Dr Liz Gordon: A one-child policy worldwide now


The population of the world has much more than doubled since 1960, 150% higher in fact.  Humans are breeding ourselves to extinction, even though the means not to have children has been available for over 50 years.

We are extinguishing the forests, the natural resources and all other species except those which we farm for food and products.  And yet we worship babies, and coo over them, and want families to be bigger and better. And babies are lovely, to be sure. There are just far too many of them.

Seven point five billion people.  You may say that we are not the problem, but all humans are the problem. The churches are particularly the problem, especially the Catholics opposing contraception as ‘intrinsically evil’ (what are you thinking, guys?) and the religious opposition to abortion.  The latest law from Alabama will almost completely ban abortion from November. This attitude that humans are somehow sacrosanct is part of the problem, not the solution!

Frankly, I am not so sure any more that the human animal is worth saving. We are greedy and self-centred, guided by beliefs that are often bizarre and think far too much of ourselves.  This is not our planet to destroy, people. Some believe that a technological solution, such as the colonisation of Mars, living forever in a large dome, is the answer. We may become like the rats of the universe, spreading ourselves out to the limits of our technology, our only purpose to reproduce and consume. Often it feels like we are there already.

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The first step in a climate emergency model therefore needs to be a recognition that there are too many, far too many people on the planet.  There may not be too many in New Zealand yet, but we must play our part in reducing the global population. Everyone must, or we will just love our beautiful planet to death.

Thank goodness for the Chinese and the one child policy.  Yes it was flawed, and included far too much coercion, but we might by now have already reached the 8 billion human population without it.  What I want to see is not a hugely coercive policy, but an agreed position by church, state and all individuals that we have to start reducing the world’s human population if we are to save the environment, multiple species and, oh yes, the planet.

While people blather on about changing our practices and zero emissions and the like, at the heart of our problem is not our practices but our presence. The rise of white supremacy in Europe is largely about space, the fear of being overrun by the African diaspora.  The same with Donald Trump’s wall, too. The world is getting full and it will only get fuller, and it will not end well for us.

So I hereby announce my bold policy of one child only per woman.  It will take a while to take effect and would take a huge amount of effort in 250 languages to persuade people that it is our only hope for saving the world beyond this century. I don’t want to work through the details here, but let it just be said that my aim in general is that having more than one baby per woman should be socially unacceptable and seen as destructive.  Not that it should be criminalised, but that everyone would want to comply for the sake of the planet.

There is no need to do this by penalty or coercion.  Families should not be sanctioned, as they are currently in the UK, if they are on a benefit, if they have too many children.  Another human failing is that we tend pretty quickly to the punitive solution, and this is wrong too. No, the appeal must be to the good, the noble side of human nature, which we definitely have, a sense of personal responsibility.

One argument is that there will not be enough people to generate the wealth to look after the elderly, but surely technology will solve such problems now? In 100 years, the population would still be too high, but perhaps more manageable. Population is the elephant in the room in regard to saving the planet. If there are any elephants left, of course.

Note: Thanks to those of you who put me in contact with Kerry.  We had lunch and talked about children, drug abuse and the justice system.  It was good and we will stay in touch.


Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.


  1. Yes too many children being born while people are living longer… the world can not expand anymore… we are literally destroying flora that we need to control climate and the air we breathe.

    I’d like to see 1-2 children being the targets for government’s around the world.

    This could be achieved by giving money to families that do this for example… especially could help in the developing world who rely on children for labour or being looked after, instead they get a sum of money to help them if they limit their family size to help the planet and their countries resources …

    Again tax credits for children that do look after their parents or parents that look after their children and breastfeed them if they are able for the first year… there are so many financial benefits for bad decisions, how about government looking at rewarding financially those that do social good and take the pedal off money being the most important in a country, but a functioning society…

    This would lead to a functioning world… and ultimately stopping the continued extinction of more and more flora and fauna.. eventually with the amount of people being born into the world, life is going to get worse and worse for everyone…

    There is already massive unemployment and social unrest in many parts of the world… it is better to give qualify of life to everyone than have horrific poverty and social unrest through more and more of the world.

