Can the world feed 7 billion people?

31/10/2011 at 8:10 am 2 comments

This month, the world’s human population is said to have crossed the 7 billion mark.

This news produced lots of conferences, seminars and articles, on the question that is also the title of this blog post. So we thought it would be helpful to produce a digest of those articles:

  • The UN forecasts that world population will rise to 9.3 billion in 2050 and surpass 10 billion by the end of this century. (See the UN stats on population)
  • Many commentators have stressed that this is good news: around the world people are living longer, healthier, more productive lives. Thanks to the advances in public health, fewer people die prematurely, and we now have a world with 7 billion people with possibilities.
  • The UN’s Population Fund also highlighted that on average, women now have fewer babies than ever before. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR – the average number of live births per woman over her lifetime) in OECD countries stands at around 1.74 (where 2.3 is the level needed to keep a population levels stable). The big news is that countries like China and India, where the TFR was 6.1 and 5.9 respectively in 1950, now have birth rates of 1.8 in China, and 2.6 in India.
    (Look up your country’s population projections here). We should be speaking of “fertility decline”, therefore, in combination with population growth. (Also read this Washington Post article)
  • As this excellent article on the BBC website argues, these statistics tend to fuel Malthusian doom scenarios in people’s minds. Thomas Malthus believed that humans would always reproduce faster than Earth’s capacity to feed them, and that it was better to let the poor starve – a theory the impact of which was felt during the great Irish Famine and bizarrely widespread, still today.

So the key points to take away from this month’s discussions about the growing world population are:

And this is where the main argument of the discussion should be made: While it is true that the biggest population growth happens in poor countries, it is the millions of people in rich countries that pose the biggest problems for the world.

The average person in Ireland impacts 5 times more on the planet’s resources than does the average Ethiopian.

As Paul Ehrlich (author of that Malthusian book, “The Population Bomb”) says in this article, if he were to write his book today,:

“I wouldn’t focus on the poverty-stricken masses. I would focus on there being too many rich people. It’s crystal clear that we can’t support seven billion people in the style of the wealthier Americans.”

Also read:

– Population Bomb? So wrong – How Electricity, Development, and TV Reduce Fertility

– “The 7 Billion Debate

– “A World of 7 Billion

– “Population is not the problem

– “I am the Population Problem

“Six Steps to Food Security in a Seven-Billion World”

– “Is the environmental crisis caused by the 7 billion, or the 1%?

– “Investment in Reproductive Health is key to breaking the cycle of Poverty

Entry filed under: Development Effectiveness. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Development Results: “Irish Aid values hard won change and not just ‘quick wins’.” EU policies still undermining the fight against poverty

2 Comments Add your own

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 211 other followers


Dóchas on Twitter

The World's Best News - images

One of the most important graphs. Ever. Today is World Food Day.

A day to celebrate that the days of truly enormous famines are over: Meet "Chocolate Mamas", producers of chocolate in #Tanzania, creating Tanzanian jobs. 
While #cocoa is grown in West Africa and Asia,
most #chocolate (the finished product) is made in Europe or the USA.

Meet Jaki Kweka, who is trying to change that. By creating protected areas and national parks and by limiting the spread of soy bean cultivation, Brazil has managed to drastically reduce the amount of rain forest being cleared. Costa Rica, #Afghanistan, China, #India and Albania are all embracing renewable energy sources. Social change needs empowered citizens, and empowered citizens need occasional encouragement.

Great to hear that we're not the only ones who believe in the power of positive news! 50,000 rice farmers in #IvoryCoast are now working with better seeds, improving food security in the West African country.

As a result, harvests have increased.

Source: World Bank, photo: Jbdodane / CC BY Sub-Saharan Africa’s first light rail system starts operations. 
As Ethiopians celebrate their New Year, they also prepare to mark the beginning of operations of a tram system in the #Ethiopian capital #AddisAbaba. 
Read more: Going Mobile in #Malawi”. A mobile phone information service established last year to provide timely information to rural poor farmers in a southern African country, has been used nearly half a million times since its launch.

Established in Malawi by Gorta-Self Help Africa last year, the ‘321’ voice-activated service provides subscribers to the country’s largest mobile phone network with farm information and advice that they can access at the push of a button. And it’s all free. Read more at 10,000 copies of "The World's Best News" were distributed all over #ireland today!

See how The Irish Times described our newspaper, and click the link to read all the articles online!

Visitors Map


Dóchas Photos



More Photos


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 211 other followers

%d bloggers like this: