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Can the World Cope With a Population of 7 Billion and Counting?
The world has been abuzz with news of the birth of the 7th billionth child. It seems logical to consider that humanity is facing the reality of over population. It is not unexpected considering the fact that world population has doubled in just 40 years. This is projected to balloon to 8 billion by 2025. While this is alarming to most people, it does not paint the full picture. According to the United Nations population division, the population growth currently stands at 1.15 percent per annum. This is certainly a far cry from a peak of 2 percent during the 1960’s. This growth rate is expected to continue to decline in coming years and stabilize after 2200 at around 10 billion people.
It is now clear that the worlds’ 7 billion population is not going to continue growing indefinitely. The biggest challenge to the human race will be managing the socio-economic and security issues that come with such a large number of people. The first hurdle that needs to be addressed seriously is the issue of poverty and inequality. The World Bank estimates that 80 percent of the world’s population live in countries where the gap between the rich and poor is widening. Already, the richest 20 percent of people on earth account for three quarters of the world’s income, with the poorest 40 percent sharing a measly five percent.
This has led to an epidemic of historic proportions with UNICEF estimating that 22,000 children die every day because of poverty. The lucky ones who escape the clutches of death have to contend with malnourishment. In addition, 72 million children in the developing world do not go to school with 57 percent of those affected being girls. This is a challenge governments in the developing world will have to address. While population growth in the developed world has almost halted, this is not the case in the developing world.
Feeding this burgeoning mass of people is proving to be a task of herculean proportions. This is compounded by dwindling water resources that affect 1.1 billion people in the developing world. The human and health cost of inadequate water supply in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be a staggering 5 percent of GDP. The lack of clean energy sources is another blight affecting 2.5 billion people in the developing world. The use of solid fuels for cooking has led to the death of 1.5 million people every year as a result of indoor air pollution. This is a problem that 80 percent of populations in sub-Saharan Africa, India and China face.
The Effects of Overpopulation
To address issues of overpopulation urgently, governments in the developing world need to create wealth. This is the only way to lift their populations out of poverty. However, this is easier said than done because wealth creation is preceded by investments in infrastructure and manufacturing. The first strike against development is a high rate of indebtedness among the poorest countries. To this, add the fact that these countries account for just 2.4 percent of world exports. Starved of capital to invest, developing countries that account for most of the 7 billion-population growth face a bleak future.
The challenges facing a world where overpopulation is a reality are numerous. World leaders will have to come together and chart a common strategy. Failure to act now means the problems will just multiply with each passing generation.
World Population as of 12 November 2011
- State of World Population 2011
This year's State of World Population report, People and Possibilities in a World of 7 Billion, looks at the the dynamics behind the numbers. The report makes the case for sound planning and investing in people.
- 7 billion people: What happens when billions of babies grow up? | Blogs | HelpAge International
As the world population reaches seven billion today, we must remember that this is not just about a world belonging to younger generations. The world does not solely belong to the young.