The World at 7 Billion
The World at 7 Billion: Sustaining our Future
The population of our planet reached the 7 billion mark at the end of October according to the U.N.’s calculations. Earth’s population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, from 3 billion in 1959, and will likely exceed 10 billion by 2100. These numbers represent big challenges—feeding and providing for additional people on a planet already stressed by environmental damage and climate change. What can ordinary individuals do in the face of such enormous issues?
Since the evolutionary goal of each species is to increase its numbers, we might claim that humans have triumphed. But we have achieved our “success” by devouring Earth’s resources and devastating other species and their ecosystems.
We are already on an unsustainable trajectory of deforestation, water pollution and scarcity, depletion of soils, and species loss, and yet we must find even more food, water, and energy to provide for our continually increasing numbers, 97 percent of whom live in developing countries.
Today, half the global population lives on $2 a day or less, and the gap between rich and poor is growing. In poor countries, undernourishment, discrimination against women, and high birth and death rates are inextricably linked. The poor will also suffer most from the effects of climate change—drought, heat waves, flooding, sea level rise, extreme weather—although they are the least responsible for producing the greenhouse gasses that cause global warming. Moreover, as the world population grows, the demand for resources will increase as people move out of poverty and seek a better life.
To focus only on the urgent global picture, however, makes the situation feel overwhelming and may prevent us from taking action. But there are things each of us can do to push for government action and to make a meaningful difference.
For example, we know that one of the most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty and slow population growth is to improve the reproductive and general health and education of women and girls.
Education gives women a way out of poverty, and when women feel confident that more of their children will survive, and understand family planning, they have fewer children.
And as residents of the United States, the world’s largest consumer, there are many steps we can take to restrain our use of natural resources and protect the environment.
Here is a list of ways you can help that will hopefully spur your imagination—please share your own ideas too in the Comment section. Saying you don’t have time is no excuse!
What you can do about POVERTY if you have:
Send a CARE advocacy letter about global poverty to your elected official
Invite your friends to loan $25 to Kiva to support a low-income global entrepreneur
Clean out your closet and donate clean unused clothes to a local shelter
Organize a concert with local musicians or a poetry reading to benefit a neighborhood shelter or soup kitchen
Instead of taking a vacation, volunteer abroad to provide skill-based training to underprivileged communities
Join AmeriCorps VISTA to help poor communities in the U.S.
Become a Young Leader (NY Chapter) at the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health
What you can do to help WOMEN AND CHILDREN if you have:
Post girlup on your Facebook status to help girls in developing countries get the tools they need to go to school
Take a stand against the anti-choice Smith Bill now on its way to the Senate
Do your holiday shopping at fair trade retailers that support women in poor countries
Create a personal webpage to raise funds online for UNICEF and provide humanitarian help for children
Learn about state-level attacks on Planned Parenthood and get involved
Host a Young Advocates for Pathfinder event in NYC to support reproductive rights
Organize a group-giving event to do holiday shopping from the SavetheChildren.org catalog and educate a girl for a whole year
Host an event to support the Global Fund for Women that funds women-led organizations worldwide
Write a blog post about maternal health in your community and email it to Women Deliver to share with their readers
Set up a Nets for Nets event during a sporting event to raise money for mosquito nets to help fight malaria
Start a Girlup club to improve the lives of girls in developing countries
Become a Big Brother or Big Sister to nurture children in need
Help Youth at Risk NYC with their public relations or a special event
Organize a Vox college campus group to raise awareness about reproductive health and rights
Become a Women for Women international ambassador to help women survivors of war
Save your small change to sponsor a child in need with World Vision for about $1 a day
Become an advocate for adolescent and sexual health in your community
What you can do to protect our ENVIRONMENT if you have:
Install 5 compact fluorescent bulbs
Plan several vegetarian dinners instead of meat-based meals
Set your printer or copier’s default to double-sided to save paper
Sign up for a free e-card service instead of buying paper cards
Plant a tree or shrub in your yard
Set up online banking and bill paying to save paper
Install low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators to save water
Mulch your gardens to prevent soil erosion and runoff
Plant a vegetable garden
Participate in a Birdathon to count birds and raise money to protect birds and wildlife
Insulate and weatherize your home
Host a Climate Reality Project presentation to help educate your community about climate change
Sponsor a Charity Water project to provide clean safe drinking water to a developing country
Become a Climate Reality Project presenter to help educate the public about climate change
Eat less meat
Take 5-minute showers instead of longer ones
Make your lunch and carry it in a refillable container with a cloth napkin
Hang your laundry on the line to dry instead of using the drier
Subscribe to the NRDC’s Legislative Watch to keep abreast of environmental issues
Adopt an Important Bird Area to preserve bird biodiversity through your local Audubon chapter