Exploring The Student’s Archives: population concern in 1973

The current world population is over seven and a half billion people. It is no secret that in a changing world of rising temperature, limited resources and species extinction, that these issues  should have been tackled far sooner than the present; so it is a pleasant surprise to find an archives piece from 1973, talking of the very issues of rising population with the same sense of urgency present today.

The article, titled ‘Population Bomb,’ was written to promote a panel discussion to discuss the issue, taking place at Appleton Tower. Reading the article from today’s point of view is fascinating, yet simultaneously alarming; it mentions housing issues, food prices and the ‘rape’ of oil from Scottish seas.

Although Scotland is now turning to renewable sources of energy, there is still yet to be drastic change on where the country gets its energy. As for the other two issues mentioned, these only seem to be getting worse, with homelessness and the use of food banks on the rise. However, although the piece seems difficult reading at first with its hard facts, it proves to be highly ahead of its time; not only in its approach to the population issues, but in its attitudes towards developing countries too. It states that ‘developed countries have got to take the lead,’ an echo of the Extinction Rebellion and many other climate change movements like it; that developed countries telling developing countries what to do can be viewed as ‘a neo-colonialist insult,’ and that the west take ‘far, far more than our fair share of the world’s resources.’

To write such statements during this time, when Britain had only let go of many of her colonies just a decade before, would have been radical for many British people, many of whom still believed that European colonisation was still predominantly a good cause; still nostalgic for a time Britain once ruled a quarter of the world.

Most would have not known there was an alternative way of looking at the past; that the notion of developing countries needing their ‘help’ can be damaging and patronising. It resonates strongly with attitudes still prevalent today: western countries providing aid and trying to ‘educate’ the third world, but in fact doing little to combat the same issues in their own countries. There is still a high discrepancy in the use of world’s resources, catering to western consumerist needs.

Nonetheless, the article is not all negative, as it offers simple but effective solutions that people can do. It mentions the ‘two will do rule,’ in terms of how many children families should have, as well as access to contraception, abortion, improvements in jobs for women and stresses on the need for education, ‘so that the British people and the British government can really understand what’s going on.’  Indeed, the article states at the beginning that these solutions are right in front of the people, but these are yet to be put into action.

The last line of the piece is one that will hit the current generation today. It states that ‘these issues concern you and your grandchildren.’ A constant chant of today’s young people is that our parents and grandparents failed to legitimately tackle issues that will inevitably affect us; that we are the one’s suffering for their mistakes. While this rings true on many levels, there is something today’s generation can take from this.

That perhaps, from time to time, it is important that today’s generation should not only fight for their future, but for these lone voices too.


Images: The Student archives from 1973


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The Student Newspaper 2016