With Earth’s Population at 7 Billion, How Should Humanity Respond?

by on March 3rd, 2011
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COMMENTARY | Monday, October 31, 2011 was significant for something other than being Halloween. The United Nations Population Fund declared that on this day, the world’s population officially surpassed 7 billion people. Much of that population is located in China, with 1.3 billion inhabitants, and India, with 1.2 billion inhabitants. Population growth shows no signs of stalling anytime soon; in India one baby is born approximately every second. The U.N. Population Fund estimates that there will be 10 billion human beings occupying the earth by 2100.

The mood worldwide was largely jubilant on Monday in response to the U.N.’s proclamation. Countries around the world threw lavish ceremonies for newborn infants, like Danica May Camacho of the Philippines.

However, amidst the celebration was concern about what is seen by many as unchecked and out-of-control population growth. There are the usual problems of hunger, poverty, and strain on the Earth’s finite natural resources. Countries like India have additional problems, like a difficulty tracking a population that is largely poor, rural, and without official documents like passports.

China is one of the first nations to officially attempt to counter its population growth. In 1979, the People’s Republic introduced the act requiring couples from the Ethnic Han majority to have only one child. The controversial act is considered to have prevented around 250 million births in the already enormously populous nation.

I agree that unchecked world population growth is a cause for concern. But in addressing it, do we really want to go the route of Communist China? The law takes away the basic human right of couples to self-determine their family size. In addition, in the patriarchal country of China, where having a male heir is revered, it has resulted in an explosion of female abortion and infanticide.

How then should we respond to the news about our earth’s population? Essentially, it is for a couple to determine their family size, with education on and access to birth control and/or natural family planning. However, the staggering number of people on our planet is something we all need to reflect upon. Demographer Joel Cohen notes, “if we could slow our growth rate, we have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on.” Keeping our population in check will allow us to deal with hunger, poverty, and rampant illness. And with the population at 7 billion, we all need to think about how much of the earth’s resources we are consuming.If our culture is to truly value life, it has to consider life as a matter of quality rather than quantity.


“‘7 Billionth’ Babies Celebrated Worldwide.”

“India Expected to Welcome World’s 7 Billionth Child.” CTV News.

Fitzpatrick, Laura. “A Brief History of China’s One-Child Policy.” Time World.

Mitchell, Russ. “World Population Will Reach 7 Billion.” CBS News.

Newman, Bruce. “7 Billion and Counting: Earth’s Population Odometer Turns Over on Monday.”

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