What does a population of seven billion mean for the world? With the release of a UN report this week on population, Josef Korbel School faculty tackled the question of population in terms of development, politics, and the international impacts.
The world population hit seven billion at the beginning of November, and is expected to climb up to 10 billion by the middle of the century. United Nations projections have Asia leveling out while African population growth continues to climb. The fertility rates in Africa are the biggest unknown; however, scholars at the Pardee Center for International Futures at the Josef Korbel School have a more tempered predictive model.
Using the International Futures System, Center Director Dr. Barry Hughes explained what factors will drive the impacts of population growth over the next half century. Fertility rates in Africa were one, but a global youth bulge would also have serious impacts.
In terms of development, Dr. Sally Hamilton spoke to how such numbers could possibly be sustainable.
"I'm not worried about whether the earth can sustain nine to ten billion people, I'm worried about whether nine or ten billion are willing to sustain the earth," said Hamilton. Investment in sustainable agriculture practices should be the priority according to Hamilton, who predicted that the developing world would need to double its production over the next 50 years.
But with all the fuss around "7 Billion," including a National Geographic special series, it can be hard to put a number like that in perspective.
"If you only think about population in terms of numbers, you have the incentive to value death," said Dr. Randall Kuhn, who spoke of the perils of thinking in terms of population control. Taking the warnings of population growth too far can mean disastrous policies for women, family, and child development.
"The goal is to improve the lives of people," said Kuhn. Without that focus, any discussion on population is meaningless.
According to Pardee Center models, the population is growing on average of 1.1% a year, and decelerating. Continuing on the theme, Dr. Beth Bee spoke on the effects of seven billion people for gender and climate change on Thursday, November 3rd. Both talks were hosted by the Sustainable International Development Institute (SIDI), one of the Josef Korbel School's student groups.
- Sarah Crozier, MA Candidate, International Development