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More on global population

WILL 9 BILLION PEOPLE MAX OUT THE EARTH’S NATURAL RESOURCES? OR IS OVERCONSUMPTION THE REAL PLANETARY THREAT?

The number of people on Earth is expected to grow from 6.5 billion to about 9 billion by 2050. That much is relatively uncontroversial. But recently, we’ve seen disparate views emerge as to how this population growth will affect the planet.

They have a couple of people writing about this issue, but my opinion closly resembles that of Fred Peace:

Fred Pearce looks at the same demographic trends and sees very good news. “The population bomb is being defused at a quite remarkable rate,” he writes. “Women around the world have confounded the doomsters and are choosing to have dramatically fewer babies.” He then goes on to cite declining fertility rates in countries across Europe, Asia, and Latin America. And in Africa, where high fertility remains the norm, Pearce is optimistic that those extra people can provide a way out of the continent’s poverty trap. Bad agriculture, not population growth, he contends, is the continent’s main predicament—and in this essay, he describes how more people, employed on ecologically friendly, small-scale farms will be key to African sustainable development. Chris Reij, a Dutch geographer whom Pearce interviews for the article, concurs. “The idea that population pressure inevitably leads to increased land-degradation is a myth,” he says. “It does not. Innovation is common in regions where there is high population pressure.”

Consumption, not population, Pearce concludes, is the main problem confronting human society today. After all, he writes, “virtually all of the extra 2 billion or so people expected on this planet in the coming 40 years will be in the poor half of the world.” Assuming per capita emissions remain roughly where they are today, those 2 billion poor people will only boost the developing world’s share of greenhouse gas emissions from 7 to 11 percent. In other words, achieving zero population growth—even if it were possible—would barely touch the climate problem. The real culprits, according to Pearce, are not “generations of poor not yet born” people, but the stable population in the developed world with its gigantic ecological footprint.

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July 10, 2010  Tags: ,   Posted in: world events


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