Rising Population of the World
“They multiply like rabbits.”
Winston Churchill was once supposed to have remarked about Indian population. It is well known that during the 200 years of British colonial rule, Indian masses suffering from famines and droughts were ignored as an unspoken policy of population control. Their fear of overpopulation was founded on the ideas of an English Cleric, Thomas Malthus, who considered humans only capable of breeding and consuming food – as he apparently saw happening in the animal kingdom. He seemed to have learned about geometric progression – 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, … So, he argued that, if left unchecked, human population would grow geometrically leading food shortage, mass unrest, and many other terrible things. This fear also formed the basis of Western politics after their great II World War in their dealings with the so-called “third world”. [You may explore History and Politics of Population Phobia]
If you are one of those great souls living on this planet who take pride in learning only from the West and enchanted by the logic of Mr Malthus, the chances are pretty high that you grew up dreaming that people of rest of the world are still breeding like rabbits and are posing bigger threat to this plant, as time passes by. You must be also worried about how to feed so many people, environmental degradation, depletion of natural resources, and so on.
Let me first scare you with some data so that you are convinced that your Western masters can never go wrong. After that I shall present some more data to prove that your fears are groundless and people of this planet are smarter than you thought!
Here are the latest numbers that would support your fear of overpopulation:
Global population is projected to pass the 9 billion mark by 2050. It was only 2.5 billion in 1950 and today it is 7.2 billion. Most of this growth will happen in the developing countries – from 5.9 billion today to about 7.9 billion by 2050; the developed nations will stay almost where they are, at around 1.25 billion. The world adds roughly 84 million people each year (140 million births minus 56 million deaths: 2012 figures) at the rate of 1.15 percent. On an average, it means hourly new arrivals of around 10,000 or weekly arrivals of 1.62 million, size of a city.
According to the World Population Trends 2012 Fact Sheet, the poorest developing countries account for most of the increase. They contributed 97% of the 84 million increase; only the rest 3% (1.7 million) came from the developed countries.
Sure, population of the rich world has almost stopped growing at around 1.25 billion; in fact, many developed countries are shrinking and aging.
Now let me bust your overpopulation phobia.
In the past three decades, fertility rates have declined sharply in the developing countries. Current global average fertility rate is about 2.5 children per woman, down from almost 5 in 1960. The most populous China has reduced its average birthrate to 1.5 children per woman, much lower than the replacement level of 2.1 and similar to many developed countries. If everything stays as today, its population would reach its peak at around 1.45 – 1.50 billion by 2050 and then start declining slowly.
India’s current fertility rate is about 2.6 children per woman and should drop to around 2.0 within next 10 years. After that its population would continue to grow due to momentum and reach the peak at about 1.65 billion, around 2050 – 60 and then start its slow downward journey.
Other populous countries in Asia like Indonesia and Bangladesh have seen significant decline birthrates in recent decades and Pakistan birthrate is somewhat higher but is also on declining trend.
African countries (4.8 children per woman) are still far from global average of 2.5 and growing the fastest, although the birthrates are expected to decline in the coming years. By 2050, it will more than double from the current level about 1 billion to 2.3 – 2.5 billion. It will also have the youngest population compared with all other areas. In fact, all developed nations are already worried about having rather high proportions of elderly people. Immigration is the only route to replenish the shrinking workforce – but it comes with its own problem of disturbing the fabric of the local society.
Barring Africa, the population growth in rest of the developing countries is largely momentum driven (too many people in the reproductive age group, 15-50). It continues for say 20-30 years, even after a country’s average fertility has fallen below 2, and then stops growing – and then shrinks slowly.
Overall, the global average birthrate should go down from the current 2.5 to about 2.0 by 2050. If that happen, the global population should find itself at its historic peak around 11 – 13 billion towards 2100. No more population increase after that!! That will prove Mr Thomas Malthus wrong and leave his phobic disciples disappointed!
There is yet another important factors that would not allow population to grow – the global climatic mess which is resulting in increased frequency of abrupt climatic events. The worst victims of flash floods, cyclones, sudden rains and landslides etc are going to be the poorest people. As the developing countries “develop” more and more industries will be set up, along with other “developmental activities” it is more likely to lead to severe shortage of drinking water. It is already happening in China after its recent unbridled industrialization – most of its water resources are brilliantly polluted by the industrial units and urban waste! [Do people have no time to stop and think what is "development'?]
In all probability, the planet’s resources will be under increasing pressure in the future – not because there are too many poor people who “breed like rabbits”, but from the spread of “developmental” activities conceived and designed in the West.