Included in the signoff for my emails is reference to the 58 percent decimation of wildlife in just the last four decades, driven largely by loss of habitat due to increasing human demands as world population continues its upward trajectory.
According to the “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision,” published recently by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, we add 83 million people annually. By 2030, Earth’s population will be 8.6 billion. Then, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. And, these estimates assume that fertility levels will continue to decline. For some perspective, world population in 1974 was 4 billion, so we’ve doubled in size in not even a lifetime – 55 years.
Nearly 10 billion people on Planet Earth in just another 30 years. We all should be concerned. Very concerned. Our world “thought leaders” in government, business and media should be concerned, because the negative implications of this growth are many and frightening. For natural resources, food, health, safety, infrastructure, work, biodiversity.
Yet, we don’t see lead stories in the press about the benefits of stabilizing population; it’s not a topic on talk shows and broadcast news. And too many in business have moved more into the fantasy realm (perhaps as a way to take the focus off of their companies that don’t actually make money) versus solving real-world problems. Elon Musk is more concerned about squandering billions of dollars in a fantasy of colonizing Mars than fixing Earth-bound problems, while Jeff Bezos is infatuated with drones.
There is no bold worldwide initiative on addressing overpopulation as there is with climate change (COP21). World leadership needs to address the overpopulation issue in much stronger and more meaningful ways, and with enthusiasm equal to what’s been applied to climate change, which, in and of itself, is a symptom of overpopulation.
Even the UN needs to step up its game. The UN report seemingly paints low levels of fertility as a negative. What sense does that make in a world headed to 11 billion people?
The common thinking today among NGOs, development agencies and governments is to focus on changing the status of females. In some countries, women have no status; their role is to reproduce. In fact, according to Bill Ryerson of the Population Media Center, women are considered property in many countries; sometimes they have less standing than cattle. Of the 130 million of the world’s youth who are not in school, 70 percent are girls. And 70 percent of people living in absolute poverty worldwide are female.
“There is no way to change this overbreeding without changing the status of women worldwide,” says human rights activist Riane Eisler.
But that’s just part of the equation. Ryerson says, “You can’t liberate the women without changing the men, or you’ll just have a bunch of beaten women. Changing men’s minds about the humanity of women is critically important.” That’s why growing events like the male-focused World Vasectomy Day are incredibly important. WVD allows men to be part of family planning – to be part of the discussion and part of the solution.
Still, that’s not enough. There needs to be more receptivity to encouraging smaller families – two children, okay. How about one? Or how about a greater shifting of mindset so that it’s okay to have none? Surely reproducing – creating a Mini-Me – is not the measure of all things. As Rev. Peter S. Sawtell of Eco-Justice Ministries says, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. It’s time for us to recognize that that be one Biblical commandment where you can say, ‘Check, we’ve done that’ ... what else should we do?’”
Still, not enough. In high growth countries, financial aid should be tied to lowering birth rates. And countries such as Singapore, which has run (extremely bizarre) advertising to promote babymaking should be schooled in the public arena. Ditto Denmark and its call for patriotic babymaking while on vacation.
Documentary filmmaker Christopher Fauchere of “MOTHER – Caring for 7 Billion” says, “Population growth concerns all of us on this planet. End the taboo and talk about it.” Since another half a billion people were added to the planet since that film was made in 2011, that’s good advice this World Population Day.
A Senior Fellow with CAPS, Maria Fotopoulos writes from Los Angeles about the connection between human overpopulation, wildlife loss and the environment. Contact her @TurboDog50.