On Seven Billion World Population: Threat or Opportunity?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Between October 31, 2011 and March 2012, the world population is supposed to reach a phenomenal 7 billion people.

To imagine that number of people dotted around the world is a feat in itself, especially if you think of how they’ll be fed, cared for and the damage that they will cause to an already fragile environment.

As many as we are, it begs the question: should people stop giving birth especially given that the world’s resources are finite? Actually, by 2050, the world population is supposed to reach 9 billion.

In the last 50 years alone, humanity more than doubled, surging from three billion in 1959 to four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987 and six billion in 1998.

To take care of the seven billion, there will have to be enormous increases in households, cities, material consumption and waste compatible with dignity, health, environmental quality and freedom from poverty.

The Executive Director of the UN’s Population Fund regards the seven billion prediction as “both a challenge and an opportunity,” adding that “globally, people are living longer, healthier lives and choosing to have smaller families.”

“The world population is interconnected like never before,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “I see the milestone of 7 Billion as a call to action to ensure that everyone can enjoy equal rights and dignity.”

“Some say our planet is too crowded. I say we are seven billion strong,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “In our increasingly interconnected world, we all have something to give and something to gain by working together. Let us unite, seven billion strong, in the name of the global common good.”

Some of the trends that will define the seven billion mark include:  Today, 893 million people are 60 or older. By the middle of this century that number will nearly triple, to reach 2.4 billion.

About one in two people now lives in an urban area. In about 35 years, two out of three will. People are living longer. Today’s average life span is 68 years, compared to 48 in 1950.

According to the State of the World Population 2011, there is a need for sound planning and investing in people if the world is going to cope with the increase in numbers. By empowering people to improve their own lives, the world can foster sustainable cities that serve as catalysts for progress, productive labour forces that fuel economic growth, youth populations that contribute to the well-being of economies and societies, and a generation of healthy older people who are actively engaged in the social and economic affairs of their communities


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