The United Nations is warning that by the end of the century the population of the world will more than double to 15 billion unless urgent measures are taken to curb growth rates. This, the UN says, will be a catastrophe for the world’s resources.
But is can be argued that the population crisis is already upon us. Many cities are beyond capacity, with the poor living in cramped, uncomfortable and unhygienic conditions, with little income. In many areas of the world, the strain of population on local resources has led to water shortages and serious pollution. At 7 billion people, the planet is already feeling the effects of too many people.
How many people can the Earth support?
Renowned biologist James Lovelock is a pessimist who claims the world can really only effectively support 1 billion people and that things will come to a head when man runs out of cheap oil and other finite resources. There are other scientists who believe the Earth can support 10-12 billion if effort is put into developing alternative energy and more productive ways of producing food.
Most governments and planners live with a short-term mindset. But the UN’s report, “The State of World Population 2011,” issued in October, should be a wake-up call. The problem is not just in the actual growth figures—it is hard enough to work out how the Earth will accommodate more than twice the number of people. The problem concerns the pressure on resources—everything from food, to fuel, to water—and the inevitable worsening of pollution, which further compounds the problem.
Currently, the problem of rapid population growth appears to lie in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The reasons lie in better healthcare, lower infant mortality, and cultural and religious factors that still encourage large families. Some groups frown upon the use of contraceptives. Many women are still not effectively informed about how to control how many children they give birth to.
Many experts believe governments and NGOs have the tools to limit and control the world’s population, but it depends on government commitment, and the efforts of a myriad NGOs on a local, personal level to bring about meaningful change. There are no simple answers, as seen in some countries like Japan where a drastic drop in the birth rate is leading to a “graying population.”
7 Billion, National Geographic Magazine
India – Unrestrained Population Growth
China’s one-child policy leads to gender imbalance