The world’s population will number around 7 billion sometime at the end of this year, according to an estimate from the United Nations, and questions are being raised as to whether we truly are capable of supporting such a milestone. Most of this rise will occur in Asia; Bangladesh alone will see an added 25 million people to its populace as we approach the mid-half of this century.
The first image that springs to mind when you consider population increase is overcrowding, but we are assured that ‘living space’ is not an issue – as scientific journalist Robert Kunzig points out even 9 billion people could literally squeeze into half the population density half the size of France.
So, naturally, we will not be suffering a land crisis, what we will see, however, is far more serious, yet is something we are not unused to – a food crisis. We have had recent famine spread across Somalia and North Korea, but this will become the norm when we do not have enough good, arable farmland to accommodate the number of mouths to feed. Last year a 60 million-tonne grain shortfall saw us dip into the world’s food reserves, and this year the increase in production to recoup the loss has sent food prices soaring in many parts of the world.
Solutions aimed at easing the explosion touted by world governments and aid agencies range from women empowerment, access to and education of contraception to drastic policies such as forced immigration and those adopted in China to limit by law the number of children you may have per family. One thing is clear: if the world cannot adapt to this new benchmark in time, when the expected 9 billionth human arrives in 2050 it will be a bleak place to live in.