So what’s going on?
Today, there are around 6.8 billion people in the world. This number is expected to grow to 9.15 billion by 2050 (UN estimate; others put it anywhere between 8 and 10 billion).
(Over)Population is a sensitive issue as it touches the very core of our existence. It provokes all kinds of emotions and involves everything from human rights to water crisis to terrorism.
Well, the clock is ticking. And also, the Commission on Development and Population is holding its 43rd session in New York to discuss the issue. They will finish on 16th April, let’s see what they come up with.
Jodi has started the discussion with her brilliant Too many people. I encourage you to continue it.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 4.2 people were born in one second and 1.8 died. This means a natural increase of 2.4 people a second, which adds up to approximately 75 million people a year. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the world’s annual growth is even bigger and stands at 82 million a year.
Are we panicking yet? And should we?
I did some research and put together arguments in favour and against the claim that overpopulation threatens humans and nature as a whole. Here is the first part of the Case, which is In Favour. It argues that we should stop the population growth immediately if we are to leave this planet inhabitable for future generations. The arguments are inevitably inter-connected and they present a general discussion, not necessarily my personal beliefs.
Quote of the Case In Favour:
“We talk about the developing world and the developed world, but this is the deteriorating world.” Geographer Sarah O’Hara
The Case In Favour:
Climate change. Population growth is responsible, at least partly, for climate change. The logic is simple: the more people there are on Earth, the more damage they do to it. Every new person is a potential polluter. More people means more carbon emissions, which leads to a warming world and eventually a catastrophe.
Ecological destruction. Too many people are responsible for an enormous environmental stress: air, land and water pollution, vanishing rainforests. Biodiversity becomes a joke when every day species of flora and fauna become extinct because of human activity. Humans are animals and as intelligent ones should have a responsibility for the survival of other species, not just their own. This planet doesn’t belong to us by default, we took control over it and thus should make sure it stays as diverse as it once was. Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Society, characterized the human species as an “arrogant primate that is out of control”. No offense.
Resources. The Earth’s resources are not infinite. Water is scarce. Fertile soil does not multiply, it shrinks. At this speed, it won’t take long to run out of resources. What awaits for us then we’d better not imagine.
Land shortage. Think Rwanda. As each successive generation further subdivides already small plots, pressure on the land is intense. This causes wars and is closely linked to poverty.
Quality of life. Quality of life v. quantity of people: less people would have more goods to share, and thus each would get more than they get now. Life is one, and so it should be enjoyed to the maximum. Surviving is not life, it is just existence.
Violence generated. “Failed States”, countries which cannot provide for their citizens, become breeding ground for violence and terrorist organizations.
Contraception and family planning. Millions of people lack access to contraception, which leads to them having unwanted babies or unsafe abortions. Many women have children not because they want to, but because they are denied contraception. Empowered women who have control over their reproduction process choose not to have many children.
Pain and suffering. Starts with poor maternal health and high child mortality in many regions of the world. It is an unnecessary suffering to watch your child dying after nine hard months. Unsupported children are then often sold into early marriage, prostitution or slavery.
Poverty. ~80 million new people every year need to be fed and taken care of. Population growth maintains poverty. Example: Minister of Health in Morocco maintained that every year his country needed to build nine hospitals, 8,500 classrooms and 150,000 houses, and create 280,000 jobs, just to keep up with population growth. This puts a great pressure on already limited resources that countries cannot cope with.
Saving ageing populations. Population growth doesn’t solve the ageing problem because the young people of today will grow old, too. What to do then? Add even more young people? For a while, there might be more old people, but in the long-term the ages should stabilize.
Sustainable populations. It’s not simply about less people. It’s about having populations which can live sustainably without causing further damage to this planet (and reversing, if possible, the one already done). Also, a radical note: having a child is very un-ecological. A child is not green.
Growing economies. Growing population is not necessary for economic growth, as is often believed. What matters is per capita growth, which means better standard of living for, say, 50 million people, than 100 million living in poverty.
Please stay tuned for Global Population Crisis II: The Case Against.
Picture: woodleywonderworks via flickr