The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced that on October 31, 2011, the world population reached 7 billion people, growing from 6 million in just the past 13 years. Alarming for some and optimistic for others, there is no doubt that our world is changing faster than it ever has before. Currently, 43% of the world’s population is under 25 years of age, and half of the world’s population lives in cities, projected to climb to 2/3 of the population in the next 30 years. Life expectancy has also increased to 68, up 20 years since 1950.
On the downward side, infant mortality has plunged from 133/1000deaths in 1950 to 46/1000 right now. Female Fertility has also dropped from an average of 6 to 2.5 children, a surprising statistic being one of four siblings in my family. In short, the population is growing and more people are living longer, but individual women are starting to have fewer kids. So what seems to be the problem?
Many people believe that having half of the world’s population under 25 is a good thing. They will have immense economic opportunities, plan the growth and development of new cities, develop programs to sustain the Earth’s resources, and have the opportunity to improve education. However, this specific population is in a very vulnerable place, because alarmingly, 250 million women around the world are not able to receive contraception or family planning, speculated to grow to over 40% of the world’s population by 2050. At 7 billion people, this is the largest generation of young people entering their reproductive years than ever before.
There are also financial dangers associated with this population increase. Although unemployed workers in developing countries are beginning to find more industrialized jobs, labor shortages are threatening the economies in some industrialized countries, just like we are seeing in the US today. And although there has been a steady decline in extreme poverty over the years, the gaps between the rich and poor are widening all over the world.
Demographers estimate that the world population will reach 8 billion by 2025 and 10 billion by 2083, depending of course on life expectancy, access to birth control, and infant mortality among other things. Currently, the world’s most populous nation is China with a staggering 1.34 billion people, followed closely by its neighbor India. The Chinese Government, despite its strict family planning policy, is worried that soon, there will not be enough young Chinese to support the enormous elderly population.
So the country with the world’s biggest population is worried that they’re won’t be enough of their own people to support the older population? This seems ridiculous, and I’m sure Hobbes, and Locke would agree with me. But how would each philosopher address the current population problem? How would Hobbes’ State of Nature be effected in a world with over 7 billion people? How would Locke encourage man to secure property rights on an earth that is running out of room?
And what do you think the world should do? Is it time to implement a world-wide family planning policy just as the Chinese have? Where do we plan on putting another billion people, dead and alive, in the next 15 years? How do we ensure that we have enough natural resources to last us to that point?