Population research folks say that October 31 is the day. Halloween is marked in red on their calendars, for extreme warning, as the day the world’s population will reach seven billion. They have calculated that somewhere on the planet at some time during this day, baby number seven billion will take his or her first breath out of the womb.
Some of these folks look at this birth, and I’m guessing all births after today, as looming disaster, a day closer to Armageddon. They say that there is no way the earth has the natural resources to care for all those beings. They say too many people is a problem to be dealt with, and to be done so, in my own opinion, in ways that are not very palatable for the future of a civilized humanity.
I am much more optimistic, and look at today’s milestone as a cause for celebration. No other time, perhaps in the history of humankind on this earth, have people in general been more prosperous. Sure, much of the world is in recession and economically disadvantaged. Yet, people are being fed and cared for in far reaches of the planet.
I think the problem going forward a few decades is not over population, but rather, depopulation of many industrialized nations. Look at 20 countries, some in the former Soviet Union, that are projected to lose up to 20% or more of their population in years to come. Because of dismal birth rates, Russia may lose 22% of its population by 2050, and the Ukraine may lose a whopping 28% of its population. Even Japan will lose 21% in the next four decades.
The population control folks seem OK with this, saying less population will put less “strain” on these nations’ resources. But economists know better. A healthy economy is built on a youthful, growing population base to produce things and to consume things. That is what makes the world’s economy go and grow. We need people. And an accepted sign of a healthy business is a healthy presence of youth.
Rural communities across the Great Plains, with shrinking school enrollment and loss of businesses on Main Street, know all about this. They hope for larger families and more young folks to grow up in their small towns, and hopefully move back eventually to create new jobs, new opportunities and new vitality on the rural landscape.
Agriculture is obviously up to the growing needs of the world. In the past three decades, farmers have produced more food, fiber and fuel than ever before, and they have done it efficiently by using far less resources per acre.
Will it take continued agricultural ingenuity, creativity and efficiency to feed the world? Of course. Will there be challenges ahead to produce food, fiber and fuel and get it where it is needed most? Certainly. But, is this milestone a great tragedy for humankind? Absolutely not.
Baby seven billion is not a reason for despair. Parents know that the birth of a baby is a reason for hope and for great joy.
POPULATION EXPLOSION: My wife and I have proudly contributed to those seven billion folks on this earth. Our precious children include baby Benjamin (left), Lauren, Taylor and Zac (front).
I reflect on these facts with great joy in my own heart as our family celebrates the first birthday of our latest contribution to the world’s population, baby Benjamin Harold, born a year ago on Oct. 28.
So, on this milestone, I wish a happy birthday to Benjamin, and to Baby Seven Billion, wherever you are.