7 Billion: What to expect when you’re expanding—a special series
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:
What if population grows faster than the experts project?
Many demographers believe that global population will peak at 9.5 to 10 billion this century and then gradually decline as poorer countries develop. But what if they're wrong?
7 billion, unpacked — a comic
Stop the ‘man swarm,’ save the wild world
Let’s leave some room for everybody else. Photo: Robin PittmanMore of our kind means fewer wild things. A stabilized human population means hope for wild things. A shrinking human population means a better world for wild things — and for men and women and children. It’s that straightforward. The human population grew more in the last 40 years than in the previous 3 million. The population bomb has blown up — but the shrapnel hasn’t yet hit us hard. What it has hit hard are wild things. The outcomes of humanity’s growth yesterday, today, and tomorrow are scalped wildlands, endangered …
Is the environmental crisis caused by the 7 billion or the 1%?
The United Nations says that the world’s population will reach 7 billion people this month. The approach of that milestone has produced a wave of articles and opinion pieces blaming the world’s environmental crises on overpopulation. In New York’s Times Square, a huge and expensive video declares that “human overpopulation is driving species extinct.” In London’s busiest Underground stations, electronic poster boards warn that 7 billion is ecologically unsustainable. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s bestseller The Population Bomb declared that as a result of overpopulation, “the battle to feed humanity is over,” and the 1970s would be a time of global …
Three’s a crowd: Is it unethical to have more than two kids?
In the U.S., many population groups try to smooth over controversy, preferring to highlight areas of broad agreement, such as making birth control universally accessible, educating girls, and empowering women. By contrast, the British group Population Matters (formerly Optimum Population Trust) tries to stir up controversy. It recently chided David and Victoria Beckham for adding a fourth child to their jet-setting brood, and the group has rankled some in the population movement by promoting PopOffsets, a program that lets you “offset” your family’s carbon footprint by funding family planning elsewhere. I talked to Roger Martin, chair of Population Matters, about …
Live chat on population 7 billion — ask your questions and have your say-so
Sandeep Bathala and Carmen BarrosoJoin a Grist live chat on population issues on Monday, Oct. 31, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Pacific, marking the occasion of the world population hitting 7 billion. We’ll have two experts on hand to answer your questions: Sandeep Bathala of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, formerly director of the Sierra Club’s population program; and Carmen Barroso, director of International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region. The chat will be moderated by Grist Senior Editor and Queen of Pop(ulation) Lisa Hymas. Ask questions in the box below, or tweet your questions to …
Climate change is our biggest challenge, says McKibben — but we need to keep working on population
Photo: TakverIn the late ’90s, environmental activist and author Bill McKibben wrote a book about his and his wife’s decision to have only one child, connecting their personal choice to global issues of population growth and sustainability. These days, McKibben is intently focused on fighting climate change, kick-starting a clean energy revolution, and, as a means to both ends, stopping the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar-sands crude 1,700 miles down the middle of the U.S. In an interview earlier this month, Leo Hickman of The Guardian asked him about all of these issues. Here’s what McKibben had …
How to feed 7 billion of us without ruining the planet
Now that we’re surrounded by 7 billion of our closest friends, it’s probably a good time to talk about how we’re going to feed them. The government, along with corporations like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, and others who are part of our current industrial agriculture system, will tell you that feeding the world is all about more. More yield from crops, more chemicals, more fertilizer, more genetically engineered seeds. More, more, more! Of course, it’s easy to say that when you’re willing, as they are, to ignore the health effects, climate and environmental impacts, resource constraints, and every other real world …