The great population debate

Wednesday 12 October, 7.30pm until 9.00pm, Programmkino Tilsiter Lichtspiele, Richard-Sorge-Str. 25a 10249 Berlin, Germany

Tickets: 4,50 EUR per person payable on the door.

The debate will be in English.

The world’s population is projected to pass seven billion on 31 October 2011. The United Nations Population Fund has announced it will start a seven-day countdown on 24 October, leading up to the birth of the world’s seven billionth baby. Although the event comes at a time when people are generally living longer and healthier lives, the prospect of an ever-expanding human population is widely viewed with trepidation. In the public mind, more and more problems are to be blamed on the world’s rising population. And although 98 per cent of that increase is taking place in less developed countries, while European populations are declining, in fact both developments are perceived as threatening.

Population decline has been presented as a major problem facing German society by countless politicians and state officials. The president of Germany’s Federal Statistics Office, Roderich Egeler, has warned of too much pressure being placed on the country’s welfare and social security systems by an ageing and shrinking population. As Germans look into the future, they see the spectre of budget deficits swelling as millions of elderly people force up spending on pensions, healthcare and nursing homes. Future generations, so it is believed, will not be able to support the generous lifestyle of the current generation of retirees. At the same time, the world’s growing young population is seen as putting an immense strain on the planet. As Germans debate the problems associated with world energy consumption, global warming, carbon footprints and the dangers of atomic power, the age-old question of how many people the Earth can support is being asked once more. To many, it seems clear we are heading for disaster, as food supplies and energy sources wane in the face of increasing demand.

On the other hand, attempts to project particular demographic patterns into the future have proved in the past to be spectacular failures. Should the disproving of past predictions - which warned of populations dying out or of demographic timebombs exploding – encourage us to be more sceptical? Can our current fixation with population be explained by other socially or psychologically determined factors? Even if it could – wouldn’t a reduction in population levels ameliorate many of the most pressing problems of our times? Or is our obsession with population simply misanthropic and reactionary?

This event will be attended by Alan Miller, as a guest representative of the Battle of Ideas Organising Committee

Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist and author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Dr Tanja Kiziak
research associate, Berlin Institute for Population and Development; co-author, Africa’s Demographic Challenges

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

Karl-Erik Norrman
founder and secretary-general, European Cultural Parliament; former Swedish ambassador; author, The Gala Concert, Verdi/Wagner 200 years

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36

Produced by
Sabine Beppler-Spahl chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36
Recommended readings
A world of seven billion people like you

When the world’s population reaches seven billion in late October it should be a cause for immense celebration. Not only has the population increased seven-fold since 1800 but we have become enormously better off through economic growth and technological innovation.

Daniel Ben-Ami, Independent, 1 November 2011

The definitive guide to modern-day Malthusians

With the human population heading towards seven billion, spiked challenges the miserabilists who say this is a Very Bad Thing.

Brendan O'Neill, spiked, 14 January 2011

Overpopulation: 9 Billion Things to Talk About

We have met the enemy, and in our ever-growing, voracious multitudes, it is us! We have nine billion -- or is it 12? -- things to start talking about, asap.

David Katz, Huffington Post, 1 September 2010

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

What is being said in the discussion about population reduction is that the intimate and personal feelings and sensibilities of people should be influenced and shaped by the claim we should ‘stop at two’.

Ellie Lee, Abortion Review, 6 November 2009

Eine unheilige Allianz

Religiöse verhindern, dass Afrikas größtes Problem gelöst wird.

Karl-Erik Norrman, Der Tagesspiegel, 11 February 2009

Three's a crowd

The more children we have, the more stress we put on an already overburdened planet, say campaigners. Observer environment correspondent Juliette Jowit meets the modern Malthusians who, for the sake of the planet, are choosing to 'stop at two'

Juliette Jowit, Observer, 11 November 2007

The Imaginary Time Bomb: Why an Ageing Population Is Not a Social Problem

The modern world's growing preoccupation with ageing has little or nothing to do with demography but rather that it is used to justify further reductions in the role of government in the economy and the curbing of the welfare state

Phil Mullan, I B Tauris, 25 January 2002

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