    With technology low labour jobs are going… people need to be educated..

  2. Religion has to modernise.

    Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in spite of being home to the pope…

    For continued human survival religion has to start to support sustainability for the planet. They can (aka women priests) and have, changed with the times.

        • We have a measure of community health and we are very sick with widespread hardship and the many outcomes of inequity.

          Lets address the basics.

          GDP is a strange concoction dreamed up by “economist” who have no answers for dealing with what lies ahead. GDP is a nonsense used by ignorant fools.

  3. You realize western countries average a birth rate of less than replacement (about 1.7 births per woman)?
    You are arguing largely for less Africans to be born.(averaging up to 7 births per woman)
    Best you start there then – and good luck.
    I suggest tact, as most of the nations overpopulating do not have white skin.
    It’s amazing how the left can go full circle on itself.

    • The one child policy has seen China rise up and become a superpower, maybe African and Asian nations like India which is one of the most populated nations and now running out of water… can be persuaded…

      In the west some governments are actually paying their citizens to have more children, because they are trying to keep up with the other nations who have massive population growth.

      Aka there is now a race to increase the population, not decrease it! The opposite of what needs to happen!

      So there needs to be safeguards for cultures to be preserved… because identity and culture are key.

    • Also there are plenty of non white people who are minorities such as Maori and other non white Indigenous people so it is ludicrous to suggest that the argument is about ‘white’ minorities vs ‘non white’ majorities which is where pro population people always try to make it race based.

      Everyone’s culture is different so cultural identity being preserved is the most important, not colour.

      P>S> African national have not got the biggest populations, the top nations are China and India. Both have big pollution, inequality and social unrest issues so it is a burden for a country to have so many people being born and individually a lot of competition for it’s people to live comfortably and get educated.

      Things that in NZ we think are essential and part of life are not accessible for everyone in populous countries, like free education and free health care.

      It would be nice if this could be changed and if there was less people then they would be more interested in spending more on each person not rationing out resources.

    • Yes your correct, unfortunately, Keepcalmcarryon. And these countries are real dogs for growing own food and run by corrupt dictators, what hope for them? Nothings changed, we will go to extinction in a fireball of excessive everything.

  4. Nonsense. Limiting childbirth to one per woman would quickly bring a global catastrophe. Every worker would not only be supporting her or himself, but two parents and four grandparents, either directly or through taxation. Multiply that by a few billion and you face worldwide economic devastation. Encouraging women to have no more than two children will do the job perfectly well, because many now have only one, or none, and that will continue without social intervention.
    In any case, recent statistics show that world population is either stable or declining on every continent except Africa. And Africa will be no exception as that continent’s economies improve, and people feel more secure without the need to insure their old age with half a dozen children.

  5. Where is the article about the women beating new fijian all black and how come he hasn’t received the same shit as Losi the young island rugby player from wgtn people were calling for his head and he was young and new into his rugby career seems we have double standards in this country is it because Sevu plays for crusaders who seem to get away with things

  6. My mother, 80 now, tells of when she was at primary school and the school were taking donations for the ‘black babies’ (yes un-PC, but it was back in the mid 40s), what I’m saying is that helping starving African nations has been going on for more than 70 years, and it’s still a problem today. Not enough food to feed the kids a family currently has, they still have more and all that money clearly a waste of time and effort.
    Poor countries just do not care for contraception education nor indeed basic humanitarian forward thinking.
    Cutting down the population increase is not a west problem but the east and Africa’s problem and as long as the west keep giving aid and money why would the government’s of those countries want it stopped?!

    • Should have thought about that before fundamentally changing the South African continents culture and systems with foreign european junk science.

  7. Climate change, urban sprawl, degradation of agricultural land, water shortages, species loss etc etc are mere symptoms of the underlying cause, that being too many people consuming too much. That is why any attempt to address climate change etc without first addressing the conjoined-twin elephants of population and consumption will fail.

