7 Billion and Counting

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The world’s 7 billionth child was born today (10/31/11), carrying the global population out of the modest 6 billions after just 13 short years. It’s a figure Earth has been racing toward by the second, according to a new population app, since each new second sees 2 people die while another 5 are born (Mashable).

“We don’t know precisely where the seven-billionth person will arrive,” writes Irish Times, “but we can say with about 90 percent probability that the child will be born in low-income Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.” It’s true that a skyrocketing birth rate isn’t the case in wealthy nations like the United States but rather in developing countries like Ghana, which this morning reported 11 births at its Tamale Teaching Hospital as a nod toward World Population Day (Ghana News Agency). Perhaps baby number 7 billion was among them.

Of course, The New Zealand Herald points out that today is largely a symbolic day established by the United Nations, since no one knows for sure exactly how many people inhabit the Earth. Perhaps we won’t reach the magic number for several more months, or perhaps we’ve been there for awhile. Regardless, “The UN’s reason for naming a symbolic date as seven-billion day is to draw attention to the speed of population growth.”

Even though the finger is pointed at developing nations for the bursting population, BBC News turns that finger around and aims it squarely at developed countries when it comes to exhausting our planet’s assets, reminding us on this historic day that “the richest countries consume double the resources used by the rest of the world. The UN estimates that if current population and consumption trends continue, by the 2030s we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support us.” (The ever-brilliant BBC also has an online tool to show you exactly where you fit into the 7 billion paradigm.)

So if developed nations have a stagnant or even dwindling population, what should they do in the face of the milestone figure? Ultimately, reports Irish Times, the leaders of the most powerful economies “should take note of the burgeoning population and … agree to help girls around the world, especially in the poorest countries, to stay in school and to complete at least a secondary education. There is no measure of greater significance than universal secondary education (for boys and girls), to empower young women, boost economic development and lower fertility rates.” Amen.

Sources: Mashable, Irish Times, Ghana News Agency, The New Zealand Herald, BBC News

Images by neate photos and James Cridland, licensed under Creative Commons.

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