New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 235

new internationalist
issue 235 - September 1992

POPULATION - THE FACTS

photo by JORGEN SCHYTTE
JORGEN SCHYTTE / STILL PICTURES

LIFE ON EARTH
Will population control save the planet?

THE HUMAN FAMILY

There are an estimated 5.5 billion people of the planet. About 4.3 billion live in the South, about 1.2 billion in the North.

Population estimates

The UN produces three different projections on future population. By the year 2025 there could be:

. 9.5 billion people (high variant/gradual slow-down)
. 8.5 billion people (medium variant/ current slow-down)
. 7.5 billion people (low variant/dramatic slow-down)

The differences depend on whether the rate at which population is growing slows down more gradually than at present, or at its current rate, or more dramatically.1

 

CURBING CARBON

Fewer people doesn't mean less pollution. The countries of the North have fewer people but to stabilize the global climate they will have to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions drastically.2

Required reductions in carbon dioxide emissions

 

MILITARY MESS

. The military is the most environmentally destructive institution in the modern world. The US Pentagon produces more toxic waste than the five largest multinational chemical companies combined, pumping out nearly a ton of toxic pollutants every minute.3

. An F-16 Jet taking off for a regular training mission consumes 3,400 litres of fuel. In less than an hour the plane uses almost twice as much gas as the average US motorist during one year4 - approximately 1364 litres.

military mess

 

APPROPRIATE CONSUMPTION

Fewer people doesn't mean less consumption. The North has fewer people but at present consumes:5

Northern consumption

 

CHILD ALIVE

Fewer child deaths doesn't mean bigger population size. Fertility tends to drop when parents are more confident that their children will survive. It does not happen all at once. At first, falls in the death rates of children under five years old are not usually accompanied by significant falls in fertility. But later, the pattern becomes mixed. And later still, as under-five deaths drop to 100 per 1,000 births or less, the birth rate falls dramatically.6

Births and deaths

 

1 UNFPA, State of world Population Report, 1992
2 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
3 Joni Seager, Earth Follies: Making Feminist sense of environmental issues, 1991.
4 Lester R Brown, Worldwatch Institute 1991.
5 UNDP, Human Development Report 1992.
6 UNICEF, State of the world's Children, 1992.

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