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Issues surface as population increases

Photo Illustration by Cayla Nimmo//Assistant Photo Editor

The world population is set to hit 7 billion by the end of the month, according to a United Nations Population Fund Association (UNPFA) report released on Wednesday.

As the global community continues to face issues such as depleting resources and poverty, a booming population poses increasing danger.

This year’s annual State of World Population report, titled “People and Possibilities in a World of 7 Billion,” reveals astonishing population trends. The milestone will be reached just 12 years after world population topped 6 billion.

Based on predictions by the UNPFA, this figure will hit 10 billion before the end of the century. Most of this population growth is occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian-Pacific.

The population increase is a result of several contributing factors. While some countries like China enforce birth codes, many others do not. In order for a population to continue growth at a steady pace, each household must have approximately two children.

However, according to the UNPFA, the birthrate in Afghanistan and several countries in Africa is 5.0 and higher.

“There are many countries where they have as many children as nature grants,” political science professor June Teufel Dreyer said.

Also, average life expectancy has increased by 21 years since 1950, from 48 to 69, according to the UNPFA.

One of the many factors that has influenced the increase of life expectancy has been the fact that food is easily transported around the globe.  This has helped stabilize food scarcity.

“A lot of [population growth]is linked to globalization of knowledge, food systems, medical science,” political science professor George Gonzalez said. “It helps people simply live longer.”

Still, 925 million people are hungry worldwide and nearly 1.4 billion people live in poverty, according to the World Bank Group.

The population growth is expected to put a greater strain on the resources necessary to keep that rate from accelerating, and may hinder the poor from improving their standard of living.

“For individuals to all have access to energy, food and other aspects of the average life, the population would need to be smaller to live comfortably,” Gonzalez said. “There is a greater stress on natural resources as individuals try and climb out of poverty.”

This consumption of resources, however, is often determined by the society an individual lives in.

“If we were to equate the amount of resources someone uses to land consumption, it is very much depending on where you live,” Gonzalez said. “You might have an ecological footprint of 100 while someone in Kenya has 1.”

The U.S. consumes more resources than any other country. Sustaining the lifestyle of the average

Americans use 9.5 hectares of resources over their lifetimes, while the worldwide average usage is just 2.7, according to the UNPFA.

“What we have been doing is living on our environmental capital instead of our environmental interest,” Dreyer said. “What we should do is decrease the population, but it is almost impossible.”

A larger population contributes to an increase in pollution, too. Today, carbon dioxide emissions of one American equal those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians or 250 Ethiopians.

When a large country the size of China or India does not follow the rules, it can negate the progress that the rest of the world is making, Dreyer said. Any successful action to save the global ecosystem will require a cohesive, global effort.

She also hopes that new scientific discoveries can aid in minimizing the population’s impact on the Earth.

“Science has saved us many times, so perhaps science will save us again,” Dreyer said.

October 26, 2011

Reporters

Jackie Salo


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