Two hundred thousands new humans will be born today. That’s probably more people than you’ll even shake hands with in your entire life. In just 24 short hours, all 200,000 of these beings will be added to the 7,058,000,000 of us already vying for space, resources, and love on this planet.
Today is also World Population Day, a holiday that comes and goes every year without many people being aware that it even exists. You might think that this is just another UN holiday meant to draw attention to an issue that doesn’t really affect you, like water shortages or a lack of electricity, but population growth matters. It matters to you and me, even though we’ve got time and money to take care of our families and surf the internet on fancy laptops.
The truth is, the current rate of population growth isn’t sustainable. Not for our national economies, and certainly not for our planet. A growing population used to indicate booming economic growth, but those two statistics have since diverged. In recent decades, population growth has been associated with lower per capita incomes and higher rates of unemployment and poverty. Whether you’re a single mom with five kids, or a middle class couple with no plans of ever having kids, the reality is that global population growth does and will continue to have an effect on your life.
Here are three reasons you should care about World Population Day:
Population Growth Affects Education:
When population grows, more students flood the educational system. This requires more teachers, who all require salaries. Because local and national governments very rarely place a high priority on education, economic struggles mean these budgets get slashed first. Teachers must muddle through with giant classes and no resources, students with special needs get lost in the cracks, and the overall quality of education goes down. Many of those who would be teachers find that the income earned does not match the effort required, so they move to other fields, compounding the problem. A poorly educated youth eventually turns into a poorly educated workforce, limiting innovation and entrepreneurship that lead to economic growth.
Population Growth Affects The Environment:
The human race must consume some natural resources in order to survive. We need water to drink and land to plant crops. We also need energy to produce electricity. Booming populations put an incredible strain on existing energy infrastructure. In order to keep up with the increased demand for energy, new coal-fired and nuclear power plants are being built every day. These energy sources are difficult to extract from the Earth, often resulting in contamination of resulting ecosystems, and burning them is even worse. There are no barriers in the atmosphere. Global pollution results in ozone depletion, acid rain, smog, and climate change, putting everyone of us at risk.
Population Growth Affects Equality:
Although we’ve come a long way since in the last century, the simple fact is that gender inequality and cultural biases still exist in this world. Women especially are affected by population growth. Women miss out on educational opportunities because they are told to stay home and bear children. In some countries, female children are sold into slavery or the sex trade simply because their families do not have the resources to keep them fed and clothed. Larger illiteracy rates among the female populations mean less of a chance to develop socially, emotionally, and economically, writes Dr. Deborah Bauers. When these demographics are juxtaposed against cultural bias of women as second-class citizens and/or breeding stock, the outlook for achieving global gender equality is bleak.
Whether the world population reaches 8 billion or 11 billion in this century depends on the choices we make today. Around the world, more than 200 million women want to prevent pregnancy but lack contraception. If you agree that the current population growth rate is unsustainable, and even dangerous, take action by signing the petition below, supporting efforts to preserve reproductive rights and increase access to contraceptives, and most of all, think before you breed.
Image via Thinkstock