Wednesday, 2 November 2011

7 billion and counting...

This week the 7 billionth person was born, that's 7 thousand million people. When I was born 22 years ago there were almost 5.2 billion people, so the population has increased by slightly under 50% in a quarter of a century.

Recent news has focused on how the world will cope with this huge population number as if it's suddenly increased but the population on Monday was only a bit bigger than on Sunday. The numbers are going up fast, but there aren't instant large increases. The question that should be on everybody's lips is how do we cope right now with the current population. Estimates say that 1 in 7 people are currently hungry (not getting enough food, not just peckish) but world agriculture is producing enough food for every person to have 2,720 kilo-calories a day. That's more than enough to keep everyone full so what's going wrong? The main problems seem to come down to distribution and  lack of land to grow or money to buy the necessary food.

As the population continues to increase so will the demand on land for both growing and living space. Already our lives encroach hugely onto the natural world. Deforestation, building on greenbelt and pollution and over fishing in the seas are leaving a very clear mark. Seven billion will be the number that's hitting the headlines this week but the world is also facing the 6th biggest mass extinction in history. The International Union for Conservation of Nature found that 36% of the species it assessed in 2008 were in danger of extinction; a scary statistic.

Some people are using the population size landmark to raise awareness of these connected issues in a rather unusual way. The Centre for Biological Diversity in the U.S.A. has launched its 7 Billion and Counting campaign. As well as national adverts, local events and online activities the group are giving away 100,000 condoms featuring six different designs. Each design pictures a different endangered species and facts about the threat caused to our natural world by overpopulation. The aim is to get people talking about the effect of the population boom and how we can help to stabilise the population.

I don't remember where I first hear the slogan "start at 30 and stop at 2" but with people living longer it does seem to make sense to wait a little later for children and only have enough children to replace the two people making them! What do you think? Populations are going to be a key issue in the next century along with climate change and a sustainable world. Let's hope we find solutions to all these interlinked problems.

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