World Population Reaches 7 Billion October
By B. McPherson
The world human population is predicted to reach 7 billion people by the October 31. The UN predicts that this will swell to over 9 billion in 40 years and predictions are that by this century’s end it will grow to a staggering 10 billion plus people on this planet. This trend started about 700 years ago but has gained momentum, especially after the end of WWII.
Many different things have contributed to the exponential increase in human numbers over the past 60 years. The advent of antibiotics saved many lives from death by infection. Before the widespread availability of penicillin, infections were the leading cause of death. Pneumonia was nicknamed “the old man’s friend”. Advances in medical treatments and development of effective vaccines allowed many children to grow up, marry and have children of their own.
Currently an estimated one billion people go to sleep at night hungry and malnourished. Children deprived of a good diet often suffer brain damage and stunted growth. The world produces enough food to feed everyone, but it is distributed unevenly.
There are some people who are advocating for the introduction of genetically altered crops to increase food production, but this is a false hope. Just as the Green Revolution of the 60’s allowed people to believe that increased production could be squeezed from the earth the true costs were not counted. The high yield crops created need generous amounts of chemical fertilizer and water. Large machinery compacts the soil making it less and less productive. Irrigating dry areas to force crops has led to large areas made useless by the accumulation of salts.
Humans are using the resources of the Earth at a greater rate than can be sustained. Conflict over resources like farm land, metals, energy and most of all water will threaten the peace of the globe if we don’t get a handle on the exploding human population.
Some countries have slowed their population growth and some, like Canada, now rely on immigrants to keep their population stable. China’s population is slowly shrinking. Other countries are still expanding their numbers.
While social, economic and religious pressures may keep some groups reproducing in large numbers, one thing is certain. The Earth has finite resources. If we are to keep expanding the human population, some are going to have less --- less food, less water, less natural areas, less clean air.
Control of reproduction can be done. Generally, when women are better educated and have access to contraception, they limit the number of babies they have. Those babies have a better chance of survival as healthy youngsters. As more of the world’s population moves into urban centres, the cost and pressures of city dwelling lead more couples to limit the number of children. Again, better access to prenatal and postnatal care ensures more babies survive to adulthood encouraging couples to limit the number of children they produce.
The next couple of decades will be important ones in setting the trend in human population. The choice is ours.