I hope you’ve got Tuesday November 15th marked up in your diary?

According to the UN’s population wonks, that’s the day when the eight billionth human being will be born. Not sure how they know that quite so precisely, and I certainly don’t recall them being that precise back in 2011 when the seven billionth human being was born.

And we’re not done yet – whatever garbage you may hear from what I call ‘the population denialists’ that the population problem is sorted – if there ever was a problem! The UN’s latest projections take us to 9.7 billion by 2050.

This is, of course ‘good news’, in that it shows that population growth has indeed slowed significantly over the last couple of decades, and that average fertility continues to fall in most countries. What that means is that instead of one billion extra human beings arriving in just 11 years, between 2011 and 2022, we’re now looking at the next 1.7 billion in 28 years.

The eight billionth child will be 28 years old by then – living in what we already know will be a very different world. As COP27 kicks off in Sharm-el-Sheikh, we’re all having to contemplate the various hellscapes in which we’ll possibly be engulfed by 2050 – if we don’t start treating the climate crisis as a full-on Emergency instead of just another big problem that we can sort out tomorrow.

And the extra 1.7 billion people born between now and then will all be playing their part – not by design, but just by being alive – in creating those hellscapes.

Population denialists just don’t understand the challenge of cumulative, additional pressures on ecosystems that are already at (or even beyond) breaking point. Just one example: if we provide the food for those 1.7 billion additional people in more or less the same way that we provide food for the 8 billion of us today, then we’ll need an extra 1 billion hectares of farming land. That’s about one and a half times the size of what’s left of the Amazon rainforest.

And the knock-on impact of that on biodiversity will be beyond awful.

The last Living Planet Report from WWF spells it out so starkly: there has been an average 69% decline in the relative abundance of wildlife populations around the world between 1970 and 2018.

Absolutely right. Which is what makes it all the more frustrating that WWF remains the go-to population-denying environmental NGO in the world. The Living Planet Report says this: ‘Direct drivers are underpinned by a range of more indirect drivers such as increases in human population and affluence.’

And that’s pretty much the only reference to population in the entire report – as has been the case in every Living Planet Report over more than 25  years.

Such a semi-detached perspective is in sharp contrast to the view of so many scientists, including the warning from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which states categorically that: ‘GDP per capita and population growth remained the two strongest drivers of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in the last decade.’

As readers of this blog will know, I do my best to stay as hopeful as possible in a world where that becomes harder and harder. We’re up against such massive geopolitical headwinds: systemic political corruption; the sheer greed of the 1% of the 1% of the world’s richest people; trillions of dollars feeding the insatiable beast of militarism; the constant erosion of democratic safeguards and human rights – particularly women’s rights (please do have a look at Population Matters’s report on this: ‘Welcome to Gilead’).

To that list of hope-sapping headwinds I also have to add the intransigence of all those population-denying environmental NGOs like WWF, who refuse even now to lend their support (and considerable firepower) to advancing the cause of non-coercive family planning, education for girls, better reproductive healthcare, and access to a choice of contraception.

Why is that? Apart from the desiccated trope that our crisis today is all about overconsumption in the rich world rather than about overpopulation everywhere in the world – when it’s so obviously about both at the same time – there’s something else going on.

They rarely come out and say it, but the truth is that they’re scared out of their tiny, notionally progressive minds that to speak up in that way would ‘risk association’ with a lot of hateful, right-wing, xenophobic misogynists who also trumpet the cause of the importance of population from a totally different (and utterly abhorrent) standpoint. And they’re probably right. That probably would happen. You can’t imagine the things that I’m accused of as President of Population Matters.

But is that a good enough excuse? Or is it just utterly craven cowardice? Here’s how the rationale seems to go.

“Absolutely horrendous things were done to millions of women in the name of population control in China, and to millions of both men and women in India. And a lot of really nasty right-wing men still espouse these racist, eugenicist views. So we can’t possibly lend our name to the kind of rights-based, choice-based, non-coercive family planning campaigns that are what today’s activists (as in Population Matters) apparently campaign for. ‘Choice for all’ – outrageous! ‘Choosing smaller families’ – racism by another name.”

This has become a peculiarly perverse form of leftie/greenie wokery, in which even the word ‘population’ triggers stunningly banal and self-righteous virtue signalling that is completely disconnected from what today’s population campaigners are really doing.

I know, even as I sign off on this blog, that it will serve principally as just another reason for population denialists to exercise their prejudices. But I’m past caring about that. I just wish they’d had the decency to engage more responsibly and truthfully with the realities of the world as it is.

And if not to engage with an old, pale, stale man like me, then with someone like Malala Yousafzai through her Malala Fund:

“Countries that have invested in girls’ education have suffered far fewer deaths from droughts and floods than countries with lower levels of girls’ education. Additionally, if every girl was able to exercise her sexual and reproductive health and rights through quality education and have access to modern contraception, it could reduce total emissions from fossil fuels by 37% to 41% by the end of the century.”

So there won’t be all that much to celebrate on November 15th as the population denialists continue to hold sway.