This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Muddling Toward Seven Billion

The press is starting to generate buzz surrounding the birth of the person who will represent the seventh billion person alive at the same time on the planet. MSNBC, for example, picked up on the Associated Press story today, building on press releases that started coming out today from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). This is, of course, serious stuff and the seventh billion provides a good opportunity to contemplate where the world is demographically:

In Western Europe, Japan and Russia, it will be an ironic milestone amid worries about low birthrates and aging populations. In China and India, the two most populous nations, it's an occasion to reassess policies that have already slowed once-rapid growth.
But in Burundi, Uganda and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, the demographic news is mostly sobering as the region staggers under the double burden of the world's highest birthrates and deepest poverty. The regional population of nearly 900 million could reach 2 billion in 40 years at current rates, accounting for about half of the projected global population growth over that span.
"Most of that growth will be in Africa's cities, and in those cities it will almost all be in slums where living conditions are horrible," said John Bongaarts of the Population Council, a New York-based research organization.The executive director of the U.N. Population Fund, former Nigerian health minister Babatunde Osotimehin, describes the 7 billion milestone as a call to action — especially in the realm of enabling adolescent girls to stay in school and empowering women to control the number of children they have.
"It's an opportunity to bring the issues of population, women's rights and family planning back to center stage," he said in an interview. "There are 215 million women worldwide who need family planning and don't get it. If we can change that, and these women can take charge of their lives, we'll have a better world."

The UN Population Fund has somewhat arbitrarily set 31 October as the day when the milestone will be reached. In truth, we can only approximate the world's population size with models, and there are two counters out there right now at reputable websites and they don't actually agree on the number of people. The US Census Bureau's world population clock is a little "slower" than the one at the UN-sponsored website at 7 Billion People/ 7 Billion Actions. Check them out and keep track as we move toward seven billion...are we there yet?

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