According to the US Census bureau, at the time of writing this; the global population was estimated at 6,947,192,134 people. It’s grown by 168,834,889 since I published the article “Visualizing Population” just under two years ago.
The world’s population has nearly doubled during my 42 years; as it has in my own country, Australia.
Population control, or the more acceptable term, “population management”, is a sensitive topic; but an important one in a world of “peak everything” where many resources are becoming scarce and our lifestyles are poisoning the planet.
In some countries, overpopulation has become such a problem that rather unique strategies are being adopted in order to encourage people not to have children.
The population of India alone is now around 1.15 billion. According to an article from the Telegraph, health officials in India are offering incentives such as cars to men and women who volunteer for sterilization.
While a car may not seem like an environmentally-friendly incentive, when you consider the impact of a single human over his or her lifespan and that of their offspring, and the generations to follow; perhaps it is.
Other countries pay people to have children. In Australia, we have something called the “Baby Bonus”, where parents are paid $5,000 for each child they have; along with all the additional support parents receive during their children’s initial years. It seems we aren’t filling the place up fast enough and new blood is needed to support our ageing population.
The situation would be funny if it wasn’t so serious – it reminds me of the story of the old woman who swallowed a fly; and we all know what happened to her.
That point aside, in Australia we also turn away many people desperate to live in our country. We send them to detention centers where they sometimes linger for years before being deported.
So in one country we have a government throwing millions to encourage population – the “right kind” of population, in another the rewards are given to not have them.
Too many people in one country, not enough (so they say) in another; but meanwhile, the global population is skyrocketing. Hmm. What to do?
The answer seems pretty clear to me; but the bigger issue is if it takes so many people to support an ageing population, we’re living longer and expect to carry on in a business as usual fashion in terms of lifestyle, then there are some very nasty slaps awaiting us. Infinite population growth in a finite world simply isn’t sustainable.
While there is evidence to suggest in countries where a certain level of prosperity is achieved, population growth slows; that level of “prosperity” is what is creating a terrible strain on the environment that supports us.
The carbon impact of the average Indian is far less than that of the average Australian. If we somehow could magically bring everyone to our level of prosperity, population growth may slow, but it wouldn’t stop – and we’d probably be in an even bigger mess due to the demand on resources our definition of prosperity requires.
Back in 2009, I referred to a report that stated humanity would need five Earths to produce the resources needed if everyone alive today lived the typical US lifestyle. Earth overshoot day is arriving earlier each year.
The Earth can only give so much and Nature demands balance. Where there is imbalance, it is always corrected; sometimes very harshly. We need to sort this out before Nature does it for us.