Big in the media this week: The world population will reach an estimated 7 billion on October 31.
I’m not sure why that’s such big news, other than 7 billion being a nice round number. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect only statisticians to get excited about. Except … except that the rate of growth has increased so radically in recent years.
The website Population Action International has a graph showing how the rate of growth has soared since 1800. And you can plot your position on the graph by entering your birth date. I found it eye-opening that there were “only” some 2.3 billion people on the earth when I was born, but today there are 6.9 billion.
Should we be alarmed about the population explosion? I think alarmed may too strong a word, but “concerned,” yes. Not that the surface of the earth will become overcrowded. A drive across the central U.S. is enough to dispel that notion. The real concern is the overtaxing of finite resources — fresh water, food, clean air, fuel — and in many areas we are already severely taxing those.
We can’t predict the future with any great accuracy, so I’d put my money on hedging our bets now, while we know we can still do something. Take steps to conserve our existing resources. Keep searching for and developing new resources. Work to limit population growth — which also helps reduce the strain on resources, increase the chances for education and a better life, etc. Birth control is a really, really cheap investment with tremendous returns for the family, the community, and beyond.
Global warming and climate change? Yes, I believe they are happening. The earth is going to go about doing its thing, whatever that might be, regardless of our presence. It will survive, perhaps only as a barren rock, no matter what we do. But also yes, I believe man affects the earth and its climate and resources. I don’t take the extremist view that all global warming is manmade, but there’s no doubt we contribute to it. What more proof do you need than that you are here and by your mere presence you consume, you pollute, you destroy. None of us exists without having some effect on the earth. So while I’m not a radical treehugger, I think it just makes sense to try to tread a little lighter until we know for sure that we are not destroying the only home we and future generations have.
There are indications that by 2050, with a population of 9 million, the rate of population growth will start leveling off. That’s a good thing, because I think the experts can talk till they’re blue in the face, but too many people won’t pay any attention until their faucets run dry, the grocery store shelves are empty, and they need oxygen masks to breathe.