  8. Please excuse my language because I don’t want to assume that doctors are stupid. So bullshit.

    A birth rate of one could halve the population in 20-40 years. That is a bulshit argument. All you are saying is 2 million New Zealanders are surplus to requirements let alone snaping 4 billion humans in a very Thanks way. Even if we piled up all the bodies in every war through out history it wouldn’t even hold a candle to your one child policy. Oh my fucken God.

    This is why I reckon a jobs guarantee would be a much better way to go.

  9. We’re in OVERSHOOT The ecological basis of revolutionary change
    carrying capacity: maximum permanently supportable population load
    cornucopian myth: euphoric belief in limitless resources
    drawdown: stealing resources from the future
    cargoism: delusion that technology will always save us from
    overshoot: growth beyond an areas carrying capacity, leading to
    crash: die-off

    catton’s book explains it and we’re there.

    • Human over shoot in several areas has been established over 45 years ago.

      Modern humans seem to like living on myths.

      The poorest are candidates for early die off.

  10. As sensible and necessary as this idea is, the fact that it only applies to woman is clearly wrong. This would not prevent any selfish man from fathering multiple children, via lovers, surrogates and any other iteration of the fairer sex. This requires a rethink to make it applicable to all humans (keeping in mind that the majority of really bad humans are male).

  11. Liz, ‘ The Limits to Growth ‘ book must be about 50 years ago, so it’s taken a while to reach the obvious.

  12. I’ve been saying this for ages now.
    Even if man-mad climate change is nonsense, the planet very definitely has a finite size and thus can only provide a finite amount of resources. At some stage, the sheer number of people will be beyond what the planet can provide.
    The only sustainable path going forward is population control. Given that this automatically infringes on human “rights” (I’m not really convinced this is something governments anywhere are genuinely concerned with but I’ll entertain the idea), the only workable way imo to implement this is by both increasing taxes and cutting benefits for those who have chosen to have more than one child. The ready availability of birth control and early stage abortion (i.e. via a pill), leaves no excuse other than for religious reasons – something a secular Government shouldn’t ever be remotely concerned with.

    • How could you possibly indorse a plan that will end 4 billion people. It may not be as colourful as a bullet through the brain but my god man. Snap out of it.

      • Why would it end 4 billion people? The current people won’t be affected by this policy at all, unless they choose to have more than one child.

        • I must truly and sincerely apologise to you Nutrium because I really can not be arsed painting the picture for you and showing you each line in the graph as they lead off into a halving of Aucklands population over 20 years or what ever. It’s bullshit. It isn’t going to happen. We’d just maintain replacement numbers with immigrants.

          • Assuming a NZ only isolation is hardly viable.

            Such confinement is not likely in the early stages of collapse.

            • 4 billion during the die off period but die off will continue beyond that.

              Th Non Renewable Natural Resources have been well plundered with little left.

              Past human existence has depended on these.
              There aint no more.

              • What doesn’t kill you makes humans stronger. Humans are the only animal that can survive in every climate. We will just bounce back. It’s happened before with the ice age, that almost made us extinct.

    • Endorsed of not endorsed will make little difference.

      Humans numbers and impact are both too high for any simple measure to stabilise population.

      The pain of change will be enormous and human die off widespread.

      There is no modelling. that will give us a guide. There are too many wildcat variables, the most unpredictable being human behavior.

      All the mitigation targets are wild guesses.

  13. Humans are a plague, whether in small numbers or large. We’re destined to fuck things up, only now our scope has gone global. The people of tomorrow will be as bad as the people of today. Maybe worse. So stop trying to put the fires out. Let it burn and let nature rebuild.

    Got to go. Dinner is ready.

