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With eight billion folks on Earth, the concern of overpopulation

Eight billion in the present day, ten billion by the top of the century. Because the world inhabitants reaches a brand new stage on Tuesday, a priority resurfaces: whereas the planet is already being broken by local weather change, are there too many people?

We are actually eight billion people on the planet. In accordance with UN fashions, humanity crosses this milestone on Tuesday, November 15, eleven years after passing that of seven billion, on October 31, 2011. For some, this announcement is to be welcomed as proof of the advance in circumstances. life of people on a planetary scale. For others, it brings its share of considerations and questions. How far will inhabitants progress go? And as world leaders come collectively at COP27 to seek out options to local weather change, will the planet have the ability to assist and meet the wants of a rising inhabitants?

“We’re awaiting the delivery of the eight billionth particular person on planet Earth. This occasion ought to each marvel on the advances in well being which have prolonged lifespans and dramatically decreased maternal mortality charges. and childish, however should additionally sound like a reminder of our shared accountability to maintain our planet”, summed up UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on November 11.

“A lot of the inhabitants progress is behind us”

In accordance with UN projections launched in July, world inhabitants is predicted to peak within the 2080s after which stabilize at round 10.4 billion. “Ten billion could appear monumental, however it’s in the end a small improve if we examine it to that of the final sixty years”, affirms Gilles Pison, specialist in world demography, professor emeritus on the Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past and adviser with the Nationwide Institute for Demographic Research (INED).

Evolution of the world inhabitants since 1800 and projections till 2100 © Graphic studio France Media World

The symbolic bar of the primary billion people on the planet had been crossed in 1800, that of two billion in 1927 then that of three billion in 1960. “From there, the speed of improve within the inhabitants had accelerated dizzyingly, with a inhabitants progress of two% per 12 months. On the daybreak of the 2000s, there have been six billion of us on the planet, six instances greater than 200 years earlier”, explains the demographer. “Since then, the inhabitants has definitely continued to develop, however much less and fewer shortly. At the moment, inhabitants progress is just one%. And it’ll most definitely proceed to say no.”

“The specter of a ‘demographic bomb’ that some feared is receding”, summarizes Gilles Pison. “A lot of the inhabitants progress is even behind us.” However above all, as soon as the ten billion mark has been reached, the inhabitants ought to stabilize after which start to lower slowly. For good purpose, in accordance with the UN, the fertility charge ought to drop from 2.3 youngsters per lady, on common, on the earth in the present day to 2.1 in 2050. It will then stabilize at 1.8 in 2100 – the brink that marks the top of generational renewal.

Evolution of fertility from 1950 to 2022 then projection until 2100.
Evolution of fertility from 1950 to 2022 then projection till 2100. © Graphic studio France Media World

Contraception ‘is just not an answer’

Confronted with this prospect, nonetheless, the query of what the planet can bear resurfaces. The anguish is just not current: from Antiquity, Plato and Aristotle frightened, of their writings, concerning the destruction of forests and the disappearance of meals sources. Later, in 1798, in his “Essay on the Precept of Inhabitants”, Thomas Malthus was in flip alarmed by an imbalance between inhabitants and sources. However in the present day, within the face of local weather change, the concern is doubled, with each the concern that the planet will be unable to fulfill the wants of all of the inhabitants, but in addition that the latter, too quite a few, will find yourself destroying its habitat. .

In a column revealed in 2017 within the newspaper Le Monde, greater than 15,000 scientists offered inhabitants progress as “one of many essential elements of environmental threats”. For some, the reply is due to this fact easy: the human inhabitants should be decreased to alleviate the strain on the planet. In France, the Accountable Demography affiliation is campaigning, for instance, to cap household allowances at two youngsters. Similar battle, in the UK, for the group Inhabitants Issues.

>> To learn additionally: “Overpopulation: they are not looking for youngsters to protect the planet”

An answer swept away by Gilles Pison. “To cease inhabitants progress out of the blue, there are solely three options: trigger a rise in mortality – which nobody desires –, transfer to a different planet – which is unrealistic – or, successfully, management the delivery charge” , he explains. “Nonetheless, this answer is simply as unrealistic. It’s an phantasm to imagine that it is sufficient to undertake contraception insurance policies to see the world inhabitants decline.”

In query, specifically, the precept of demographic inertia. “There’s inevitably a spot between the autumn within the delivery charge and the discount within the inhabitants. For a very long time, fertility was excessive, so there are nonetheless many ladies of childbearing age. Even when fertility is falling drastically, The expansion development essentially continues for a number of years”, explains the demographer. “Apart from, international fertility has already dropped quite a bit and that hasn’t stopped the inhabitants from rising,” he insists.

“Altering our lifestyle”

For the demographer, the answer due to this fact doesn’t lie in “controlling the quantity” however “in altering life”. “To battle towards international warming, we should not be much less, however we should try, all collectively, for extra sobriety and fewer consumption.”

In 2015, an Oxfam report confirmed that international locations with excessive delivery charges – typically additionally among the many least developed – comparable to Pakistan (3.45), Nigeria (5.32) or Ethiopia (4. 15) signify solely 3.5% of world CO emissions2 whereas they’re house to twenty% of the world’s inhabitants. Conversely, essentially the most developed international locations, which have a low fertility charge, comparable to China (1.7), america (1.71) or European international locations, emit 78% of the CO2 although they signify solely half of humanity.

“When it comes to meals, for instance, the planet has sufficient to feed ten billion folks correctly. Offered that it’s not requested to feed them because the richest 1% feed in the present day , with a weight loss plan that’s too meaty and completely unbalanced”, continues Gilles Pison.

World fertility in 2022.
World fertility in 2022. © Graphic studio France Media World

And this situation is all of the extra vital since, in a couple of years, the maps of world demography will likely be fully reshuffled. India will turn into essentially the most populous nation and one in three folks on the planet will dwell in Africa. “The problem is to permit these international locations to develop with out them changing into extra aggressive for the setting. On this, the developed international locations should now function fashions”, pleads the demographer.

“As well as, we now know that there’s a correlation between improved residing circumstances and decrease fertility. If we wish to stabilize the world inhabitants, this must undergo a discount in inequalities, a battle towards poverty , entry to care and contraception wherever on the earth…”

The most populous countries in the world by 2050.
Probably the most populous international locations on the earth by 2050. © Graphic studio France Media World

Lastly, in accordance with Gilles Pison, attempting in any respect prices to scale back the inhabitants within the quick time period might even show to be counterproductive. “The nice demographic problem of the years to return would be the getting old of the inhabitants. That is already an actual downside in China, and even in Japan”, he remembers. “Particularly since residing longer doesn’t essentially imply being in good well being. To reply the query of the best way to dwell for ten billion folks on the planet, we should additionally urgently ask ourselves questions concerning the hyperlinks between generations, about pension techniques, on well being techniques”, he concludes.

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