Towards 11 billion | Daily News

Towards 11 billion

Current estimates indicate that roughly 83 million people are being added to the world’s population every year. The global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to current projections. This is nearly 4 billion increase over the current figure, but the world is certainly not running out of room. In fact, scientists say that a country such as Australia could theoretically accommodate a population of 11 billion people.

But what the world may lack by 2100 is resources that can sustain 11 billion people – water, food, breathable air, housing/shelter and other essential facilities. Add climate change to the mix – temperatures are predicted to rise by a couple of degrees by this time – and humanity will have a very complex problem on their hands. Both food and water are getting scarce - freshwater reserves are limited and so is arable land. We will certainly have to find new ways to grow food (think vertical farming and soilless farming) and get water (most countries already practice the desalination of seawater). Another challenge is to prevent food waste – especially in the Post-Harvest stage and processing stage. Above all, Climate Change must be tackled if the Earth is to host 11 billion people. A sea level rise of even 2 metres will be disastrous for many coastal cities with high populations.

Urbanization is another trend that will get worse by 2100, with 4 billion out of the total 7.6 billion people already living in cities. The creation of more mega cities in China, India and other countries will pose many challenges. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in his keynote address to the World Cities Summit in Singapore alluded to this trend, referring to the inherent challenges of sustaining such mega cities.

War and conflict are creating a mass displacement of people – roughly 1 percent of the world population is refugees. Thanks to advances in medicine and science, people are living longer, with some countries having more elderly persons than young ones. This is a social as well as an economic issue.

There will be plenty of debate on these issues today, World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. This year’s 2018 theme: “Family Planning is a Human Right” marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights, where family planning was, for the first time, globally affirmed to be a human right. The conference’s outcome document, known as the Teheran Proclamation, stated unequivocally: “Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”

Embedded in this document was a game-changing realization: Women and girls have the right to avoid the exhaustion, depletion and danger of too many pregnancies, too close together. Men and women have the right to choose when and how often to embrace parenthood — if at all. Sri Lanka pioneered the concept of family planning in this region.

The UN has recognized several factors essential for family planning: Family planning information and services cannot be restricted on the basis of race, sex, language, religion, political affiliation, national origin, age, economic status, place of residence, disability status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity; Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone; Countries must ensure that family planning commodities and services are accessible to everyone; Contraceptive services and information must be provided in a dignified manner, respecting both modern medical ethics and the cultures of those being accommodated; Family planning information must be clearly communicated and scientifically accurate; Every person must be empowered to make reproductive choices with full autonomy, free of pressure, coercion or misrepresentation.

The goal is to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions. We often read of incidents where mothers had left infants in toilets or shrub jungle apparently due to poverty. Some even go to the extent of murdering new-born infants. But if they had practised some form of family planning, such unfortunate outcomes could have been avoided. Likewise, many young women choose to undergo risky illegal abortions because they had no access to contraceptives or had no knowledge of them. Creating public awareness on both family planning and contraceptives for engaging in safe sex is a must. Ignorance does result in unwanted pregnancies. It is up to Governments and the media to create more awareness on these factors among both married people and other young persons.

The expanding population is a challenge as well as an opportunity. Indeed, some developed and even developing countries have a majority “silver generation” and a low birth rate that they actually encourage couples to make more babies with an eye on the future. Many countries are already planning for 2040 and beyond, taking into account the expanded populations and the distribution of finite resources. Several countries have legal migration programmes which seek to diversify their gene pool over the next few decades. Policymakers and scientists around the world must come up with innovative ideas to manage the population as well as the Earth’s resources.


 

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