This year the world will reach 7 billion inhabitants, and it will continue growing. UN projections put the world’s population at 8.9 billion by 2050, primarily in less-developed regions.
Eight out of 10 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo survive on U.S. $2/day, 46 percent of its population is less than 15 years old, and scientists expect its population to grow by several million by 2050. India will become the most populous country in 2050, but currently over 75 percent of residents live under the poverty line.
What will this steep population growth mean for our environmental, economic and social systems?
The greater the world’s population, the more humans will rely on already-stressed ecosystems, destroying habitats and disrupting food chains, so that biodiversity will suffer. While increasing a country’s productivity can raise the standard of living, it also often leads to a more widespread use of fossil fuels. This energy-climate crisis presents challenges for developing economies. More people signals further water stress as humans seek more ways to access this most precious resource.
Scientists have mapped the connection between a lack of food and increased conflict, particularly in areas of the fastest population growth. The need for more resources to feed a larger population could exacerbate already tense relations and lead to greater conflict for scarce resources.
Increasing populations in already impoverished areas means that it will be more challenging for people to pull themselves out of poverty traps. People need sustainable agricultural systems based on local resources, improved social and health programs, better education systems, increased access to health care and gender equality. The challenge is addressing these concerns without continued harm to the environment.
To Learn more about these complex issues, we hope you will be able to join us on Oct. 17, for:
“The World at 7 Billion: Sustaining Our Future.”
Monday, Oct. 17, 2011, 3-5 p.m.
Columbia University, Alfred Lerner Hall, Roone Arledge Auditorium
2920 Broadway, between 114th and 115th streets
Registration is required: earth.columbia.edu/events
Unable to join us in person? Watch and listen via webcast at earth.columbia.edu/7billion.
Here are some other online references:
• 7 Billion Actions: A Global Movement for All Humanity
• Population Reference Bureau: The World at 7 Billion
• National Geographic: 7 Billion Series
• UN Population Publication: World Population to 230
(Guest blogger Melissa von Mayrhauser is a student at Columbia College and works as an intern at the Earth Institute.)