6.6 Billion and Growing
Today, July 11th, is World Population Day, a day set aside to increase awareness about global population issues and the strain it creates on the environment. In a time when it seems like there is a day set aside for every issue that requires more than one day of action and awareness, World Population Day will not be celebrated with gifts, cards, and flowers. This year, men's role in family planning is the focus.
World Population Day was established by the United Nations Development Program on the day in 1989 when the Earth's human population reached five billion people. Almost 20 years later, we have reached over 6.6 billion humans on this fragile planet with approximately 77 million people added each year. The question that must be asked is when will we no longer be able to support the our global population or have we already reached this point?
Info for Health's Population Report sums up the issue well:
As the century begins, natural resources are under increasing pressure, threatening public health and development. Water shortages, soil exhaustion, loss of forests, air and water pollution, and degradation of coastlines afflict many areas. As the world's population grows, improving living standards without destroying the environment is a global challenge.
Most developed economies currently consume resources much faster than they can regenerate. Most developing countries with rapid population growth face the urgent need to improve living standards. As we humans exploit nature to meet present needs, are we destroying resources needed for the future?
There are so many issues involving global population growth and the controversy surrounding it. Public health, food supply, freshwater, coastlines and oceans, biodiversity, and global climate change are all affected by our increasing population. We may not feel the effects in the United States directly yet, but if we look to developing countries and the natural resources available, it is easy to become alarmed. Of course, there are those people who deny this is a problem and feel human ingenuity will sovle any issue that arises.
If we want to insure a livable future, we must increase our sustainabilty practices, as well as stabilize the human population on Earth. With 1 billion people being added to the planet every 13 years, we must slow this growth to enable us to address sustainability issues and preserve a higher standard of living for all people. Voluntary family planning in all countries should be supported, including eliminating the Global Gag Rule. Even though the United States population grows mostly due to immigration, there are still large families in this country with eight or nine children. However, 99% of the population growth does occurs in developing countries, where two in three people lack clean drinking water. Family planning education that targets both men and women, as well as aid should be a priority as we look to stabilize population growth. As the Sierra Club states, "When women and men can choose the size and spacing of their families, they tend to have smaller, healthier families. This has a ripple effect that benefits communities socially, economically, and environmentally."