Jul 13 2014
In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 per day.
— Jacques Yves Cousteau
On Earth Day, lovers of the environment focus on celebrating the beauty of the planet and protecting its resources. On World Population Day, however, there is no rejoicing over the abundance of beautiful people on the globe; instead, there is a focus on slowing, and even reversing, the growth of the human family.
In 1965, the global population had just passed 3.5 billion. Half a century later, the number of humans on the planet has more than doubled to about 7.2 billion, according to the U.S. Census population clock. In the interest of putting the brakes on the tendency we have to make more people, this year’s World Population Day (July 11) will be celebrated by focusing on the children we already have (and raising awareness to the importance of not having any more). This year’s theme is “Investing in Young People” by making sure they have access to reproductive health information and services. As John Seager at Population Connection wrote in 2012, “Our population is growing rapidly. Our Earth is not. Something has to give.”
Pamela Barnes, president of EngenderHealth, claims that more than 220 million women on Earth do not have access to the contraception they desire. She wrote recently in The Huffington Post, “If women and girls can access contraception, they are more likely to finish school, they will have fewer children by choice, and they are more likely to prosper.” Barnes may be truly interested in bettering the lives of millions of women, but what about those women who are proud to have babies, who long to have little ones in their arms? World Population Day isn’t celebrated with those women in mind.
A conference on “Investing in Young People” was held in Abuja, Nigeria on July 7 to focus on making the world a better place for the next generation. Nigeria is the most populous African country and the 7th most populated country in the world. It deals with the many challenges of feeding and hydrating, housing and clothing, teaching and providing plumbing for 175 million people. By improving literacy and by increasing education on contraception and family planning, the conference leaders hope to improve the health and economic situations of young men and women in Nigeria and around the world.
Seager wrote, “Adding 80 million people a year to the Earth’s population puts extraordinary strain on our natural resources. Experts project that in less than 50 years, we might add another 2 billion to 4 billion people to our planet. All of those people need food, water, clean air and space — necessities that are already running in short supply in many areas.”
It is easy to worry about the population of the planet when managing public sanitation in New Delhi or providing water for the explosion of humanity in Phoenix. It’s easy to feel angry when children die from malnutrition and contaminated water. According to the World Health Population, children in developed countries are 16 times more likely to survive past the age of five than children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet, is population control really as important as some think it is? Driving from St. Louis, Missouri to Seattle or from Magadan, Russia to Moscow, it is clear that there is still a vast amount of open space on this little blue planet.
Education, Not Manipulation
At a 2012 family planning conference in London, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda called for people to be cautious about blaming poverty on population growth. Museveni pointed out that middle class women already tend to have fewer children, and he blamed poverty on socio-economic problems and a lack of development in poor countries. He encouraged promoting the spacing of children, but he also called for care to properly inform poor women and not push contraception onto them.
“Those administering family planning services to the uneducated should explain to them carefully what they entail so that they can seek out these services out of informed choices and not manipulation,” Museveni said.
The best thing African nations like Nigeria can do is improve infrastructure and keep young men employed and out of terrorist groups like Boko Haram. Promoting stability will go a long way to ensuring that all Nigerian children have food and clean water.
There’s plenty of food and water on this planet, but we don’t make the best use of it. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that one-third of all the food produced for humans is wasted every year. According to the BBC, Europeans throw away 100 million tons of food each year, and only about 40% of the food we Americans produce ever gets eaten. We don’t have a population problem as much as a management problem.
Charities like City Harvest have jumped into the gap to take “imperfect” produce out of the hands of farmers and stores and get it into local food banks and shelter soup pots. Onion farmer Chris Pawelski can only sell a portion of his onions to grocery chains, because consumers want pretty-looking onions that have a certain size and shape. He’s started to donate the rest of his perfectly good but less physically appealing onions to City Harvest so they don’t go to waste. In 2014, City Harvest will rescue an estimated 46 million pounds of food.
It can even be said that large families are good for the world. Children from large families are often forced to manage their resources with serious efficiency. They learn to make the most of what they do have, taking every meal, every set of clothes, every bike and vehicle as far as they can make it go. There is little waste. There is little room for complaining about food they don’t like. Resourcefulness becomes an important, life-long skill. The world’s water problems, sanitation problems, food production problems may very well be put in order by the minds of people who came from large families.
Ultimately, the issue of population control comes down to a question of God’s wisdom and foresight. If we believe we are on our own, the product of millions of years of evolution, then we have a responsibility to make sure humans don’t overgraze themselves to death. On the other hand, if we believe in a God who values human life, a God who was able to look through time and see the vast number of people who would be born, we can trust He made the planet big enough to hold us all. Our job is to take care of one another and do our utmost to make sure that every child born is treated with the value we all have in Christ.
- Food Waste Reduction Could Help Feed World’s Starving
— BBC News
- Population Growth Isn’t A Problem - Museveni
— New Vision
- Children: Reducing Mortality
- Population Management, Key To Nation’s Development –NPC Boss
— Daily Independent
- Population Growth: Six Hours to Fill Yankee Stadium
— The Huffington Post
World Population Day: Nigeria’s Teenage Population Hits 60m – NPC Boss
— Leadership Newspaper -Addressing a World of Inequities on World Population Day
— The Huffington Post
World Population Day
— Time and Date