At the end of the last millennium, 12 October 1999 was declared “The Day of 6 Billion”—the day on which the proclaimed 6 billionth living human in the world was born—by the United Nations. They even chose a symbolic 6 billionth baby: Adnan Nevic, born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, to Fatima Helac and her husband Jasminko Nevic, on the designated date. Somewhat shockingly, this was only 12 years after the world population hit 5 billion and now, almost 12 years later, the population is not far off 7 billion. At the time of writing, the world population is predicted to be around 6,942,527,741… and by the time that you read this, it will already be a lot more.
Although this fact is not all negative—after all, at least the human race is thriving, and at least the population is not being decimated by any disasters, natural or otherwise—it is still undoubtedly a cause for worry. The problem is that increasing population pressure is the driving force behind a lot of our worries: economic and environmental, social and political. Many consider it important to stress that these issues of overpopulation are not confined to less affluent parts of the world, but rather are taking a toll on our entire planet’s life-support systems.
Such a huge and ever-expanding global population is unsustainable, and its effects on our environment are especially worrying. In 2011, species are becoming extinct at a rate that has not happened since (at least) the great extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. That’s not all: agricultural topsoil is disappearing, deserts are expanding, rain forests are decreasing and underground water resources are becoming depleted, all at a highly alarming rate. That’s without even mentioning global warming, which is likely to cause weather disasters and climactic shifts that could harm agriculture to the extent that the world could suffer a severe shortage of food.
Back in 1994, a world conference on the population expansion problem was held in Cairo, Egypt, and all 179 nations agreed on the importance of promoting non-coercive strategies for reducing birth rates. Then in 1999, coinciding with The Day of 6 Billion, the United Nations published a report entitled “The State Of The World Population 1999” reiterating that population growth is unsustainable and something has to be done. Sadly, 12 years on, as we hurtle towards the 7 billion mark and beyond, this is still very much the case.
To check the latest population estimate, visit the website of the United Nations Population Fund at http://www.unfpa.org/6billion/.
Credit: Alamy AB9493
Caption: On this day, the United Nations chose Adnan Nevic as the symbolic 6 billionth person.