OPINION: Finally some good news – in 40 years’ time!

We are doing less damage to the earth according to researchers. Picture: Getty Images

We are doing less damage to the earth according to researchers. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Pete Kelley says we’re not damaging the earth so much anymore which is one reason to be cheerful

A little good news in these tough times, friends... a report published in The Lancet this summer suggests world population could peak earlier than expected - possibly around 2060, at 9.7bn, then tailing off a little to ‘settle’ around 8.8bn about 2100.

Personally, I’ll miss it … which is a strange thought to ponder.

But the encouraging upgraded estimate – punted out by boffins at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation – means an earlier ‘cap’ on the damage our species is doing to the poor ol’ Earth (at least in numbers terms) and a lower eventual peak - about 2bn less than earlier United Nations forecasts.

To me, this feels like a wake-up call. And I hope others see it that way.

It’s easy to think everything bad is ‘out of control’, and there’s no point working to save this struggling planet. But the prospect that we could reach ‘peak people’ in most of your lifetimes (even if not mine) should inspire us all to campaign now for policies to benefit the natural systems we all depend on. Forty years, friends. And things could start to get better. If we help. One big push.

And if you think – as people often say to me – that what you can do as an individual (driving less, eating less meat, recycling) is a drop in the proverbial, remember that – yes – it’s quite possibly only national and international policies which will crack this significantly. But our policy makers need votes.

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Each time you avoid plastic, people in Whitehall are calculating our appetite for strong climate action in an election manifesto. Interestingly, the study breaks down how different countries could be affected.

Some European states – like Spain – are expected to shrink by half (from 46m to 23m) by 2100, with giant China set to drop from 1,400m to around 732m. Think of how these things affect the global balance of power.

And us? Countries like France, the UK and Australia hold up well, in numbers terms. Why? They have a relatively positive attitude to immigration.

A lot to think about there … not least for me.

I only know about this because one of my ‘retirement projects’, four years ago, was to learn Spanish. It’s been tough, but I kept going thanks to a great teacher, Tamara, at Wensum Lodge and at times it has been a bit scary. But if you don’t scare yourself a bit, occasionally, what’s the point of living, right?