8 billion people on a planet with inelastic resources

8 billion people on a planet with inelastic resources

On November 15th we will officially be 8 billion people on earth, is that too much? Not necessarily, answer the experts, who rather warn of the overconsumption of the planet’s resources by the wealthiest segment of humanity.

“Eight billion is an important milestone for humanity,” states the head of the United Nations Population Fund, Natalia Kanem, and welcomes the increasing life expectancy and the decrease in child mortality.

“However, I realize that this is not necessarily a moment to be celebrated by everyone. Some worry about an overcrowded world with far too many residents and insufficient resources to live on,” she adds, demanding no “fear” of it to have a number.

8 billion inhabitants on earth (AFP – Julia Han JANICKI)

So are there too many of us on this earth? According to many experts, this is the wrong question.

“Too much for who, too much for what?

“I see the question of how many people the earth can support as a two-sided question: natural constraints or limits and human-made choices.”

– “gluttons” –

Choices that lead us to consume far more biological resources (forests, fish, land, etc.) than the earth can regenerate each year, and that this overconsumption, especially of fossil fuels, always leads to more CO2 emissions, responsible for the warming.

In terms of resources, it would cost 1.75 Earths to sustainably meet the needs of the population, according to the NGOs Global Footprint Network and WWF.

On the climate side, the latest report by the UN climate experts (IPCC) found that population growth is indeed one of the main drivers behind the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, but less so than economic growth.

“Often we are stupid. We lack the vision. We are wolverines. This is where the problem and the decisions lie,” insists Joel Cohen and, despite everything, urges us not to see humanity as a “plague”.

“Our impact on the planet is determined much more by our behavior than by our numbers,” adds Jennifer Sciubba, researcher in residence at the Wilson Center think tank.

World Population Density (AFP - Julia Han JANICKI)
World Population Density (AFP – Julia Han JANICKI)

“It’s lazy and harmful to keep emphasizing overpopulation,” she continues, noting the risk that rich countries, rather than changing their own behavior, will blame the problem on developing countries, which are driving population growth.

On the other hand, if everyone lived like a resident of India, according to the Global Footprint Network and WWF, humanity would need only 0.8 planets per year, compared to more than 5 planets for a resident of the United States.

Too numerous or not, these 8 billion people are already there and the population will continue to grow, with 9.7 billion projected by the UN in 2050, which notes that due to the large number of young people, a very large proportion of this Growth will take place even if the countries with the highest fertility dropped to two children per woman today.

– women’s rights –

A question of fertility that is directly linked to women’s rights and which immediately provokes defensive reactions, even from those who would tend to say “yes” to the question “are we too many on this earth”.

The NGO Population Matters therefore advocates a decline in the world’s population, “but only through positive, voluntary and rights-respecting means,” its director Robin Maynard tells AFP, and opposes any “policy of birth control” by the state.

A baby is fed in Gabrovo hospital, Bulgaria, on September 13, 2022 (AFP/Archives - Nikolay DOYCHINOV)
A baby is fed in Gabrovo hospital, Bulgaria, on September 13, 2022 (AFP/Archives – Nikolay DOYCHINOV)

The Drawdown Project makes education and family planning one of its 100 or so solutions to curbing global warming: “Globally, a smaller population with sustainable levels of consumption would reduce the demand for energy, transport, materials, food and natural resources.”

Because “every human being born on this earth adds additional stress to the planet,” said Vanessa Perez, an analyst at the World Resources Institute.

“There were too many of us years ago,” but “it’s a very sensitive issue,” she admits to AFP, refusing that “the elites are seizing this narrative to demand that demographic growth in the countries of the to limit the south”.

A narrative that she prefers to revolve around “justice” and the “distribution” of resources, especially access to food.

Just like Joel Cohen. Even if mathematically enough food is produced for 8 billion people, “800 million people, one in 10 people on the planet, are chronically malnourished,” he points out.

“The concept of ‘too many’ is a distraction from the real issues surrounding the well-being of the human species and the species with which we share the planet.”

Reference: www.challenges.fr

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