Daily Mail (London), October 16, 2011
The world’s population looks set to smash through the seven billion barrier in the next few days, according to the United Nations.
It comes just 12 years since the total reached six billion–with official estimates saying the figure will top eight billion in 2025 and 10 billion before the end of the century.
And it is most likely the baby will be born in the Asia-Pacific region–where the population growth rate is higher than anywhere else in the world.
Experts say the pace of growth–which has seen the number of people on the planet triple since 1940–poses an increasing danger to citizens.
With more people to feed, house and provide medical care for, they say the world’s resources look set to come under more strain than ever before.
As populations stabilise in the industrial world, almost all growth in the near future is expected to take place in developing countries.
Of the 2.3 billion people the UN believes will be added by 2050, more than one billion will live in sub-Saharan Africa. The Indian subcontinent will add some 630 million people.
It will mean less land and water available for each person. Poorer people, who tend to depend more on natural resources, will bear the brunt as they will not be able to compete with the rich.
The major issues will be how to feed the new arrivals, which will see the need for new varieties of improved crops.
Ageing populations are also set to pose a problem with some industrial countries, such as Japan, nearly doubling its share of the population aged 65 and over in the past 20 years.
This will put increased pressure on pension and healthcare systems.
The report states: ‘Another two billion people may be added to the world population by mid-century, many of them in places where hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation are already taking a high toll.
‘Supporting the world’s human population will mean eliminating poverty, transitioning to an economy that is in sync with the earth, and securing every person’s health, education, and reproductive choice.
‘If we do not voluntarily stabilize population, we risk a much less humane end to growth as the ongoing destruction of the earth’s natural systems catches up with us.’
But despite the problems the world is facing, Under-Secretary-General of the UN Dr Noeleen Heyzer said the seventh billion child of the world has a better chance than decade ago of surviving past the age of five than a decade ago.
The life expectancy for both women and men has also increased in every Asian and Pacific country during the past decade, Dr Heyzer added.
And although the pace of development is 1.1 per cent in 2011–meaning an extra 78 million people will live on the planet by the end of this year–it has slowed down slightly from its peak of 2 per cent in 1968.
Professor David Bloom, from the department of economics and demographics at Harvard University, said in a report earlier this year that the issues would also affect developed countries.
He said: ‘Population trends indicate a shift in the ‘demographic centre of gravity’ from more to less developed regions.
‘Already strained, many developing countries will likely face tremendous difficulties in supplying food, water, housing, and energy to their growing populations, with repercussions for health, security, and economic growth.
‘The demographic picture is indeed complex, and poses some formidable challenges.
‘Those challenges are not insurmountable, but we cannot deal with them by sticking our heads in the sand.
‘We have to tackle some tough issues ranging from the unmet need for contraception among hundreds of millions of women and the huge knowledge-action gaps we see in the area of child survival, to the reform of retirement policy and the development of global immigration policy.
‘It’s just plain irresponsible to sit by idly while humankind experiences full force the perils of demographic change.’
Britain is mirroring the world’s expansion. In 1801, its population was 10.5 million–and is now close to 62.5 million.