Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Population reaches 7 billion

I was in conversation with local historian Bud Abbot last week who told me that in his research he had found a woman who lived in Ball Haye Green at the end of the 19th century had given birth to 17 children. The question of population is currently in mind as the human population has passed 7 billion according to the UN. It is estimated that the population of the world reached one billion for the first time in 1805. It would be another 122 years before it reached two billion in 1927, but it took only 33 years to rise by another billion people, reaching three billion in 1960. Thereafter, the global population reached four billion in 1974, five billion in 1987, and six billion in 1999.
It has a bearing on competition on scant resources with some suggestion that we will run out of fresh water by the middle of the century. This all looks bleak, but it should be recorded that gloomy prophecies about population growth have been around since the 18th century
One aspect of the changes in population as far as the UK is concerned especially in the UK in the last 100 years is the rapid fall in the rate of infant mortality. From 1900 to 1930 the number of deaths fell from 140 to 63 per thousand births. This trend accelerated with the establishment of the NHS and improved prosperity after the war and the rate is in single figures. And family size is half it was in 1900. A family the size that Bud discovered is now a rarity.
The answer must lie in education and there is evidence that its can have a spectacular impact on population growth. There is a view that the best way to slow population growth is by ensuring people are able to make real choices about childbearing. That means access to family planning and other reproductive-health information and services. It also means empowering women through education and employment opportunities.
A stumbling block is culture and religion where aspects of Islam and Christianity are in fierce opposition to birth control, but the pressure on the world’s resources demands a solution.