Magazine article UN Chronicle

An Opportunity at Johannesburg. (the State of World Population 2001)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

An Opportunity at Johannesburg. (the State of World Population 2001)

Article excerpt

Human activity is altering the planet on an unprecedented scale, says a report of the United Nations Population Fund, The State of World Population 2001: Footprints and Milestones: Population and Environmental Change. More people than ever before are using more resources with more intensity, and leaving a bigger "footprint" on earth.

Global poverty cannot be alleviated without reversing the environmental damage caused by both rising affluence and consumption and growing populations, the report stresses. It calls for increased attention and resources to balance human and environmental needs.

World population, now 6.1 billion, has doubled since 1960 and is projected to grow by half to 9.3 billion by 2050. Some 2 billion people already lack food security, and water supplies and agricultural lands are under increasing pressure. Water use has risen sixfold over the past seventy years; by 2050, 4.2 billion people will be living in countries that cannot meet people's daily basic needs. Unclean water and poor sanitation kill over 12 million people each year; air pollution kills nearly 3 million.

The report examines the close links between environmental conditions, population trends, and prospects for alleviating poverty in developing countries. It finds that expanding women's opportunities and ensuring their reproductive health and rights are critically important, both to improve the well-being of growing human populations and protect the natural world.

Major Findings

* Empowering women and enabling them to have only the number of children they want would lead to smaller families and slower population growth, easing pressure on the environment and buying time to make crucial decisions about the future.

* Internationally agreed actions to reduce poverty, empower women and promote social development need to be implemented and adequately funded to ensure the well-being of growing human populations while protecting the natural world.

* The Johannesburg 2002 review of the 1992 Earth Summit agreement will present an opportunity to incorporate this integrated social agenda, including education for all and universal access to reproductive health care and family planning, into initiatives to promote sustainable development.

Key Facts

* All of the projected growth in world population will take place in today's developing countries. The 49 least developed countries will nearly triple in size in fifty years, from 668 million to 1.86 billion people.

* To accommodate the nearly 8 billion people expected on earth by 2025 and improve their diets, the world will have to double food production and improve distribution. …

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