Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Billion People: How Many Are Too Many?

The world welcomes its 7th billionth person today. This milestone is coming just a little over a decade after we welcomed the 6th billion citizen of the World in 1999!

Our global family is surely geting larger. But it is getting larger at an increasingly fast rate. And that is not a good thing.

With millions of people living in abysmal poverty, it already seems like we have too many people in the world. Access to health care facilities, education, clean water and so on is severely lacking in much of Africa, Asia and Latin America. As the ABC video clip above reminds us, one in 7 people does not have enough to eat. Yet we are adding more people into the world.

The New York Times reported in May this year that according to most recent UN estimates, the world population could exceed 10 billion by the end of this century. Worryingly, UN estimates that much of the influx in population will be in countries and regions that are the poorest; the population of Africa, for instance, could  triple to 3.6 billion from 1 billion today.

Clearly, such a trend is not sustainable. We thus need to step up our efforts to reduce infant mortality so that people in developing countries do not feel pressurized to have more children becaue of fears that they could lose their child in infancy. We also need empowerment of women and increase in access to family planning and contraceptives. And we need to make as many people in developing countries financially secure as possible so that they do not view more children as a bigger safety net, which will cover them in future.

By improving people's quality of life, although an uphill task, we can win the battle over demographics. And we need to win because when it comes to population,  more is not merrier. To make our world merrier, instead of adding more and more people to it we need to take better care of the people we already have.