Oonagh Dalgliesh is the first to admit she feels broody. She is enchanted by the idea of watching a baby grow up, of marvelling at that first crooked smile, those tentative first steps and the fledgling attempts at independence that melt most mothers’ hearts.
Even so, she has decided she will never experience the joy of discovering she is pregnant.
At 32, Oonagh is certainly of child-bearing age. With a well-paid job as an events manager, she is financially solvent. And for the past year, she has been in a serious relationship with a man who is longing to become a dad.
So what has prompted this momentous decision? Put simply? Her desire to save the planet.
‘Humans are the greatest single driver of climate change and greenhouse gas contributions, of deforestation and the acidity of the oceans,’ she explains earnestly.
‘The only thing that will fix these problems is to have fewer people on the planet. I don’t see it’s justified to make more people than we already have. Yes, I have a maternal instinct, but I will never change my mind.’
Drastic? Perhaps. But, astonishing as it sounds, Oonagh is one of a number of British women who are deciding to remain child-free, not because of career aspirations or an inability to find a partner, but because they are concerned about the crippling impact of overpopulation on the Earth.
Crazy? They would urge you to consider the facts. The global population, they say, is growing at a rate of one billion every 12 to 15 years.
By the year 2050, it is estimated it will have grown by 30 per cent.
While much of the population explosion is happening in developing countries where lack of contraception and education means women have more children, the issue is just as pressing here in the UK.
Their proof? Last year, the UK’s population saw its sharpest annual increase in nearly 70 years.
Although the Office for National Statistics said that net international migration was the main driver behind the growth, there were also rises in births and fewer deaths. With our heavy consumption of fossil fuels such as petrol, coal and gas, they argue, we currently use nearly three times the renewable resources our land can provide.
We’re also one of the most nature depleted countries in Europe, losing species of wildlife at above the global average rate.
In addition, we’re reminded, we need 200,000 new houses a year to meet the demands of our growing population and, astonishingly, the densely populated south-east of England ranks 161st out of 180 areas globally in terms of its ability to deliver sufficient water to its inhabitants.
British charity Population Matters is one of the leading campaigners on the thorny subject of population control.
They currently have thousands of members in Britain and around the world, with high-profile patrons — including Sir David Attenborough, TV naturalist Chris Packham and childless author Lionel Shriver — spreading the word on the dangers over-procreation presents to the planet.
Of course, doom-mongering about population growth is nothing new.
Thomas Malthus, an 18th-century Anglican clergyman, believed population explosion would subject the world to famine and disaster, predicting the population would double every 20 years until people were no longer able to produce crops fast enough to feed themselves.
Malthus’s theory, based on the false premise that numbers grew steadily and evenly, has since been discredited with economists citing the Industrial Revolution as saving us from the doom that he foresaw. Technological innovation enabled modern society to equip itself with sufficient resources.
But the issue is not going away. A number of websites highlighting the issue of over-population have also sprung up in recent years, with conversations involving young British men and women who are serious about their desire not to contribute to the strain on the planet by procreating.