Earth’s human population now is at 7.6 billion, but that’s a number ever-shifting upwards. According to the World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, published recently by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, we add 83 million people annually. By 2030, Earth’s population will be 8.6 billion. Then, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. And, these estimates assume that fertility levels will continue to decline. For some perspective, world population in 1974 was 4 billion, so we’ve doubled in size in not even a lifetime – 55 years. Nearly 10 billion people on Planet Earth in just another 30 years.
We all should be concerned. Our world leaders in government, business and media should be motivated to drive real change, because the negative implications of this growth are many and frightening. For natural resources, food, health, safety, infrastructure, work, biodiversity. Yet, we don’t see lead stories in the press about the benefits of stabilizing (and then reducing) population; it’s not a topic on talk shows and broadcast news. And too many in business have moved more into the fantasy realm of colonizing Mars and feeding consumerism by drone door delivery versus solving real-world problems. There is no bold worldwide initiative on addressing overpopulation as there is with climate change (COP21). World leadership needs to address the overpopulation issue in much stronger and more meaningful ways, and with enthusiasm equal to what’s been applied to climate change, which, in and of itself, is a symptom of overpopulation. Even the UN needs to step up its game. The UN report seemingly paints low levels of fertility as a negative.
What sense does that make in a world headed to 11 billion people? The common thinking today among NGOs, development agencies and governments is to focus on changing the status of females. In some countries, women have no status; their role is to reproduce. In fact, according to Bill Ryerson of the Population Media Center, women are considered property in many countries; sometimes they have less standing than cattle. Of the 130 million of the world’s youth who are not in school, 70 percent are girls. And 70 percent of people living in absolute poverty worldwide are female. “There is no way to change this overbreeding without changing the status of women worldwide,” says human rights activist Riane Eisler. But that’s just part of the equation.
Ryerson says, “You can’t liberate the women without changing the men, or you’ll just have a bunch of beaten women. Changing men’s minds about the humanity of women is critically important.” That’s why growing events like the male-focused World Vasectomy Day are incredibly important. WVD allows men to be part of family planning – to be part of the discussion and part of the solution. There needs to be more receptivity to encouraging smaller families – two children, okay. How about one? Or how about a greater shifting of mindset so that it’s okay to have none? Surely reproducing – creating a Mini-Me – is not the measure of all things. In high growth countries, financial aid should be tied to lowering birth rates. And countries such as Singapore, which has run (extremely bizarre) advertising to promote babymaking should be schooled in the public arena. Ditto Denmark and its call for patriotic babymaking while on vacation. Documentary filmmaker Christopher Fauchere of “MOTHER – Caring for 7 Billion” says, “Population growth concerns all of us on this planet. End the taboo and talk about it.” That’s good advice this World Population Day.