  14. I think Trump, Pompeo , Bolton, Pence etc are working on it. It’s pretty obvious that their approach to population control will be what happens. There is no more likelihood of us all voluntarily reducing births than of reducing our use of fossil fuels. There might even be less. Some will , but the reduction in births in western countries has been for chosen lifestyle reasons not for saving the planet, not that that matters if it works, But what we will finish up with is the educated, successful , productive, socially oriented people conscientiously limiting their family size, and the uneducated , unproductive, un socially responsible people breeding like there was no tomorrow. And nothing else to do anyway.
    Having had my cynicism rant though, it is a demonstrated trend , that when the standard of living of a whole population gets to a certain level, the availability of “family planning ” results in the slightly less than maintenance birth rate that the west mostly now has. Probably as the proportion of our population dropping out of that living standard continues to increase, so will family size.(especially single parent family size).
    Lifting the standard of living of poor people both in poor and in rich countries is the only politically acceptable hope. But of course that can not happen without a completely different approach to the economy. Not on the horizon.
    D J S

    • That can’t be done. There is not enough resource on the planet.

      “High” living standards are a major part of the transitory problem.

      Consume, consume, consume never was a viable management guideline.

      Removing the top 60% of consumption would allow a breathing space
      as humans establish a very much simpler basic lifestyle.

      At about 1750 AD the writing was on the wall but humans did not control their energy use or thinking, Wanting more seems to be an irresistible confusion.

  15. Thanks for all the interesting responses. I know it is bloody obvious, but who talks about it? I wrote this to try and get a conversation going, and I enjoyed your responses, even teh grumps.

    • Keep worrying this bone, please.

      If you have the wisdom of Solomon, can you see an approach that would encourage having fewer children, versus not penalising the children of large families (who had no choice in their conception)?

    • Ha ha Marc, yes get the SPCA on the job! Funny how people can identify the issue in other species but not their own.

    • Interesting how these ponderings are considered ok for the left but not the right.
      Maybe the left doesn’t realize what it is becoming.

      • Because the left are joking about it…

        Both right and left love China these days, and they seem to have taken the idea of limiting reproduction seriously and maybe that has been successful for them.. time will tell…

        limiting population growth as a whole is quite different from limiting some populations to grow…

        not sure about anyone else but I’m advocating for limiting population growth as a whole and not by force but by gentle policies, … so that overall people can have better lives no matter where they come from.

        Does being a Polish slave in the UK for example sound like a positive outcome for humanity or be a migrant trying to escape your country?

        Places like China have immigration from people trying to escape North Korea, while the more affluent are escaping China to get to the West… meanwhile those in the west are noticing more and more poverty for their own people who may have paid taxes and lived there all their lives but now can’t afford a house, retirement and health care as more affluent people are spending money on relocating… which throws up massive social equality and fairness issues in welfare states.

        If you are rich you can buy another country to live in, if you are poor you are probably going backwards no matter what country you live in.

        • Joking about forced sterilisation?
          Real funny from an arm of politics forcefully disarming it’s citizens and limiting their free speech.
          I don’t think the left is aware what it is becoming.

          • I’m not suggesting forced sterilisation for all of humanity..

            at present the government focus around the worlds is on the opposite of what needs to happen which is growth and having more and more people being born and competing against each other and other species…

            which eventually will either end or significantly change the quality of life for humans as water, land and air becomes more polluted and harder to distribute and more species are wiped out that creates more imbalances in other species…

            During the cultural revolution in China the people were all encouraged to kill all the birds to stop them eating crops… then the bugs became out of control because their natural predator of birds were destroyed and the crop damage was far worse.

            We already are destroying bees that are necessary to pollenate and companies are creating drones to do the work… again driving up prices of making food and mechanicalisation of production so it becomes more difficult for small producers..

            Consequences will happen as more species are wiped out.

            In addition quality of life is being reduced many people who need to work harder or live in poverty to survive, and the increase of slavery and sales of people as slaves is becoming more prevalent.

            • I wasn’t having a crack at you specifically SaveNZ.
              Take a step back, see what is being discussed and realise the left of politics is just as dangerous as the far right, they will force on us “what is best for us”.
              They already are.
              Small wonder when the governments supporters speak so highly of Chinese style authoritarianism and state control of reproductive capacity.

