GOOD WORKS: THE POPULATION INSTITUTE BY Tony Advokaat (Article)
I am old enough to remember when the world’s population was only about 2 billion and thinking that my own country was already over-crowded at about 8 million. 50 years later the Netherlands has about 16 million people and the world’s population is almost 7 billion, and set to grow to 9 billion, give or take a few hundred millions, within the lifetime of my children.
Almost no one who has actually looked at the implications of the exploding world population denies that we are on a path that is unsustainable. All the problems we face in terms of resource depletion and pollution would be a great deal easier to cope with if the world population were only 2 billion, rather than 6 billion, let alone 9 billion.
Thus, my concerns about population growth go back almost 50 years, but it is only recently that, at the urging of a friend, I decided to become more actively involved and joined the Board of the Population Institute of Canada (PIC), which is
the national voice for Canadians concerned with world-wide population trends. An educational, non-profit, voluntary NGO, head-quartered in Ottawa, it seeks to reduce population growth by non-coercive means, through universal access to family planning.
PIC tries to raise awareness of the social, economic and environmental consequences of population growth and how these inhibit development and the human rights aspirations of people, notably the poorest. It promotes Canadian foreign aid that includes effective family planning measures consistent with the needs and wishes of recipients, and which are essential components of poverty reduction and gender equity.
The international community faces challenges that include food and water shortages, a looming energy crisis, and climate change, all driven by a world population – 6.8 billion in 2010, over 9 billion by 2050 – that is growing by 70 million every year, more than twice the population of Canada. Relentlessly expanding human numbers place ever more demands on the earth, leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss, soil exhaustion, vanishing fisheries and increases in greenhouse gas emissions. Typically, conflicts that dominate media headlines are caused and/or exacerbated by these and other associated resource scarcities.
Other than oil rich states, no country has ever risen from extreme poverty
(less than $1 per day) while maintaining high average fertility . Population programmes, especially in Asia, have lessened formerly high numbers and
reduced the ratio of dependent children for each working adult, thereby allowing
for a “demographic dividend” that has raised standards of living dramatically.
Rapid population growth and/or shifting populations due to desertification, water,
soil and other resource depletion, coupled with insufficient living space, almost
inevitably lead to political instability and strife. These in turn may translate into famine, mass migrations, and open warfare leading to humanitarian suffering and indignities on a monumental scale. Inevitably, countries such as Canada are affected by these tragedies, whether in terms of aid given to the suffering, providing peace-keepers, or dealing with refugees and extra-ordinary immigration pressures.
PIC believes that family planning is critically important. Without it humankind faces insuperable obstacles and grim prospects. Universal access to voluntary family planning – both information and services – allows men and women to exercise their human right to choose the number and spacing of their children. Sexual and reproductive health care slows the spread of HIV/AIDS, reduces maternal and child mortality, and empowers women.
Population Institute of Canada
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