The rapid growth of the world population is a recent phenomenon in the history of the world. It is estimated that 2000 years ago the population of the world was about 300 million. For a very long time the world population did not grow significantly, with periods of growth followed by periods of decline. It took more than 1600 years for the world population to double to 600 million.
The world population was estimated at 791 million in 1750, with 64 percent in Asia, 21 per cent in Europe and 13 per cent in Africa. Northern America was still nearly empty. By 1900, 150 years later, the world population had only slightly more than doubled, to 1,650 million. The major growth had been in Europe, whose share had increased to 25 per cent, and in Northern America and in Latin America, whose share had increased to 5 per cent each. Meanwhile the share of Asia had decreased to 57 per cent and that of Africa to 8 per cent. The growth of the world population accelerated after 1900, with 2,520 million in 1950, a 53 per cent increase in 50 years.
The rapid growth of the world population started in 1950, with a sharp reduction in mortality in the less developed regions, resulting in an estimated population of 10,055 million in the year 2035, nearly four times the population in 1950. With the declines in fertility in most of the world, the global growth rate of population has been decreasing since its peak of 2.0 per cent in 1965-1970. In 1998, the world's population now stands at above 6.0 billion and is growing at 1.3 per cent per year, or an annual net addition of 78 million people. Demographics example.(Bio 113).
Long-range global population projections vary dramatically depending on assumptions about several factors, one of which is fertility. If fertility stabilized at 2.5 children per couple (the "High" projection), global population could reach 28 billion in 2150. If it stabilized at 1.7 children (the "Low" projection), population would peak at 7.8 billion in 2050 but then fall to 4.3 billion 100 years later. The current average fertility rate is 3.3 (the "Medium" projection), down from a fertility rate of 4.5 in the early 1970s.
How worried should we be about world population growth?
The Birth rate is falling in many industrialized countries; in some cases populations are actually shrinking. But in many nations where the population has exploded in recent decades, birth rates remain high, and populations will likely double or triple in the next half-century.
Food for all - Between
1974 and 1995, rice production in China increased by 88 percent. Indonesia’s
food production increased by 69 percent, Bangladesh raised its output
by 100 percent, India by 117 percent and the U.K. by 50 percent,” notes
Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, a futurist think tank
in Indianapolis. “Brazil has increased its corn production by 63 percent,
China by 213 percent and the U.S. by 118 percent.
The distribution of food is very uneven. Some of the world’s population is growing quickly, at the waist. For the first time in history, there may be as many people overweight, 1.1 billion, as underfed, researchers report. Just because people are gaining weight does not mean the world is better fed or healthier than it was two decades ago when millions more were starving, the environmental research group Worldwatch Institute said in a report released today. In fact, the report says being obese and underweight often results from the same problem: malnutrition.
In some countries there is a growing “weight gap.” Well-off minorities in India, China, Brazil and some other developing nations are growing fat as the poor go hungry. America and other wealthier countries have the opposite problem: The richer and better-educated tend to eat a balanced diet, while the poor often balloon from a diet of cheap and fatty fast foods. “Often, nations simply have traded hunger for obesity, and diseases of poverty for diseases of excess,” said Worldwatch researcher Brian Halwell, who wrote the report with fellow researcher Gary Gardner.
It is estimated that in 1990/92 some 839 million people in the so-called developing countries had inadequate access to food. Chronic undernutrition is declining in Asia but is increasing in Africa. The recommended daily calorie intake varies by country and culture, age and gender. However, several United Nations agencies use an average of 2,300 calories per day as the minimum acceptable for a healthy population.
There are some striking differences
in the population makeup of the developing and industrialized nations.
In the industrialized nations, the population is more evenly
Among our 6 billion, 1 billion are young people between 15 and 24, and some 3 billion, half of all of us, are under 25. That is a great many people at the beginning of (or soon to enter) their childbearing years. For that reason, the population clock continues to tick off 78 million newcomers each year, or 1½ million each week. And a full 96 percent of the annual population increase occurs in developing countries, including most of those places where overcrowding and resource depletion already are a problem.
India, which grows by nearly 50,000 people a day, recently passed 1 billion and is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country. In just a few years, India will have more people than all industrialized countries combined. Why? Because more than one-third of the population there is under 15, yet to begin reproducing.
Time was when “population control” was mainly a matter of condoms and birth-control pills. Today “family planning” (the preferred term) encompasses a wide range of health services. And in recent years, population policy has come to encompass much broader issues of economic sustainability and even social justice — especially involving the treatment and status of women.
There also exists a striking relationship between female literacy and fertility rates. On the average, women who can read tend to have fewer children than women who cannot. Countries who educate all their population are more likely to control their populations. Data such as these have encouraged population programs to stress education, training, and higher social status for women as methods of slowing population growth.
In industrialized countries, where most women are literate, there are not large numbers of young people entering their reproductive years and the size of these populations will probably remain stable over time. As we have seen, this is not true in developing countries and this is where the largest percentage of future population growth will occur.