According to the United Nations, the world population will reach 7 billion people this week. No one really knows the exact date, but the announcement has sparked a round of commentary, most of it pessimistic. The doubling of the world’s population over the past 50 years is the most rapid in history. Demographers expect another 3 billion at least before global population finally peaks early in the next century and begins a gradual decline. Can we make it until then? Or will our overburdened spaceship earth suffer environmental collapse?
Population growth poses real challenges for environmental policy. The more people, the more important it is to get things right in the relationship between people and the planet. At least three issues require even closer attention as the population grows than they would with a constant population.
The first is pollution, both local and global. If world population is going to increase another 50 percent before it peaks, pollution per person will have to decrease by at least a third just to keep total pollution from getting worse.
Achieving the needed decrease will be a challenge, but it need not be an insurmountable one.
Ed is the author of the recently published, There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch:
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