The UN will announce the arrival of the 7 billionth human a week today. It seems not to regard the day as one to be celebrated. Why else declare what is, after all, only a guesstimate on 31 October, a solemn day of mourning in the Christian calendar and of ghoulish Halloween partying in the Anglo-Saxon world? Some demographers warn of catastrophic environmental degradation, most acute in the areas where the population grows fastest – the ecologically fragile sub-Saharan Africa – while policies to tackle poverty and disease stall. Others argue that population growth is not necessarily a bad thing: it is only 12 years since the birth of the six billionth person was announced and, for a majority of the world’s population, more things have got better than worse. But in an era so shaped by the burden of human activity that scientists are calling it the anthropocene age, the explosive near-trebling of the world’s population from just 2.5bn in 1950 demands at least an equal focus on reducing our environmental impact.
This is something that has been worrying me for a while. Good to see human population finally becoming a mainstream topic.