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CEL home > Reports (News, archive, links) > Last updated: 31 Oct 2011
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Population

On 31 October the World's population reaches 7 billion
1830: 1 billion    1900/1920: 2 billion    1960: 3 billion    1999: 6 billion   2011: 7 billion
2040 10 billion

Lower on this page: Letters from CEL's Members' discussion website on 31 Oct 2011

Useful websites and links:

Impressive demonstration of world statistics on population change

This short presentation (a TED talk) from Professor Hans Gosling on global fertility explains that economic and social development are the best focus in dealing with developing countries. Population becomes controlled as a side effect :-

This interesting site that shows that population growth rates are reducing rapidly in many countries, sometimes as the countries get richer, and especially as womens education increases. It may surprise you.

BUT a) in other countries their populations will double in the next 30 years. and b) as we all get richer we have much more impact on the environment!

Population Matters

Part of thought for day in CEL's 1st Nov 2011 Prayer guide:

"In 1960 the population was 3 billion and by 2085 it is projected to reach 10 billion. This puts huge pressure on the environment and its life support systems. As Sir David Attenborough said, “All environmental problems become harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.” Population Matters is calling for improved overseas aid for women’s education and family planning services to enable women to have more choice in career options and family formation. Where people do have choices, as in the UK, it asks them to stop at two children as part of a sustainable lifestyle.

Paper by Australian Churches

Motion on Caring for the Creation: the need to acknowledge and respond to population issues Adopted by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia 21st September 201

The Population Question (2010) Why rapid population growth in developing countries is NOT a major factor in increasing CO2 emissions and climate change
Population One world guide
BOCS Foundation in Hungary, To stop climate change, we need family planning!- sent in by BOCS Foundation in Hungary, (member of ECEN) http://bocs.eu
Declaration accepted by the Hungarian Green Movement on 30th March, 2008. Over-specialized experts rarely discover the correlation between climate change and overpopulation, although it is highly dependent on the density of population. [Details...]
(pictures (supplied by webeditor) of Baby's footprints on a folder given out by BOCS at the ECEN meeting in Sweden)

Messages in CEL's members discussion forum:- (Earliest message first)
[celink] 7 Billion reasons to think

Sun 30 Oct 2011 23.35 from JM

The UN has designated 31 October as the day to mark the time when our human population reaches 7 billion. There will be advertising banners on the London Underground and in the main line terminals. These have been organised by Population Matters of which I am a member.

Population growth has accelerated rapidly over the last 2 centuries; 1830 1 billion, 1900 2 billion, 1950 3 billion, 2011 7 billion. So the world population has more than doubled in the last 60 years and we are now adding at least 70 million people every year.

There is no need for me to remind CEL members of the way we humans degrade the life supporting systems of our planet. Climate change and acidification of the oceans, over extraction of fresh water from our rivers and lakes, destruction of wildlife by the use of fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides on our fields, over fishing of our coastal waters are but a few of these actions. These habits are deeply ingrained in our culture and necessary to feed our present numbers. But we must realise that the more our population rises the worse the destruction of our natural environment will be.

At the present time there is hunger in many countries in East Africa. We are told this is due to drought, and to grain hoarding by merchants. Some pasture land in Ethiopia has been ploughed in order to grow biofuel. This is true. But in Ethiopia the population has risen from 40 million in 1984 to 80 million today. Who can doubt that this is an important underlying cause of the present catastrophe?

The UN informs us that there are currently at least 200 million women worldwide who have no access to modern family planning methods. I suspect that many of these unfortunate women live in East Africa. Many could be helped if contraception were available. This must always be entirely voluntary; any form of coercion (as has occurred in China and India) is wrong and counterproductive.

There is a taboo on discussion of human population. I hope that many CEL members will visit populationmatters.org to discover the facts. John

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Monday, October 31, 2011, 11:03:03 - From Mark Boulton

I'm pleased John is keeping this issue alive (I think we had correspondence on this before when Bethesda Methodist Church came up with a Conference memorial (resolution) on population which was unfortunately defeated in the Methodist District synod by 51 to 47!). This is an issue which will not go away and affects all the other global problems which concern us all. When I worked in Kenya in 1960s population was around 8 million. Today it is nearer 40 million and cultivatable land is in short supply. By 2040 it is predicted to be 80 million. Will there be adequate food, water and energy for twice the number of people?

There are no easy answers to the population explosion but this is an issue we can no longer keep under the carpet. At the very least we need to discuss the implications by talking amongst ourselves, in study groups and in our churches.

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Monday, October 31, 2011, 11:38:33 AM Subject: From J

An important factor is the rapidly rising number of elderly in the rich countries
who each emit a profligate 9 tonnes of CO2 on average in Britain per year compared with the 0.1 tonne per year per Ethiopian. And Methodists such as me live eight years longer than the average in England. I keep urging my daughters, who are doctors, to work more energetically on giving us a good death instead of enabling us to live longer and longer so that we may die of dementia. As Ruskin said, 'To have a good life, you must have a good death.' Sadly he went mad.

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Monday, October 31, 2011, 12:33:12   From R

The population problem is not directly about carbon dioxide emissions though, of course, increasing numbers of people increase the problem. The main problem with population increase relates to food production and, just as population affects climate change, to resource depletion and ecosystem services - biodiversity, water and others.

Poor over-farmed soils can increase their nitrogen content through nitrogen fixing plants - and the symbiotic bacteria that grow with them - but there is no easy fix for depleted potassium, phosphorous and the many necessary trace elements. We are running out of available phosphorous very rapidly. The usually given answer to soil depletion is organic farming but it is, at best, only a partial answer. It can only return part of what is now being taken out: it cannot replace that which is already gone and most phosphorous is excreted in urine and is, in the developed world, lost ultimately to the oceans. Extracting this and other necessary elements from oceans is not yet practical: extraction consumes vast amounts of energy and that entails, at this time, ever more CO2 emissions.

We live on a finite planet and we can only access those resources that are very near to the surface. Land available for farming is also finite and increasing the area of land used impacts on water and on biodiversity and these are absolute limits.

The net abounds with theories on a more just distribution of assets and how that would allow population to continue to grow but this is an absurd response. Of course we need a fairer world but putting off the inevitable problems is surely not part of a Christian response. The alternative 'natural' controls are starvation, disease and war.

It is also important to note that climate change is already adversely impacting on agriculture, particularly in changing rainfall patterns; this can be seen in the Horn of Africa. Even if we allow the elderly, here, to die earlier that will not impact on water availability, soil depletion or available agricultural land in Ethiopia.

 

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