  16. The Chinese one-child solution has thrown up problems.
    Firstly, before this was implemented Chinese families were big, my wife’s father had nine siblings and this was not unusual.
    Now these family members are in their 70s and 80s and consequently China has an aging population with all the problems of health resources to the elderly that you can imagine.
    Not much different from NZ you might say, but you are talking about hundreds of million of people here, not a couple of million.
    Also, the policy has been relaxed a lot and has all but died a natural death in some regions that have big population age imbalances and lack of young workers.
    How much it is enforced depends a lot on where you live (often city versus urban) and who you know in local government.
    It may be worth mentioning that when I married in China (marriage is a civil ceremony in China and the wedding celebration is quite separate) one of the documents I signed spelt out that as a couple we were expected to use contraception!
    Wouldn’t get that at a Catholic wedding, would you?

    • Indeed, it has started with increased anti migrant attitudes in Europe, the US and so, it will eventually end in wars.

  17. Yeah/nah. It’s way too late for the one-child approach.
    We, the human population has expanded quite a bit over the last few years, have we not? Hundreds to thousands to millions to billions and billions. “Nothing like a root after a good feed aye?” ( I have literally heard that said. )
    And yet we can all be gone in the relative blink of an eye.
    Do you, et al, really, actually, truly think that the knowledge that we’re about to out breed the ability of our pale blue dot to support us is a new realisation amongst the intelligentsia? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligentsia
    And another thing: Do you, et al, really actually, truly think you’re in control over what, in fact, you think? Well, that’s what YOU think.
    [This] particularly unfortunate situation was a long time in coming and it was seen coming by those whom have politely enslaved us and in so doing we’ve created an environment within which we’ll self-exterminate. ‘They’ must now watch and manage from a safe distance. It’s their only option.
    “ Bugger Venice! Lets go to the Moon dahlings!? “ has probably already been said.
    ‘They, as it certainly appears to me, have been flat out normalising the ab-normal.
    You’ve seen multiple Space X landings and take off’s beautifully AI choreographed with extraordinary finesse? It’s all over YouTube.
    Why? What a lot of fucking around for what?
    Given the God-like, narcissistic self-adoration of the likes of bezos and zukerberg and musk? I’d say they will expect to have the planet to themselves before it’s a goner for good and, of course, taking those same guys with it. After all? What do we humans do with a parasitic infestation? We spray the fuck out of it then leave home for a few days.
    I have friends who had a flea infestation in their carpet. It was all very funny there for awhile.

  18. Perhaps women could be allowed one female child only, but as many male children as they could produce. This would probably be just as effective in reducing population as an overall ‘one child’ policy, and it would mitigate the problem of large numbers of elderly being supported by insufficient numbers of younger persons. We would probably have a lot of rather randy blokes looking for a sexual outlet, so governments might have to introduce a prostitution service. Polyandry might also be encouraged.

    • @ MIKESH – Isn’t the point is to reduce the amount people in the world so that the planet is not decimated, not just reduce women!

      • A ‘one child’ policy would leave the world top heavy with elderly persons. My suggestion would still reduce populations sizes, though perhaps not as quickly, while mitigating the the problem of too few workers supporting a large elderly population. Also, with a ‘one child’ policy many parents would abort prefer a male child and would therfore abort female foetuses, so the world would find itself with a male surplus in any case.

  19. I think much of the problem is due to humans believing that Earth is ours. IT IS NOT! We humans are the Earth’s!

    I’ve also had the opinion for decades that if a couple (wed or not) cannot pay the costs of rearing a child, the simple answer is DO NOT CONCEIVE a child! As a NZRN I have nursed too many children in this country who live lives of continual poor health – at huge & ongoing costs to everyone in the country. Every Sat. morning at the local market I see parents “treating” their children to unhealthy junk “food”. Those parents are in truth HARMING their children!!

    Those who conceive should not be able to rely on tax-payers support for the duration of their kid’s lives up to & including adulthood. Provide tax-free contraception; give benefits of some kind to those who can document their decision to NOT CONCEIVE – (medical records could assist here). Keep in mind that all the male psychopaths will not commit to anything above – they sowtheir “wild oats” wherever they roam, caring nought for anything but their own lusts.

  20. The rise of white supremacy in Europe is largely about space, the fear of being overrun by the African diaspora

    Where on earth do you come up with this crap?

