April 22, 2024


Are we ready for a population of seven billion people?

Population trends have a powerful impact on our future, affecting everything from the environment, economy and resources.

We are living in a world where people misuse natural resources in some countries, while in others there is great human suffering because of the lack of resources. After growing very slowly for most of human history, the world’s population has more than doubled in the last half century to reach six billion in 1999.

It will now surpass seven billion by the end of 2011, according to the UN Population Fund.

Are we looking at a catastrophe?

Extreme poverty and large families seem to go hand in hand. Burundi, Uganda and Saharan Africa have the world’s highest birth rates, yet deep poverty. That region’s population alone is nearly 900 million and could reach two billion in 40 years if current birth rates stay the same.

What is scary is, according to the Global Footprint Network, since 1986 humankind has been using up its yearly allotment of the planet’s resources before the year ends. Last year the world used up its allotment around Sept. 20. If all countries were like Canada, that date would be April 17.

Fifty years ago Earth’s population consumed only half of the planet’s potential resources and dumped just half the waste nature could handle. Now we use at least 1.4 times what’s available. The Network predicts by the 2030s we will be taking double.

Food riots and protests have already erupted in more than a dozen nations and the World Bank said a total of 33 nations are at risk of food-related strife, according to the Population Resource Centre.

We must get our exploding population under control, and in turn, our abuse of resources.

Slowing the population growth can be achieved by investing in family planning programs, improving education among women and girls and allowing access to contraceptives for women in impoverished countries.

And all countries, but industrialized ones in particular, must reduce their use of natural resources, and encourage more recycling.

We must all look ahead and start to be the change we want to see in the world before it self-destructs.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.

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