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, February 12, 2018

Population Growth Still Threatens the Planet

The typical world leader or policy-maker is not currently worried about population growth. Even those who worry about things like global climate change generally do not phrase their concern in terms of numbers of humans beings. Yet, numbers matter, especially when we are consuming resources at an historically unprecedented level. This reminder came to us today in the IUSSP's latest online essay by renowned Italian demographer Massimo Livi-Bacci:
The “population question”, central to the debate about humankind’s future since the 18th century, has slipped away from center stage and fallen into a coma in recent years. The international community is busy promoting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with their attendant 169 targets, and appears convinced that population has ceased to be a threat for balanced development. There is a sort of consensus among demographers that the world’s population will converge to a quasi-stationary state by the beginning of next century and this conviction has dispelled the severe anxiety about the future that affected most population experts in the second part of last century.
To be sure, the UN hasn't held a World Population Conference since 1994, but that doesn't mean that we should just ignore the fact that the current UN projections assume that we may well add another 4 billion people to the planet before we reach ZPG. It doesn't have to be that many--that's just what the UN demographers think will happen given the current attitudes towards population in the world.
Population interacts with the external constraints such as space, land, water, air, non-renewable resources and energy. Humankind, throughout its history on this planet, has found these resources in almost unlimited supply. But things have changed rapidly in recent times and some natural resources – particularly air, land and water – are under stress because of rapid population growth.
Professor Livi-Bacci points out that we would be better off if it were only 3 billion, instead of 4 billion that we were adding. Even that might not be sustainable in the long run, but at least we would have done less damage to the world in the meantime. These are issues, by the way, that are always front and center at the UK-based organization Population Matters, and I encourage you to visit their website.

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