Magazine article Insight on the News

Over 8 Billion by Year 2025

Magazine article Insight on the News

Over 8 Billion by Year 2025

Article excerpt

The population bomb -- the epithet anxious demographers use to describe the worlds ever-rising birth rate -- continues to tick and likely will do so well into the next century.

That's the ominous conclusion drawn by the Population Reference Bureau, or PRB, a Washington-based education organization that recently released its latest studies of socioeconomic data and population estimates. According to the PRB, the world population is growing by nearly 1 billion people every 11 years. "About 88 million people are added to the population each year," says Alene H. Gelbard, PRB's director of international programs.

The projections are cause for concern, particularly considering that the population took until the early 1800s to reach 1 billion. Most of the increases will occur in the Third World, according to the PRB. "Ninety-five percent of the growth we are seeing is taking place in developing countries and regions," says Gelbard, where resource scarcities press the abilities of governments and private institutions to cope with more people.

If present patterns continue through the year 2025, the worlds 5.8 billion people will be joined by another 2 billion. The bureau projects the actual number at 8.1 billion people, including 6.9 billion people in less-developed countries -- five times the projected growth of developed countries. Fertility tends to decline in countries moving along the road to development, which invariably involves women joining the workforce instead of remaining solely in domestic roles.

But how fast the population is growing is a matter of contention among demographic agencies. The U.N. Population Division, for estimates that the 4.59 billion people in less-developed regions are reproducing at an annual rate of 1.8 percent, while the 1.18 billion people in the developed world are increasing at only 0.4 percent annually. The division believes global population could stabilize in 20 to 30 years.

The Washington-based Population Institute believes that growth actually is slowing. Although it supports the PRB's projection of rapid increases, it finds the numbers are not rising as fast as they were, ascribing the discrepancy to family-planning programs and the growing number of elderly people.

But institute president Werner Fornos emphasizes that Large numbers of people are being added to the population each year, comparing the growth to a tidal wave surging toward a coastal city. "In Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania, for example, whether the tidal wave is 90 feet or 100 feet high, the impact will be similar [to a tsunami]."

Most experts agree that differences in estimates are minor, preferring to focus on the challenges created by population growth. PRB analysts fear rapid expansion will retard economic and social progress around the globe and compromise the environment and the quality of life in many nations.

Three billion people are approaching their childbearing years, a statistic that promises to send the population soaring. But persistently high infant-mortality rates and disease act as a brake on such growth. Fornos says policy decisions during the next few years could determine whether the Earth must nourish 8 billion or 12 billion people. The PRB concludes that the world population will most likely continue to increase well into the next century before it begins to level off. …

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