Engineering population growth: part 2, recommendations

Yesterday we reported on a freshly published report (PDF) by the British Institution of Mechanical Engineers. In that article you can find an overview of demographical forecasts, and associated resources trends. The figures come from leading UN and IEA publications.

It is a remarkable thing to see engineers enter the overpopulation debate, so we decided to give it a thorough read. The chapter ‘What needs to change’ is, for those that were hoping for concrete and quantitative solutions to demographic sustainability problems, a bit disappointing though.

First of all IMechE seems to suggest speedy population growth over many decades to come is a given fact – whereas it can of course be abated through a coordinated policy for (lenient) birth restrictions, especially in regions where fertility rates are excessively high and associated problems therefore greatest. Not for no reason did the UN also present a low variant (and -to fairly assess the risks- a high variant, that shows world population exploding to 14.2 billion by the end of the century).

However, as engineers are always confident of the feasibility of top-down solution approaches, this lack of interest in actual mitigation can perhaps be forgiven – if only clear adaptation alternatives would be suggested.

Here too the report is a bit disappointing, by being very vague – considering IMechE states we are in for ‘crushed resources’ unless their engineering solutions are ‘urgently implemented’.

These are the filtered statements and recommendations:

  • There is no need to delay action while waiting for new technologies or breakthrough ideas on population control – development and deployment of currently viable technologies should be prioritised and accelerated by governments around the world
  • The five ‘Engineering Development Goals’ should be the next step beyond the expiring (2015) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):
    1. Energy: Use existing sustainable energy technologies and reduce energy waste. Don’t wait for new technologies to be developed
    2. Water: Replenish groundwater sources, improve storage of excess water and increase energy efficiencies of desalination
    3. Food: Reduce food waste and resolve the politics of hunger
    4. Urbanisation: Meet the challenge of slums and defending against sea-level rises
    5. Finance: Empower communities and enable implementation
  • Governments in developed nations should work with the engineering profession to further develop the Engineering Development Goals and to establish targets for their adoption alongside the MDGs
  • The engineering industry needs to cooperate
  • The engineering profession needs to develop new relevant specialisations
  • All nations should be provided with engineering expertise
  • The developing world should be helped to leapfrog the resource-hungry dirty phase of industrialization – to prevent economic market forces from controlling the development process

Perhaps we can also add the following recommendation:

  • Let’s do the right things in general

There is room for a significant additional conclusion though. With even the engineering sector making moves to get (economically) involved, the overpopulation debate is definitely broadening. As demography as a science and a sustainability issue may be viewed as being hindered by universally adopted political correctness that could well be a good thing.

<-Back to: Engineering population growth: part 1, the problem

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