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Are there too many of us? The population debate

Are there too many of us? The population debate

Article · By Iranthi Gomes on March 3, 2017

What is the situation?

There is now 7.5 billion of us and the rate is 1.11% per year. This rate is decreasing, but we need to do more about it to get our population into stability. This 1.11% sounds small, but means around 82.2 million new people each year.

Population growth is highest in less developed countries, and educations and some religions make the rates higher than in other places. Asia and Africa have the highest rates of population growth in the world.

China is known to have a one child policy; but the issues surrounding population planning are controversial. A strategist at Deutsche Bank has carefully scrutinised the UN’s projections, claiming them to be wrong. So how can we get the real picture?


Possible factors

There are some things we do know about humanity’s impact on the world.

Our natural resources are being used quicker than they are replenishing. If everyone on earth lived like the average American, we would need 4.6 planets to support us.

Currently, there are over 298,000 tonnes of waste dumped each year. Recycling efforts have begun, but this ecological overshoot means that demand has outstripped supply.

Recent research by the world economic forum suggests that the oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050. This is a shocking statistic and one that needs global intervention, now.


Millions are starving and dying from hunger

Currently 5 million people a year die from hunger. Compare this to the fact that over 100,000 tonnes of food is lost or wasted each year, and we have a very imbalanced world.


Lack of education in family planning

Poverty breeds high rates of population growth: Families poor in income, employment, and social security need children first to work and later to sustain elderly parents. Measures to provide an adequate livelihood for poor households, to establish and enforce minimum-age child labour laws, and to provide publicly financed social security will all lower fertility rates. Improved public health and child nutrition programmes that bring down infant mortality rates - so parents do not need 'extra' children as insurance against child death - can also help to reduce fertility levels.


Food production demand outstrips supply

As the world population grows, the demand is also growing, expecting to reach 98% by 2050. This means advanced logistics, and as those in developing countries become more affluent, global demand for meat will skyrocket, exactly as climate change is shrinking the amount of land available to farm grains and raise cattle.


What social good organisations are doing

Hero condoms, an Australian social enterprise, provides ‘one for one’ - that for every condom sold, a condom is donated to a developing country to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS and save lives. To date, HERO has provided more than ~75,000 condoms locally in Botswana and we are happy to announce that as of September 2015, HERO returned to Botswana to donate a further 500,000 condoms.

Jane Turville’s Kickstarter project is called ‘The People Problem: Are there too many of us?’ which discusses the huge social taboo around managing population growth. Jane suggests that the taboo exists because it is concerned with limiting personal choice.

There are even those who believe a radical overhaul of the system is needed, and that an economic model which is more conducive to the pace of nature may help alleviate some of the planet’s problems. The Sharing Economy is a new model based upon sharing of physical and intellectual resources. The Share Guide, based in Brighton, encourages people to share worldwide, instead of consuming.


What can you do about it?

There is a lot that we can do as individuals, by simply recognising the power of choice.


Responsible family planning

Education and eradicating poverty per statistics seems to be the main way in tackling this problem. And one we need to do head on. Tackling the huge issue of family planning education and making responsible choices is one positive step forward.

Professor Barry Brook, from the University of Tasmania, says "Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term".

As part of Inventshift, we spoke to a small charity, Friends of Buburi, operating in Kenya trying to help with HIV, family planning and other health issues. They are a charity partner that we are considering working with.


Responsible consumerism

We also need to consume more responsibly. Inventshift is a platform that allows consumers to buy from enterprises that are valuing both people and planet. When we buy responsibly, we make a shift in the economy. Imagine if everyone you knew decided to consciously consume. How would that change things?


Responsible waste management

Responsible waste management starts with us. We can all buy products that are biodegradable, and use natural resources that aren’t toxic to people or the environment. If we are educated about how certain products impact our health and the natural world, we are less likely to use them. For example, plastic bottles take up to 1,000 years to decompose and have an impact on the ecosystem that we are all reliant on.


Next steps

As the co-founder of Inventshift, I’m passionate about helping the UN achieve their sustainability goals between now and 2030, and believe education around this important issue is a key priority.

In the months following the launch of this platform,  I’d like to run a crowdfunding campaign that would also be a project in the Inventshift fund, where consumers can decide where their contribution goes after purchasing a service. I hope you’ll join me on this incredibly important initiative.


What are your thoughts on the population debate? Please share your thoughts below. If you’d like to be involved, please get in touch: [email protected]


Article by:

Iranthi Gomes
on March 3, 2017

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