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Sustainability 6: Population
One of the prime movers of the world’s sustainability crisis is its population. The more mouths to feed, the more thirsts to quench, the more children to clothe and educate, the more families to house, the more sick and infirm to tend, the more workers to employ, the greater the challenge to planners, designers, businesses and governments around the globe.
As of my writing of this — in February of 2010 — the world’s population is estimated to be just over 6.8 billion souls. And though an estimated 57 million of us leave this mortal coil each year, we are more than replaced by the estimated newborn contingent of about 135 million each year. Projections place Earth’s human load at about 9 billion within the next 30 to 40 years. For fun diversion, check out rickzworld.
Consider the above fact carefully: this planet may have to support 50% more persons within just 4 decades or so.
Pondering present conditions of globally rampant hunger, severe water shortages, poor sanitation, limited wages and opportunities, and political and civic structures in turmoil, how can we truly expect to manage substantial change? Let alone deal effectively with another half-as-many people?
Perhaps not so surprisingly, there are a number of ‘sustainability’ measures that can, and are, being undertaken to help relieve the pressures of increasing population:
• Population control: whether one looks to China’s ‘one-child’ policy, or to parenting or sex education programs in Third World countries and elsewhere, many are actively trying to dampen birthrates around the globe, and thereby slow rapid population growth.
• Education: it has been proven throughout history that better education leads not only to lower birthrates, but also to greater opportunity and advancement throughout life, resulting in a greater degree of self-sufficiency, and more likely contribution to the world’s store of solutions.
• Water management: by better managing the planet’s supply of freshwater and more widely and uniformly spreading sanitation improvements, businesses, governments and individuals can improve the daily lot of many.
• Agricultural advancement: improvements in the ways in which we grow and distribute food throughout the world can improve quality of life for all.
As more and more of the planet’s citizens are better fed, freed from overcrowding, provided with better sanitation and housing and medical care, more highly educated, and presented with more promising futures, they can more significantly contribute to Earth’s long term sustainability.