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People pollution.

Each night, 250,000 more people sit down to supper. The world's population is increasing at the rate of 179 per minute, or 94 million per year. Today's population of 5.6 billion will become 8 billion in just one generation.

The increase in numbers has been rapid and recent. About 10,000 years ago the world's population is thought to have been about five million. In the year 1801, the numbers reached one billion. At that point, the growth rate shifted into overdrive. Two billion was reached in 1925; three billion in 1959; four billion in 1974, and five billion in 1986.

Some progress has been made in slowing down the growth. In the 1960s, the world's population was increasing at the rate of 2.1% a year. Now, the annual increase is down to 1.7%. However, that still adds up to another 10,700 mouths to feed each hour of each day. And, about three billion people around the world are currently entering their prime reproductive years.

The experts tell us that the solutions to reducing population growth are to reduce poverty and to give women greater control over their fertility. These things have largely been achieved in the industrialized countries and population growth there is very slow. They have not been achieved in the developing world, and there are many, many cultural and other roadblocks to their adoption. These became apparent at a United Nations conference on population in 1994. A loose coalition of groups that included American Baptists, Muslims, Catholics, free enterprisers, and some women's groups said the overpopulation crisis is a myth. Werner Fornos, President of the Population Institute, believes those who bold this view couldn't be more wrong: "Failure to address the population problem," he says, "may be the global blunder."

We in the rich North have been fond of pointing the finger at the "overpopulated" South. After all, that's where almost all the world's population increase is taking place. But many in the South see the push to control population growth as a scheme by the world's have countries to keep the have-nots in their present lowly position.

The point is that those at the bottom of the heap have very little impact on the environment. It's the richest 20% of the world's population that is destroying the ozone layer, causing global warming, fishing the oceans barren, and depleting the Earth of its non-renewable resources. The poorest 20%, who share just 1.4% of the world's income, have virtually no effect on ecosystems. The 60% in the middle (the people of such countries as Brazil, China, India, and Indonesia), see our patterns of consumption as their role model. China, for example, is in the middle of a huge program to increase its electricity generation. Almost all the new power will come from coal-fired stations, and coal is one of the worst sources of greenhouse gases.

For people, of course, the first priorities are food and water. And, it looks as though we might have reached the production limits for both. World grain production rose from 631 million tonnes a year in 1950 to 1,650 million tonnes in 1984. Since 1984, world grain production has been in a slow decline. Beef production went from 19 million tonnes a year in 1950 to 53 million tonnes in 1990. But, between 1990 and 1993, beef production dropped by 2%. There was a similar fall in mutton production. The same trends are apparent with seafood (see page 22).

According to Lester Brown, President of the Worldwatch Institute, "The world has quietly entered a new era, one in which satisfying the food needs of 90 million more people each year is possible only by reducing consumption among those already here."

In 1993, a group of scientists at Cornell University crunched a lot of numbers through their computers. The Cornell study concluded that by 2100 Earth could sustain a population of between one and two billion in "relative prosperity." Current estimates are that the world's population at the end of the next century will be between 12 billion and 15 billion.


1. Canadians have always responded generously to the many famines that have occurred. In the future, more famines will occur more regularly and Canadians will be asked to give until it hurts. Or, let people die. What do you think the reaction of most Canadians will be?

2. The average Canadian consumes approximately 50 times more goods and services than a person in China. The question is, do we want to live like the Chinese?
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Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Sustainable Development - Population; the world's population is increasing at a rate of 94 million per year causing environmental problems
Author:Taylor, Rupert J.
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Date:Oct 1, 1995
Previous Article:Earth moving.
Next Article:Mother nature's solution?

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