Global Population Rises Yet Fertility Rates Falls

world-population-india-momentumGlobal birthrates are going down, but because of political and cultural reasons that are against contraception the global birth rate will continue to rise. The rate will largely be determined by a new generation of people who are in their prime fertile years.  

Strangely and paradoxically, the world’s average birthrate has slowly been falling for decades, yet what is happening is something scientists call population momentum. Population momentum occurs because of the combination of unchecked fertility in the past along with reduced child mortality. More births are living to term and childbearing rates yield large results. So with population momentum, birth rates cannot possibly be reduced at a very quick rate. The earliest the population growth would begin to slow is around 2075.

The current generation of fertile people is the largest generation in history. There are 3 billion people in the world under the age of 25. Of that 3 billion, 1.2 billion of them are just entering the beginning of their reproductive life cycle. Even if this generation decides collectively to have less children and therefore smaller families than their immediate ancestors, the world’s population will continue to grow. Right now the world’s population stands at 7 billion. While the choice to have children is very personal, the decision for young people will have consequences far beyond their families and communities.

By 2050 the United Nations projects that the world population will reach 9.3 billion. This would be the equivalent of adding another India AND China to the world. But if the new generation of fertile people chooses to have less children and the birthrate would decrease from 2.5 children per woman to 2.1 If the new generation of fertile people chooses to continue to have as any children as previous generations the population is expected to reach 11 billion by midcentury, which is the equivalent of adding 3 Chinas to the world.

Either way scientists believe that living conditions are likely to be worse for humanity as a whole. Water, food, and arable land will become scarcer, cities will become more crowded, and hunger will become more widespread. Besides momentum, the poorest parts of the world continue to have high fertility rates because of tradition, religion and the inferior status of women, who have no access to contraception.

The new generation of Indians who are in the prime age of fertility will largely determine much of what happens. With a population of a billion two hundred million will largely determine the future of the global birth rate. India has a poverty rate of 32.7 percent, meaning that 32.7 percent of the population lives below $1.25 a day. The literacy rate is 68.3 percent. Because of population momentum India’s population will continue to grow, will surpass China’s population, and will not even peak until 2060, at which time it could begin to potentially slow.

To support the efforts of mitigating climate change and the suffering and misery of many, please sign this petition to the Rio 20, which advocates for education on behalf of climate change and family planning. Globally 1 in 8 people live in a slum and by midcentury it could be more than 9 billion, raising the ratio to 1 in 3. Higher temperatures and violent weather casued by climate change will come to displace masses of people and by 2050 the United Nations predicts that number could be as high as 200 million climate change refugees, forced to leave their land because of droughts or flooding. Appropriately so, the petition to the Rio 20 is called “The Time is Now.”

Photo credit: census.gov/population/international/data/idb/images/worldpop.png

7 Billion, Here We Come

This Halloween, get ready to experience something scarier than ghosts, witches, horror movies, and haunted houses: a human population totaling 7 billion. 

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the world’s population will hit 7 billion on October 31, 2011, after doubling in the second half of the 20th century to reach six billion in 1999.  A little more than a decade later, we have already tacked on another billion to that figure.

What explains this rapid growth?  What do future population trends look like?  How is the proliferation of the human population affecting our world?

“Lower mortality rates, longer life expectancy and large youth populations in countries where fertility remains high all contributed to the rapid population growth of recent decades,”  reports the UNFPA.

In developing countries where reproductive health education programs are lacking, fertility rates have continued to climb.  The combined population of the world’s 48 least developed countries alone is projected to double by 2050, totaling 1.7 billion people.

“The countries in which poverty levels are the highest are generally those that have the most rapid increases in population and the highest fertility levels,” according to the UNFPA.  Extreme poverty, food insecurity, inequality and high birth and death rates all contribute to a vicious cycle.

“The ICPD realized that investing in people — and empowering individual women and men with education, equal opportunities and the means to determine the number, timing and spacing of their children –could create the conditions to allow the poor to break out of the poverty trap.”  

Currently, women in developed countries average half the number of births that women in developing countries experience.  Countries that have invested in universal health care and reproductive health, education and gender equality, have witnessed economic gains and reduced fertility and mortality.  

Yet, regardless of individual country population growth rates, the world population is steadily rising; projections indicate we will reach 9.3 billion people by the middle of the 21st century and 10.1 billion by 2100.

So, what does this mean for the welfare of our planet?  Can Earth feasibly sustain this many people? 

