Population Matters

What’s Being Said About 7 Billion

October 31st, 2011

Welcome to a world of 7 billion! World population reached its last milestone – 6 billion – in October 1999, so we have added 1 billion more people in 12 years. There will be a lot of stories about 7 billion in the next couple of days trying to answer some key questions: What does 7 billion really mean for people and the planet? What does it mean to add 1 billion people to the planet in 12 years? How large will our population grow? How many people can the planet sustain? What can I do?

Here are some highlights of what is being said about world population reaching 7 billion:

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General, United Nations

“Some say our planet is too crowded.  I say we are seven billion strong. In our increasingly interconnected world, we all have something to give and something to gain by working together.  Let us unite, seven billion strong, in the name of the global common good.”

United Nations Population Fund

“With planning and the right investments in people now … our world of 7 billion can have thriving, sustainable cities, productive labor forces that can fuel economic growth, youth populations that contribute to the well-being of economies and societies, and a generation of older people who are healthy and actively engaged in the social and economic affairs of their communities.”

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund

“When a young woman goes through at least secondary education, her children survive better, physically they mature, emotionally they mature, and because they have education, they are able to make choices. It is not just their ability to make the choice about family planning. It’s also that they have power of their own, which enables them to live a life of dignity and respect.”

Ted Turner, Founder and Chairman of the United Nations Foundation

“The world’s population has more than tripled since I was born in 1938. On Monday, our world’s population is expected to hit the milestone of 7 billion people — up from 2.5 billion in 1950 — with almost all of the growth expected to happen in the cities of less developed countries. This means that the problems the world faced when I was a child are even more urgent now for my grandchildren.

“One of the best ways to ensure that the 7 billionth child born will live in a safe, healthy and sustainable world is to focus on what women want and need. Researchers at the Guttmacher Institute found there are 215 million women worldwide who want the ability to time and space their pregnancies, but do not have access to effective methods of contraception. Women want to be able to deliver children safely and provide for them.

“Universal access to voluntary family planning is a cross-cutting and cost-effective solution to achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals. In addition to reducing maternal mortality, providing voluntary family planning methods and education enables young women to avoid early pregnancy, allows more girls to attend school longer, makes it possible for women to have fewer, healthier children and helps break the inter-generational cycle of poverty. Additionally, it would reduce HIV transmission, empower women to pursue income-generating activities in their communities, and promote environmental sustainability.”

Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute at Columbia University

“So the arrival of the 7 billionth person is cause for profound global concern. It carries a challenge: What will it take to maintain a planet in which each person has a chance for a full, productive and prosperous life, and in which the planet’s resources are sustained for future generations? How, in short, can we enjoy ‘sustainable development’ on a very crowded planet?

“The answer has two parts, and each portends a difficult journey over several decades. The first part requires a change of technologies — in farming, energy, industry, transport and building — so that each of us on average is putting less environmental stress on the planet. We will have to make a worldwide transition, for example, from today’s fossil-fuel era, dependent on coal, oil and gas, to an era powered by low-carbon energies such as the sun and wind. That will require an unprecedented degree of global cooperation.

“The second key to sustainable development is the stabilization of the global population. This is already occurring in high-income and even some middle-income countries, as families choose to have one or two children on average. The reduction of fertility rates should be encouraged in the poorer countries as well. Rapid and wholly voluntary reductions of fertility have been and can be achieved in poor countries. Success at reducing high fertility rates depends on keeping girls in school, ensuring that children survive, and providing access to modern family planning and contraceptives.”

Robert Engelman, Executive Director, Worldwatch Institute

“It is precisely because the human population is so large and is growing so fast that we must care how much we as individuals–and nations–are increasingly out of sync with environmental sustainability. The challenge becomes even more with each generation. Fortunately there are ways to practically and humanely both slow population growth and reduce the impacts associated with the growth that occurs.

