Original article for Writing in the Sciences course — Stanford University, November 2012.

I would like to discuss the highly debated topic of “world’s growing population” from a global perspective (triggered by the recent Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines.)

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Many scientists believe the world’s population is already unsustainable at today’s rates of consumption and pollution, and another 2 or 3 billion over the next 50 years—all rightly trying to raise their living condition—will only complicate the problem.

According to US Census Bureau estimates, there are more than 7 billion people in the world today. Of this figure, World Population Prospects notes Asia accounts for over 60% (China and India together have about 37%), followed by Africa with 15%, Europe 11%, North America 5%, Latin America and the Caribbean  9%, and Oceania with less than 1%.

By 2050, the Economist magazine believes it will grow to 9 billion! The rich and more affluent countries may see significant decline in population due to low fertility rates, aging population and migration, while poorer and developing countries may see sharp rise. Four decades later, the world will remain that more than half of its population are Asians (56%), Africans (20%), Europeans and Latin Americans (8% each), North Americans (5%), and Oceania is the rest.

Future increases would come from developing countries where fertility rates (number of children an average woman is likely to have during her childbearing years, conventionally taken to be 15-49) remain high. While rich countries would have fertility rates that are often at or below replacement levels, developing countries would experience the opposite. However, it can also change unexpectedly due to possible outbreak of diseases, wars , and catastrophes (such as typhoons, hurricanes, fire, earthquakes, floods) or medical malpractice such as state-sponsored sterilization and so forth.

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Some scientists fear we are in a verge of disaster. They think growing demand for scarce resources will eventually lead to a sudden population crash, pestilence and absence of sustainable food supply. One of them was Nasif Nahle, who in 2003 studied the impact of human populations. His research found the severity of human damage to environment and animal species, and pollution level increases in many parts of the world because of the lifestyle people choose. Extinction of animals and plants he said is due to human activities. His study claimed that rapid growth of human population require we chop at least 16 million hectares of forest each year undermining the natural habitats of many species and condemning native species to extinction.

To solve the issue, the Grinning Planet’s website offers the following solutions:

  1. Continue fighting to decrease the suffering of people by fighting the causes of disease and solving the issue of poverty in this planet;
  2. Continue upgrading the resources, putting more efficiency into each work, and instituting changes and improvements in pollution control so that standards of living of humanity can improve without bad effects; and
  3. Maintaining human population to numbers that are sustainable and self-sustaining.

With regards to world population, that means:

  1. Governments should make sure that people around the world would have access to family planning services;
  2. Governments, the mass media, and educators and religious groups should empower women in developing countries economically, socially, and legally in a manner that results in them having an equal say (with their husbands) in reproductive decisions;
  3. Modifying school curricula to include information on population levels and implications for the future; and
  4. Governments and lawmakers should reform tax laws—to encourage couples to have no more than two children. (They would still be able to have as many kids as they want, but they will have to bear more taxes. If they have more than two kids.)

People are a good thing to this world—population growth without limit is not. All countries of the world should take this matter very seriously. That is, to slow population growth especially in developing countries, where there is unprecedented growth. The future of the world depends on it!

Reference:

[1] http://www.census.gov/main/www/popclock.html

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population#Forecast

[3] http://esa.un.org/unpp/

[4] http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/07-05/world-population-growth-article.htm

[5] http://www.economist.com/node/14743589

[6] (http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/07-05/world-population-growth-article.htm)

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