    If it was white South Africans instead of black Africans, few would give a shit. It is about white supremacy pure and simple.


    There are 500 million white europeans living outside of Europe, all over the world.

    There are far far far far far fewer non-white people living within Europe. So Europeans should quit bitching about what is still very limited migration into Europe.

    There are more white Europeans than black Africans in the world (do some research on it)

    White Europeans around the world are similar in number to North East Asians (i.e. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans)

    White Europeans suck up much much much more of the world’s resources than any other group of people. Perhaps that’s where part of the problem lies.

  21. This racist trope that non-whites breed like rabbits while white people are ‘responsible’ breeders should be put to bed:

    There are approximately 1.3 billion “white” people around the world:

    800 million in Europe
    400 million in the Americas
    100 million in the rest of the world

    But the definition of white can vary a lot so you may or may not add the following groups:

    200 million Castizos (mainly white but with a touch of other races)
    300 million Mulattos, Meztizos and Eurasians (half whites)
    100-200 million people from the Middle East and Northern India who aren’t of European descent but have pale skin and Indoeuropean / Caucasian features

    If you add all this up you have 1.9~2.0 billion whitish people around the world.

    Now guess what group in the world is the most greedy in devouring of the planets resources?????

  22. This proposal has my head shaking in horror.
    Someone from a first world country is suggesting that in order to maintain their standard of living, that the fertility of those who are part of minority indigenous groups, or those who live in third world countries be controlled (those are the groupings with the highest current fertility rates).
    This is a 21st century version of colonialism, where it is assumed that “we” know better than “them”.
    The UN convention on genocide (1948) defines one of the ways that this can take place as “Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”. What Liz is proposing fits this definition. https://treaties.un.org/doc/publication/unts/volume%2078/volume-78-i-1021-english.pdf

    • Agree entirely, the rich 1.3 billion white people in the world, relatively privileged telling numerically smaller groups like black Africans and Polynesian and Indians that they should stop breeding

      Compare the average environmental footprint of an Indian or Chinese on the one hand with an american or Australian on the other hand. Its not the former group who are disproportionately impacting the planet

    • you have an alternative?

      Placing our heads in the sand guarantees genocide in some form….and some are better armed than others, is that to be the basis?

  23. If there were less people in the world, then things like sex trafficking would be forced to greatly reduce or even die out, and would drive greater rights in the many countries that still have laws to subjugate women… women would get more value in countries where previously they were considered less valued commodities

    The living hell of children trapped in Dhaka’s brothels


  24. A lot of the discourse being pro population is also led by those who are against contraceptive controls for women…. and you can see why in many overpopulated countries and for conservatives, the power is kept by men and women are expected to be pregnant.

  25. Well, Well. Just read this while skimming the Guardian headlines for today’s fake news. The filler articles are usually about sex. Whose, which, what, how and at what age.
    Now it’s the semen crisis. Wail wail, sob. All those sperms are wriggling away and dying in droves. I don’t blame them. They know it’s all a grim joke from womb to tomb so they’re giving up. Thank God for the answers at last. Let it be.
    But the money jackals can’t do that. Sperm crisis has got to be an opportunity, like every other human calamity. Hense this driveling crap of an article in the Guardian.
    Roman Catholics are exhorted to breed like rabbits but if they fail in their best efforts they may engage medical assistance to assist infertility. How utterly dishonest. Don’t they know that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. So Blessed be the Name of the Lord and put up with it?
    Sperm shrivelling will no doubt become a world wide phenomena as chemical and plastic pollutants proliferate. The global law must disallow the freezing of any of the bastards.


  26. Oh dear, it’s a gift to the alt-right this article. Not only supporting the insidious and implicit racism implied by imposing a limit that benefits the affluent west without consultation, but also supporting the way the alt-right trolls speak to gain traction on eco pages.
    New Zealander’s average carbon footprint is 150 times the footprint of those beautiful people in Madagascar. I got that figure from Wikipedia. Feel free to cross-check.
    Really sad to read this.

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