Thanks to the irradication of many diseases, better health care, economic development and improved access to technology, human beings are living longer than ever before.
This might sound like good news for the species, but it’s bad news for the planet, which is struggling to keep up with an increasing demand for food and access to a finite supply of fossil fuels.
A few facts to consider:
In a 2008 speech at Kansas State University, General Michael Hayden, director of the Central Intelligece Agency, stated his analysts now believe that the most worrying trend in the world is not terrorism but demographics.
“By mid-century, the best estimates point to a world population of more than 9 billion,” Hayden said. “Most of that growth will occur in countries least able to sustain it, a situation that will likely fuel instability and extremism, both in those areas and beyond.”
According to the UN Population Fund, the number of megacities (those with ten million or more inhabitants) in the world has climbed from 5 in 1975 to 14 in 1995 and is expected to reach 26 cities in just five years.
In 2007, the Population Fund’s executive director issued a report stating that in 2008, more than half of humanity will be living in cities, and “we are not ready for them.”
Megacities, Mega Problems
Man’s modern marvels, cities full of industry and luxury, are threatening to become the very thing that will poison the environment, and deplete the water and energy resources that rising populations feel that they are entitled to.
Many experts point to the rapid growth of the world’s population in the last hundred years as one of the factors that have intensified the effects of climate change that we are already beginning to see.
It’s important for people in developed countries to realize that no matter how many kilowatts of energy they save by replacing their incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs; no matter how many gallons of gas they save by buying hybrid cars; no matter how many pounds of carbon emissions they prevent from being released into the atmosphere by installing solar panels or wind turbines, countries like China, Ethiopia, India and Afghanistan are increasing their demand by twice that much, if not more.
Instead of looking for a way around the energy and resource problems that are now starting to plague the the Western world, these emerging countries are charging right ahead in search of their own piece of the “American dream.“
Yes, the small, individual changes listed above are important: they signal a change in perspective that might catch on in time to change the social norms of the next generation, but something more drastic is needed if we’re going to be able get a handle on climate change and resource consumption in the next few decades.
Although it’s controversial, it’s important to state: there are simply too many of us for the planet to sustian life as we know it for much longer. The large scale natural disasters we’ve seen in the past couple of years are the planet’s way of crying out for some breathing room.
No, slowing or stopping population growth will not solely eliminate the climate problem, but it would make the job easier.
Condoms for Climate Change?
Although the mere mention of limiting family size as a way to reduce global warming is likely to raise the hackles of individuals on both sides of the aisle, some environmentalists believe that there is no other alternative, and are proudly embracing a life of voluntary childlessness as GINKs: green inclinations, no kids.
If this adults-only lifestyle rubs you the wrong way, you can still help to lower birth rates by working to raise the standard of living for women worldwide.
Many studies have shown that countries where women have less access to health care and education have the highest birth rates. Just last year the U.N. Population Fund stated that the battle against global warming could be helped by making free condoms and family planning advice more widely available.
It’s also worth pointing out that slowing the rate at which humans are born is one of the only ways that all countries could participate in an emissions reduction plan without being denied access to the energy resources needed for continued development.
Aside from becoming a GINK, supporting an NGO that promotes women’s education might be the best thing you can do for the planet this Earth Day.
For more on this issue…
**More Care2 Earth Day Coverage**
ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING EARTH DAY:
HOW ARE ANIMALS AFFECTED?
THINGS TO PONDER
THOSE MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons - jamescridland
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