On a planet that is so markedly divided between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ population growth is often seen as a massive problem. At the end of 2007 it was announced that the planets population had reached approximately 6.7 billion people. A common estimate also suggested that by 2050 the planets population would reach 9 billion people.
However, according to the Worldwatch Institute, a nonpartisan Washington research group, there is absolutely no confidence in that number any more.
The report points to the massive variability in fertility rates worldwide as the reason for this. There are simply too many factors to pin on too many people to arrive at a conclusion worthy of recognition. For pessimists, this only adds fuel to their fires of fear that Earth will be overrun.
There are a veritable multitude of factors that have brought researchers to this conclusion. Amidst the factors exists a mass of contradictions.For example, there is a massive contradiction in the fact that families continue to shrink in number and in size, yet there are near-record levels of birth. This is easily explained by the simple fact that there are now more women of childbearing age then there was. Consider that in 1970 there were only 856 million women aged between 15 and 49; however in 2007 that number had skyrocketed to 1.7 billion.From the report:
Only the future growth of the reproductive-age population is readily predictable, however: all but the youngest of the women who will be in this age group in two decades are already alive today. But sustaining further declines in childbearing and increases in life expectancy will require continued efforts by governments to improve access to good health care, and both trends could be threatened by environmental or social deterioration.
The uncertain future of these factors makes population growth harder to predict than most people realize. So much makes up the population statistics of our planet. There are enumerable reports showing that there is enough fresh water and food for the entire planet, but once again the richer countries abuse that. Even then, it is the poorer nations that often have larger families.
Posted by Josh Hill.
Related Galaxy posts:
Dr Strangelove Two? -Cambridge Astrophysicist Gives Earthlings a 50/50 Chance of Making it Through the Century
The Language of the Future: Harvard Mathematicians Break the Code
Predicting the Future -A Galaxy Insight
The Final Century -Video Classic
The "Hawking Solution" -Will Saving Humanity Require Leaving the Planet?
Bigger Threat than Global Warming -Mass Species Extinction
Coming of Age in the Holocene
Robots Rising -Scientists are Worried
Ghost Map -Scientists Unlock Secret of 1918 Pandemic