The U.N. revised its population growth trends upward today. We used to think the world would have 9 billion by the year 2100. Now it is 10.1 billion, but I don’t think so. True, some of the developed countries like the US, Britain, and Denmark have picked up the pace, but when you are starting from a negative growth rate, that is not much.
No, where the real growth is, it is not sustainable. For instance, it predicts Yemen will grow from its current 25 million to 100 million. It may have grown to its 25 million number fairly quickly, but it is already importing food and the amount of water on hand for its current numbers is already critical. There are a couple of other powder kegs out there too. Nigeria is at 162 million and projected to go to 730 million. The country of Malawi is projected to jump from 15 million to 129 million by 2100. Can they even spell the word rabbit?
All this reminds me of a green, child’s riddle. A child is posed the situation that they are to preside over a kingdom the size of, say, Australia. The child is given a pair of rabbits that reproduce daily, and (s)he lets them loose in that country. The child gets distracted and checks back on the kingdom after a couple of weeks. The child is a bit dismayed. It seems that the country is half filled up with rabbits. When the child is asks what is (s)he going to do, the answer is that there is nothing to be done. Because of their daily growth rate, the country will be all filled up tomorrow.
There are several salient points here. The main one is, of course, we cannot put off changing this direction another minute. The second thing is that while the year 2100 will be no picnic, the road to get there will be no “walk in the park” either. The third point is that none of the above mentioned growth rates are sustainable and conflicts will develop. The good news is that 80% to 90% of Americans are in favor of encouraging family planning in developing countries.
So, to ask before we get to New Years Eve of 2099, what can we do? For one thing, we can INCREASE the amount of aid the developed countries contribute to family planning. The foreign aid for these projects has been pretty flat for 10 years as the Republicans cut out aid to countries that provided condoms. We just cut our contribution by 5%. That was the bad news. The worse news is that we contribute most of it. The sad news is that we are broke and this problem might not get fixed. That is why I said above, “I don’t think so.” That does not necessarily mean that the birth rate will slow down, it means that the death rate will probably speed up. Good luck with that.
I mentioned Yemen as having a critical water supply. Below is a graph I found that compares population growth and the potable water supply for the Middle East…
I am suggesting that this is going to produce a number of very thirsty, angry people. As they will be a bit more difficult to mange than hungry rabbits, we better put all our differences aside and start working on solutions. Instead of a Defense Department, I have a different idea. If you ask a carpenter to fix a problem, he will find a way to fix it with nails. May I suggest we start phasing out our Defense Department and instead, form a Department of Cooperation. Or, we can leave it to Mother Nature and we have all seen how gentle she can be. Too bad there is not a real life Klatu to point the way.