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Can the World Cope With a Population of 7 Billion and Counting?

Updated on November 14, 2011

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.

Jose Fabella Hospital in Philippines maternity ward
Jose Fabella Hospital in Philippines maternity ward | Source
India, 2nd country with the highest population in the world.
India, 2nd country with the highest population in the world. | Source

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.

2011 Moira G Gallaga©

China and India - two largest population in the world.
China and India - two largest population in the world. | Source

World Population as of 12 November 2011



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    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      That's true MonetteforJack, life expectancy has improved quite a lot and this also explains the growth. In time, I guess future generations will need to explore other worlds.

    • MonetteforJack profile image

      MonetteforJack 6 years ago from Tuckerton, NJ

      It is not only birthing why population is growing, it is also because of medical advancement why people live longer and even healthier. True, we should, specially our chosen leaders should work together to solve the problem of over-population. It does seem that the earth's resources are not enough... I guess, this means we should explore other worlds, other universe to accommodate us and our needs?

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comment Deirdriu and it is good to know that you have a positive outlook towards the challenge we collectively face. It will not be easy but if we work together perhaps we can overcome this challenge. Well, not necessarily us per se, our generation can only lay the groundwork but it will be the us succeeding generations that will have to see it through. Fixing this will take a lot of time

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      Derdriu 6 years ago

      Moiragallaga: What a cogent articulation of the challenge of the mismatch between population pressure and resource availability! It is unfortunate that so many economic decisions and technological breakthroughs previously were based on the assumption of limitless resources. Fortunately, we live during a time of great environmental awareness, organizational capabilities and technological advancement. So there is hope that all the disparate community efforts towards sustainability can mushroom into large-scale, major change.

      Thank you, voted up, etc.,


    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you for your comments and insight Indigital, much appreciated. In fact I agree with the points you raise. I don't think I've stated we will survive this. What I am trying to relay is that we can (different from "will") survive this IF certain challenges can be met, particularly regarding the issue of resources. Whether those issues and challenges can be effectively addressed for the benefit of all, that remains to be seen. If not, then it is as ethel smith has pointed out, the prospects of war will be a consequence.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Ethel Smith, that is true. It tends to be a vicious cycle. Back in the days Empires needed to expand in order to amass resources. The need to feed and provide for their population was also part of the equation. Imperial and colonial expansion usually meant war and violence wasn't far behind. As they expanded and absorbed new populations, the cycle goes on.

      One of these days, the pressure brought by population and lack of resources will likely lead to war. Analysts predict that future wars and conflicts will be based on issues such as access to drinking water.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      GNelson, it's the resources that are key in this problem. There may still be physical space to accommodate population growth, but the availability of resources is going to be the major challenge.

      As you point out, for the corporate world this means "demand" will grow and what they will invariably do and are probably doing right now is go around the world and secure control over the "supply" of needed resources.

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      Indigital 6 years ago

      Very optimistic view. You've stated we will survive this, I doubt your theory. The very notion Africa will soon hit stage 3 on the DTM is scary, this will mean the Death Rate will fall dramatically, giving us more than 10 billion in a matter of years. Then, contending with this new African population increase and Asia's, we have to supply them with a unprocurable amount of food.

      Simply, to put it, it's not how many people are on Earth, it's how much resources are on Earth. Not enough to feed 10 billion. Nor the new African/Asia population boom.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Sadly usually wars and disasters level the population. The world is a mess right now.

    • GNelson profile image

      GNelson 6 years ago from Florida

      The resources of this earth are not unlimited. Uncontroled population growth will some day reach the limit of the earth's resouces to support all those people. It is simple math but a very complicated problem.

      As long as this world is run by corporations than more people equals more customers. More customers equals more profit.

      More people also equals cheap labor such as debt slaves and children.