World Population Day, which seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues, was established by the then-Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989, an outgrowth of the interest generated by the Day of Five Billion, which was observed on 11 July 1987.Yep, thirty years ago, we were only five billion people on this planet. We are now at 7.6 billion, and growing. By 2100, we will have added about three-billion-plus.
India is projected to overtake China as the country with the largest population in about five years from now, though there are claims that it has already done so. An extraordinary rate of growth from the "muppadu koti janangalin" (300 million) that the poet Bharati sang about a century ago. (Click here for the movie adaptation of the song from the old days.)
Population growth continues to freak people out. Especially those on the left. The latest to fall victim to that was the latest darling of the left--the French president, Macron. He claimed that “civilisational” problems and women having "seven or eight children" are some of the main challenges in Africa.
As my intro students get to know well, Africa is way too diverse for any generalization. We will ignore the "civilisational" aspect in order to focus only on the population aspects on this day. Even my intro class students get to understand that women having "seven or eight children" is an old story in most of Africa. Further, population growth is happening despite women having fewer children than before. Yes, fewer. As I emphasize over and over and over, population growth is not because of women having more children than ever before, but because children and adults don't die young as they used to in the past. We live long. Way too long has always been my worry.
Who you gonna believe? Macron, or the data from Google?
Macron should at least be familiar with some of the African countries that his beloved France colonized and screwed up, right?
Oh well ... the gut-level Mallthusian worries do not easily go away.
Of course, more humans means more demand for various goods and services. But, our long-term sustainability issues have less to do with more people. Instead, those are almost always the result of economic growth and development, and various geopolitical happenings (colonization in the past, wars in the past and present, ...)
If Macron or anybody else wants to do something about population growth, the answer is simple. It has been known to us for a long time now. Educating girls acts works like a contraceptive. The more illiterate the female population, the more they end up in the traditional childbearing roles. And then provide women with the freedom that men take for granted, well, you will soon have to bribe women to have children.
Of course, with this American president, female empowerment is next to impossible. The 71-year old man-child has had more children than the previous three presidents have had. We should be more worried about the growth in trump population than in the world population!