“Addressing global population growth is not the same thing as ‘controlling population’.  The most direct and immediate way to lower birth rates is to make sure that as high a proportion as possible of pregnancies are intended, by assuring that women can make their own choices about whether and when to bear a child. Simultaneously, we need to rapidly transform our energy, water, and materials consumption through greater use of conservation, efficiency, and green technologies. We shouldn’t think of these as sequential efforts – dealing with consumption first, then waiting for population dynamics to turn around – but rather as simultaneous tasks on multiple fronts.”

 Posted by Jennie Wetter, Program Manager


3 Responses to “What’s Being Said About 7 Billion”

  1. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    We face a culture of silence with regard to the growth of the human population on Earth. As a consequence, a colossal, human-induced tragedy is being precipitated in our time. But this is not the whole problem being utterly avoided. Even among top-rank scientists with appropriate expertise, extant scientific research of human population dynamics and overpopulation is being willfully ignored. Attractive preternatural thought and specious ideologically-driven theory by non-scientists, namely demographers and economists, about the nature of the human population have been widely shared and consensually validated in the mainstream media during my lifetime. This unscientific thought and theory is not only misleading but also directly contradicted by scientific evidence toward which first-class scientists have “turned a blind eye” for way too long. That is to say we have two challenges to confront and ovecome. The first is the culture of silence. The second is the deliberate collusion within a sub-culture of experts who have determined not to acknowledge, examine and report on vital scientific research. Some scientists have referred to “the first challenge” as revealing the facts of “the last taboo”. What I am asking scientists to do is address “the last of the last taboos” by reviewing and reporting findings of unchallenged scientific research of human population dynamics from two outstanding scientists, Hopfenberg and Pimentel(2001), Hopfenberg(2003, 2009). At least to me, it appears the denial of the population issue by people everywhere and the denial of scientific research of human population dynamics/overpopulation by scientists with adequate expertise have resulted in a betrayal of humanity and science itself. This failure of intellectual honesty and moral courage among so many so-called experts with responsibilities to assume and duties to perform is as unfortunate as it is unprecedented. A good enough future for children everywhere appears to be at risk on our watch and we are bearing witness now and here, I suppose, to the way silence ‘kills’ the world.

  2. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Everything within me makes one thing crystal clear: among the species of Earth only human beings with feet of clay possess the capability to honestly, consciously, courageously and deliberately behave in ways that run counter to their strongest drives. Evidence for this statement has been occurring ubiquitously since of the first days of Homo sapiens on Earth, I suppose. As we know, our species has exploded to seven billion in the ‘blink of an eye’. Is it not inconceivable that at least some small percentage of human beings have always been acting and continue to act in ways that provide evidence of the subjugation of the most powerful of their instincts to their even more formidable capacity to think, judge and will. I would go so far as to guess that not one day in human history has passed without a human being overcoming what is instinctual.

    Our instincts to survive individually and to propagate the human species globally are the most potent instincts. But in our time these instincts, that have served humankind so well from our earliest days on Earth, appear to reached a point in space-time when they are pernicious and dangerous to future human well being, life as we know it, and the planet as a fit place for the children to inhabit. Among the species in our planetary home, perhaps human beings are the first species ever to be in the position of precipitating a massive extinction event. So gifted, well-endowed and unique a species as Homo sapiens, one that appears to be potentiating some sort of unimaginable global ecological wreckage, can surely begin making necessary changes in behavior for the sake of the future human well being.

  3. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Petition Presentation, Town of Chapel Hill, NC, November 21, 2011.

    Opening remarks…….

    In Chapel Hill and around the world, it is all the same: many too many people can be found in too many places destroying the natural world for personal economic gain. Many human-induced pressures on Earth’s finite resources and its frangible ecology, that directly result from the unbridled global growth of overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities by the human species, put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future for children, not only in Chapel Hill but elsewhere on the surface of our planetary home. If we are to halt the reckless destruction of Earth as a viable resource base as well as the irreversible degradation of an already polluted environment and a warming climate, we must accept limits to growth.

