The world population will hit 7 billion on Halloween of 2011, according to a guesstimate from the U.N. Who knew those goons with the black helicopters had such a macabre sense of humor?
So, should you be scared?
On the one hand, does the number 7 billion really matter? Didn’t we stop worrying about population decades ago when overblown predictions of global famine failed to come to pass? Aren’t birthrates declining all over the world, with some rich countries actually starting to shrink? Can’t technology enable more people to live better on fewer resources? Don’t we have bigger problems to worry about — the economy, war, human rights, Toddlers & Tiaras?
On the other hand, in an age of runaway climate change and peak oil and water scarcity and disappearing biodiversity, is population growth more worrisome than ever? Shouldn’t it be particularly concerning in countries rife with gas-guzzlers and giant flat-screen TVs? What about new projections that our numbers could rise to 10 billion by the end of the century or even higher? And, considering that 215 million women around the world want to prevent pregnancy but aren’t using modern contraception, shouldn’t we be focusing more on family planning, not less?
Is population really such a big f*%@ing deal? Or is it just a big deal being made about f*%@ing?
Sex is, of course, at the heart of population, one of many reasons why people get so touchy about the topic. Population also runs up against issues of gender, race, class, aging, colonialism, poverty, consumption, contraception, abortion, immigration, religion. You name a hot-button issue, it’s mixed up in there somewhere.
In this special series on population, we’re exploring different angles, aspects, and opinions in pieces by Grist writers and outside thinkers. Check out the menu at right for all the offerings.
We’d also like to hear from you, in comments below, on Facebook, on Twitter, by owl. Please, though, keep it civil and respectful. Feelings run high around these issues; let’s have our discourse run high too.
Also see past Grist posts on population:
- 8 things you can do about population
- Women’s rights are the right way to approach the population issue
- The population challenge on the ground in Ethiopia
- Want to join the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement?
- Busting myths about China’s one-child policy
- Climate-change planning should include family planning
- And more …
Stories in this series:
Yeah, yeah, you know -- the world population is hitting 7 billion this year. Here are some facts about the world's people that you might not already be familiar with.
Here's a population angle you might not have considered before: Family planning can help women adapt to climate change that's already happening.
Over the past 50 years, the growth rate of the global population has slowed, but our overall numbers keep going up and up. Check out video explainers.
World population doubled in the last half-century to nearly 7 billion people. To address population growth, we need to advance and secure women's rights.
The best way to slow growth is ensuring that people can make choices about childbearing. But fertility rates remain high where women's status is low.
Green groups and women's health advocates used to butt heads over population, but they're increasingly finding common ground in their support for family planning.
The GOP is committed to rolling back women's health rights that have made families and societies stronger across the developing world.
"What we need to really find for the future is the contraceptive for overconsumption," says Mother Jones reporter Julia Whitty in this PBS video.
I'm afraid that attention to climate will revive alarmist debates on population. And as a woman of color, I'm worried that the specter of population control will rear its ugly head again.
The number of people in the world is expected to reach 7 billion by the end of October 2011. Our rate of increase continues to slow from the high point of over 2 percent in …
A new study in Nature says the world can feed itself without ruining the planet -- if we make major adjustments now to how we farm and eat.
A Mayan leader in Guatemala finds hope for the survival of his people in a combination of traditional and modern solutions -- including family planning.
These days, when people go out of their way to avoid mention of the P word, it's almost hard to believe that population used to be a mainstream issue.
A recent poll found 29 percent of Americans listing "overpopulation" as a major environmental challenge, while just 27 percent named global warming.