Nov 01, 2011 Editorial
Yesterday the world population reached seven billion and this despite the wars, the hunger from famine in some countries poverty, the deaths from the floods, the numerous deaths by misadventure, and the suicides.
We do not begin to count the deaths from diseases such as AIDS, cancers, malaria, tuberculosis and numerous others. The records would suggest that each year millions succumb to these diseases. One study suggests that each year 1.3 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer; another similarly large number are diagnosed with cervical cancer and even more die before they are born because in the society they are not of the preferred gender.
Unwittingly, by reducing the number of women in the world, some countries may be slowing the birth rate and indeed it is believed that the global population growth is slowing from the rapid rate of one billion every twelve years to one billion every fourteen years.
Already in some Indian societies, one man must share his wife with his brothers. A report out of India tells the story of a woman who must be shared by three brothers. According to the report, she has been impregnated by all.
There is also talk of middle men going top poor villages and buying young girls to compensate for the shortage of women.
In 1979, recognizing the rapid growth of its population China, undoubtedly the world’s most populous country, introduced a one-child-per family policy. Had that not been the case the global population might have reached nine billion by now.
India, the world’s second most populous nation has a two-children-per-family rule. There is also an edict that if a family has more than two children then no member of that family could be elected to the local government.
What must be astonishing is that from the date of creation to 1804 less than one billion people inhabited the earth. It then took a further 123 years for the global population to grow by one billion. This was the count in 1927.
When the population reached four billion the world began to panic. There were the doomsayers who contended that the world would not be able to feed itself if the population should reach six billion.
People calculated food production, examined the medical facilities and other social services, not least the distribution of potable water. Those who examined the conditions in Sub Saharan Africa spoke about such problems as shortage of firewood.
However, there are factors that aid the global population increase. Medical science has drastically improved. People are living longer, maternal and neo natal deaths have declined dramatically, and increasingly, diseases are being neutralized.
These successes are however creating further problems. There is need for more space for agricultural purposes. This need could see the decline in standing forests and people clear more land. Removal of the forest cover brings even more problems to the point that there would be serious climate changes. These climate changes could see the disappearance of low-lying island states.
Countries like Guyana with low coastlines would be seriously affected. In the case of Guyana the coastal belt holds the most fertile lands. To wipe those out could see this country reeling from hunger.
The authorities are of the view that the population increase is leveling off and that the earth is far from being saturated with people. But the current food supplies would be inadequate.
We have seen science giving rise to genetically foods. This would be one way of staving global hunger but these foods are being blamed for even newer diseases. The cycle continues.
Small societies like Guyana may not be considered threatened. In fact, this country is said by some to be close to experiencing negative population growth due largely to outward migration. Others say that Guyana is attracting others from elsewhere so its population may be growing after all. A census would determine the truth.
Be that as it may the global population is now seven billion and governments need to prepare for further population expansion. Science would see further reduction of the avoidable deaths. At the same time, the very science would aid in prolonging life expectancy.
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