After taking her warnings about overpopulation to China last year, Wood Lake Nature Center Manger Karen Shragg traveled the opposite direction last month as she delivered her message in England.
Shragg was invited across the Atlantic by a group of overpopulation activists called Population Now, based on her book, “Move Upstream.” Shragg’s treatise against overpopulation calls for policymakers to focus on the root – or “upstream” – causes of overpopulation in a landscape where activists tend to address the symptoms instead, in what Shragg calls band-aid approaches.
Among her stops, Shragg spoke with people from around the world attending the Green Economics Conference in Oxford. Through personal interactions and presentations, Shragg heard ideas regarding acute problems, such as one project that aims to save the Indian elephant. But that, she said, is an example of addressing a symptom while the ultimate cause of the problem, human overpopulation, gets overlooked.
“I said I propose people educate themselves about how the planet is suffering under the weight of all the demands of these consumers,” Shragg recounted. She said the earth’s human population, at about 7.5 billion, is about 5.5 billion above a sustainable level, and growing at a net rate of 85 million per year.
So the ultimate solution to traffic congestion, she explained, isn’t to widen the road, just as the end solution to water problems isn’t to dig another well. Same goes for consumption-related solutions, such as riding a bike or using a cloth bag at the grocery store, Shragg preaches.
“We’ve sort of forgotten in our cultural narrative that we are subject to the laws of physics, and when we go against them we suffer,” she said, adding that the people who suffer most are the disenfranchised.
Shragg lamented that ironically, it’s the most privileged groups – generally well-off white people – who are most likely to hear her message. “But it isn’t resonating with other groups,” she said.
During her seven-day visit, Shragg visited nature-centric sites such as arboretums and a preserve similar to the Wood Lake Nature Center that she manages.
She found it worthwhile “to see how they handle environmental education over there as well,” she said, having come home exposed to more immediately practical resources as well.
“I even found a pond net that I like better to sweep goo out.”
In all, Shragg gave four talks across England. She addressed members of a Quaker House south of London, was interviewed on a podcast and conducted a book signing at a London book store.
All the while, she stayed with personal hosts, never in a hotel. “I was treated like royalty, really,” Shragg said.
After visiting China to address overpopulation at a women’s conference in spring 2016, Shragg – in her first trip to England – was able to observe yet another perspective on environmental issues.
England, a country characterized by manicured nature as opposed to the vast open spaces of North America, “is one of the most overpopulated countries in Europe,” Shragg said.
“ … People are extremely aware of how little space they have left.”
Shragg noticed a preponderance of electric car plug-ins, grocery co-ops and efficient mass transit, although she admits her perspective on the country may have been influenced by her environmentally-friendly hosts.
But still, the English “seem to be more alarmed about their population, more alarmed about what’s going to happen with them.”
So Shragg continues ringing alarm bells wherever she can. “This issue,” she said, “has been hid under the rug for too long.”
Follow Andrew Wig on Twitter @RISunCurrent.