You never know where the next piece of helpful advice can come from.
Here at the Fifth World Conference of Science Journalists, currently underway in Melbourne, we were told to be careful in using Vatican condoms: they have holes in them!
It’s a joke, of course, but the implications of increasing human numbers is no laughing matter. And neither is global warming and resulting climate change — one major topic of discussion at the conference.
Professor Roger V Short, FRS, from the University of Melbourne made a passionate plea for controlling our numbers: “We are the global warmers. And we hold the key to containing and reducing it.”
He was speaking at session on ‘Life and death in 2020: how will science respond?’
Human population has increased at an unprecedented rate. When he was born, the world had a total of 2 billion people, the elderly academic said. Now, the estimate is around 6.7 billion.
By 2050, according to the United Nations, it is set to reach 9 billion. And that with all efforts at family planning.
The United States and Australia are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Yet, Australia is the only developed country that is encouraging its people to increase the birthrate.
Are we out of our minds, Professor Short wondered.
The message was loud and clear: unless we seriously contain our numbers, we — and our planet — are doomed.
Prof Short recalled how he’d spent a inspiring week with Thailand’s Senator Michai Viravaidya – known as ‘Mr Condom’ in Thailand for his unashamed and long-standing promoting of condom use — to both reduce population growth and to contain the spread of HIV.
Wide use of condoms, and globally adopting a one-child-per-family policy, can give us a chance to arrest run-away global warming, Prof Short suggested.
The world is urgently in need of many more Mr Condoms, it seems.
To illustrate his point, Prof Short took out a T-Shirt saying ‘Stop Global Warming: Use Condoms!‘ and presented it to John Rennie, editor of the Scientific American, who was chairing the session.
The good sport that Rennie was, he immediately donned it.