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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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"Normally, a city is for people not vehicles. We want to turn Kigali into a pedestrian-friendly city." #Rwanda is rolling out a new strategy to boost public transport and improve its cities. 
Read more at http://allafrica.com/stories/201508250223.html Faced with drought , Tanzanian farmers plant MORE trees to protect their food crops.

Read more: http://www.scidev.net/global/farming/multimedia/tanzanian-farmer-brings-forest-back-to-life.html?utm_content=buffer5af8c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer As part of a project called "The Tribal Voice", the Guarani and Yanomami peoples of South America have received waterproof phones and solar panels to give them more say in political and economic developments affecting their land. "We believe that the powerful videos we are seeing will galvanise more action by more people and create pressure governments will be unable to ignore.” Read more at: http://www.scidev.net/global/indigenous/news/tribal-groups-indigenous-people-survival-struggle.html#sthash.ZM4JnKKq.dpuf On September 17th hundreds of volunteers around the country will mobilise to spread the positive news of development!

They will be handing out "the World's Best News newspaper" and joining in other activities nationwide. 
We would love to have you on board! 
If you would like to be involved in the distribution/ activities on the day please register here: 
https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/get-involved-with-the-worlds-best-news-2015-tickets-17920797588 Data published by the UN show that the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut from 1.9 billion to 836 million.

Read more: https://agenda.weforum.org/2015/07/how-much-global-poverty-fallen-past-25-years/ Unlike other slums in #Mexico, Las Palmitas district of Pachuca is a rainbow of colours. The area is not just prettier, but also a safer place to live.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/01/mexico-pachuca-mural-las-palmitas-public-art - Photo: Sofia Jaramillo/AP The world's fastest growing economies:

Half of the countries in this list of 13 booming economies are in Africa: 
http://worldsbestnews.tumblr.com/post/125151379280/the-13-fastest-growing-economies-in-the-world #positivenews The first #malaria vaccine has received the green light from European regulators, opening the door for vaccination campaigns for infants in #Africa.

Malaria is a disease of poverty. It affects poor people disproportionately, and it fuels poverty, as it slows economic growth and worsens other disease burdens, particular HIV and Aids.

But there is good news: The number of malaria deaths has almost halved since 2002, and now a new malaria vaccine has been approved, which should help protect very young #children against the disease.

Read this article: http://www.scidev.net/global/malaria/news/malaria-vaccine-green-light-mosquirix.html?utm_content=buffer1ea54&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Also read: http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/malaria-treatment-vaccine-research-1428826-Apr2014/ On September 17th hundreds of volunteers around the country will mobilise to spread the positive news of development!

They will be handing out "the World's Best News newspaper" and joining in other activities nationwide. 
The EYD team and the Dóchas membership are working hard to produce this year's World's Best News newspaper which will be published in September. 
Details of the activities on September 17th will follow shortly. 
We would love to have you on board!

If you would like to be involved in the distribution/ activities on the day please write to the EYD team at eyd@dochas.ie Good news: far fewer people are now hurt by land mines and old unexploded ammunition.

Thanks to an international ban on mines, and intensive mine clearing, it’s now possible for more people in previous conflict zones to stand on their own legs.

Read more here: bit.ly/1T1iFpN Good news! 
Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the global population using an improved drinking water source has increased from 76 per cent to 91 per cent, surpassing the MDG target, which was met in 2010.

Of the 2.6 billion people who have gained access since 1990, 1.9 billion use a piped drinking water supply on premises.

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