    We must start somewhere soon to chart a sustainable course. Endless economic and population growth appear to be unsustainable. Let us consider now and here ways we can humanely, fairly, equitably and realistically define limits to economic and population growth in Chapel Hill, while there is still time to do so. Once the comfortable and friendly size of Chapel Hill is lost due to economic and population growth pressures, Chapel Hill’s quality of life and special characteristics will be impossible to regain.

    Perhaps we can “think globally” about the predicament seven billion human beings present to the viability of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. Then we choose to”act locally” in ways that move us in the direction of a sustainable future for children everywhere and for life as we know it. Thank you.

    TO MAYOR MARK KLEINSCHMIDT, MEMBERS OF THE TOWN COUNCIL, TOWN MANAGER ROGER STANCIL AND WHOMEVER ELSE THIS MAY CONCERN on Monday, November 21, 2011:

    A Petition to Define Limits to Economic and Population Growth in the Town of Chapel Hill, NC

    Whereas the Town of Chapel Hill appears to be outgrowing the comfortable and friendly size that has made it a wonderful place to live, raise children, work and retire; and
    Whereas increasing traffic congestion, crime and other social ills are presenting worrisome trends that result from human population growth which will eventually degrade Chapel Hill’s eco-friendly environs, deplete its limited natural resources and conceivably ruin what makes our town beautiful and special; and
    Whereas the Town of Chapel Hill has established limits and the Great State of North Carolina has boundary lines that separate it from adjacent states; and
    Whereas the USA has borders that confirm the limits of authorized human activity under its regulations and laws as well as distinguish itself as a separate nation; and
    Whereas Earth is round, bounded and finite with frangible environs not flat, unbounded and unperturbed by human production, consumption and population activities of the human species worldwide; and
    Whereas there are well-known biological and physical “rules of the house” in our planetary home that are categorically different from the manmade laws which regulate day to day production, consumption and population activities of human species, but are no less important to citizens of Chapel Hill, the State of NC and the USA as well as to the global citizenry of the human family, precisely because the biophysical reality of God’s Creation places immutable limits on the unbridled global growth of human overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities; and
    Whereas a billion human beings were added to family of humanity worldwide in the last dozen years (1999 to 2011); and
    Whereas in the month of October 2011 the seven billionth human being joined the human community; and
    Whereas there are more human beings in November 2011 existing on resources valued at less than two dollars per day globally than were alive on Earth in the year of my birth (2.3+ billion in March 1945); and
    Whereas we have heard many times, understood well enough, and can reasonably be expected to at least consider acting in a morally responsible way upon a shibboleth of humanity that goes like this, “Think globally, act locally,”

    Now, Therefore, It appears appropriate to Propose and Present this brief Summary of a Program for Action.

    As a part of the town-wide envisioning process to consciously and deliberately manage economic and population growth in the Town of Chapel Hill between now and 2020, leaders, planners and stakeholders will assure that the maintenance of the unique character and the quality of life in Chapel Hill, as we enjoy it now, is protected and preserved for the children and future generations. To accomplish this goal, various scenarios or different elements of a single scenario will be developed with the hope that the following steps will be examined for their efficacy.

    Because overpopulation is ultimately a local issue, set an optimum/maximum population size for the Town of Chapel Hill in 2020. This goal can be fulfilled by adopting growth-management policies related to limits on the number of new residential dwelling units and to additional eco-friendly curbs on commercial developments per year between now and 2020. Zoning regulations can be promulgated to further restrict the size of residential, commercial and industrial buildings within the town limits. The reality-oriented adoption of “soft caps” on economic and population growth will make it possible for the Town of Chapel Hill to sensibly acknowledge and adequately address the considerable and potentially unsustainable growth pressures that are readily visible on our watch.

    Steven Earl Salmony

Leave a Reply