The Earth does not have the resources to sustain the rate of population growth we are currently witnessing.  “While world food production is projected to meet consumption demands for the next two decades, long-term forecasts indicate persistent and possibly worsening food insecurity in many countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.”  To meet the needs of the 2020 world population, the UN expects food production will have to double.   Land, water, and other natural resources will be further depleted and degraded, and waste production will compound humans’ toll on the environment.

Interestingly, in many developing countries, more attention is being paid to women’s roles in achieving sustainable development.  As the primary providers of food and water, caretakers of families, safeguards of land and resources, women play a “vital” part in resource management.  Thus, they hold tremendous potential to help mitigate the effects of human consumption on the environment.  The UNFPA concludes that: “Appropriate and integrated social, population and sustainable development policies and programs that empower the poor, especially women, are needed to support a sustainable future.”

In efforts to inspire action for social good, the UNFPA has launched a global initiative, “7 Billion Actions” under the banner, “7 Billion People – Counting on Each Other.”  Partnered with National Geographic, UNFPA hosted an event in Washington, DC today: “Women as Agents of Change in a World at 7 Billion”.

You can educate yourself on the benefits of reproductive health education and services to better understand the threat these issues pose to our environment by visiting the UNFPA’s website.

While links between the quality of our environment – including the degradation of natural resources and creation of waste – and the human population remain extremely complex, one thing is clear: if action is not taken to curtail the growth of our population, the planet and humans both will suffer invariably.  The planet cannot sustain us all. 

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/wwworks/2222523486/

Global Population May Increase to 10 Billion by 2100

The world’s population is expected to reach 7 billion by this October. As this milestone approaches, the United Nations has issued a report stating that global population levels will rise to 9.3 billion by 2050 and 10.1 billion by 2100. So which countries will be most affected by this population growth, and how will it affect the environment?  [img_assist|nid=239222|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=192|height=290]

The report implicates Africa as the continent that will contribute the most to the global population expansion. Fertility rates are not declining as much as expected, particularly in West and Central Africa. One reason behind this is because people in these parts of Africa have less access to contraceptives than people in the developed world. Compared with 75% of American households who use contraceptives, only 10% of women in West Africa and only 7% of women in Central Africa use them.

However, this is not the whole story. According to a study by Harvard scientists, the availability of contraceptives is less of a factor in family planning than the ability of women to decide whether to use them. This ability is not easy to obtain; male-oriented households and traditions such as polygamy hinder the ability of African women to determine the course of their lives. Also, many women are not educated very well in Africa. Because they are often illiterate, they are unable to understand the resources necessary to plan their families.

In case you were wondering, AIDS is not as much of a problem for Africa’s population as it used to be.  This is because drugs which fight the disease have allowed many who suffer from it to survive and have children. However, the possibilities of war and famine still exist to hinder the growth of Africa’s population.  

Some of the countries with the highest growth rates include Nigeria, whose population will grow from 162 million to 730 million by 2100; Malawi, whose population could grow from 15 million to 129 million; and Yemen, whose population could grow from 25 million to 100 million.

But not all developing countries are experiencing rapid population growth. Places such as Bangladesh, Iran, Mexico, Sri Lanka, and Thailand have been successful at controlling their populations. This is because women in these countries are being provided with information about birth-control methods through well-designed programs. Because many women in these places have learned how to control the size of their families, fewer children are being born.

A slight increase in the fertility rate of developed countries will also contribute to overall population growth. The US will see its population rise from 311 million this year to 478 million in 2100. It is growing rapidly compared to other developed countries due to its large amount of immigrants and their greater fertility rates. Other developed countries whose populations are set to increase include the UK and Denmark.

 However, the population of China, currently the world’s most populated country, will peak at 1.4 billion people in the next few decades and eventually decline to 941 million in 2100. This has been due to their one-child policy, which has been successful in reducing China’s population.

One consequence of an overpopulated world is the depletion of nonrenewable resources. As the majority of people being born are poor, they will use the cheapest resources available. However, these cheap resources are often not environmentally friendly and cause plenty of pollution. Since poor people usually do not have the option of moving away from sources of pollution, they could also catch a variety of diseases.

These people will also use more space to live, requiring the destruction of more habitats. These habitats contain a variety of plants of animals, some of which may provide unknown medicinal or nutritional benefits. Once habitats are destroyed, it will be difficult to restore them.

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