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:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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