Fears on fertility

Professor of Gerontology at Oxford University, Sarah Harper, spoke at Hay this afternoon on the recent change in the world’s reproduction rates and what this means for consumption, the environment and the climate emergency. These themes make up the premise of her new book, How Population Change Will Transform Our World.

The UN has predicted we will reach a population of ten billion by the end of the century. Yet Harper argued, having examined the current childbearing rates of low, middle- and high-income countries, that this is likely to hit a high of 15. "And the planet could do without 15 billion people,” she said.

The population problem is a social, political and technological one. Urbanisation, resource distribution and higher mortality rates have all had a notable impact on population growth.

Harper referenced the impact that China’s fertility drop has had on other countries. However, “If we live in an equal world, we should be able to choose how many children we have”.

Harper’s principal solution to the growing population crisis lies in the importance of teaching girls (especially in developing countries) from a young age. “Education is the answer.”

If you're interested in geography please also see Event 345 at 5.30pm on Saturday 1 June. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers. 

Picture by Chris Athanasiou