12:12

The 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport that rescued thousands of Jewish children escaping Nazi persecution in pre-war Germany is being marked by Tower Hamlets Council backing calls for government funding for similar operations in today’s conflict zones.

Yesterday, 09:20

A Chrisp Street Market vendor is retiring after 54 years of trade.

Yesterday, 08:05

Commuters are facing delays and cancellations this morning due to a signal failure on the TfL Rail line.

Mon, 20:12

Jews and Muslims in east London joined Britain’s biggest interfaith day of social action cooking 2,500 portions of kosher, halal, vegetarian and vegan soups at 20 events up and down the country.


Are you a landlord looking for a fixed rental income, paid whether the property is empty or not? Steve Westley, general manager at estate agents Elliot Leigh, explains their Guaranteed Rent Scheme and how it takes the stress out of letting your property.

Newsletter Sign Up

East London Advertiser twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Docklands and East London Advertiser
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now