Daniel Gray

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7 Billion and Counting: The Rise of Global Population

National Geographic Magazine has dedicated the year 2011 to the issue of an increasing global population - set to surpass 7 billion within the next few months...

Each month a feature article investigates the effects of an increased anthropogenic footprint on the landscape; the contact points between mankind and an increasingly stressed environment, as well as the ways in which communities around the globe are currently dealing with existing pressures of population.

Urban settings are especially feeling the pinch as more people are squeezed into cities; slums expand daily, with thousands desperately competing for basic shelter, food and sustenance. Meanwhile vulnerable rural populations face natural environmental pressures daily.

With precious resources like water, cheap energy and other natural products already under strain the debate is out on how best to adapt and mitigate the pressures of a vast population, both in urban and rural environments.

What do you think are the best ways to deal with population growth, especially in developing contexts where both fertility and birth rates remain high?

Do developed nations have a particular obligation to 'aid and assist' less-developed countries? In particular with regard to vulnerability to climate-change induced events, such as flooding, drought and famine?

Where do civil, social and political boundaries lie, in dealing with population challenges? Surely national boundaries cannot stop forced migration, wars over resources or contested reserves....

Which civil-social programs would best prepare nations for the rise of their population? Or should we alternatively encourage cutting growth rates altogether?

Economic, social and political pressures are bound to mount as the issue of providing for 7 billion individuals advances. Are we adequately prepared??

Please share your experiences, opinions, and expertise.



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    Apr 21 2011: Isn't it generally accepted that then people's standard of living rises, that people begin to self-regulate the number of offspring? If that's so, then the question is how to create a modern standard of living while remaining in harmony with nature. To address this, I think that the only solution is to relocalize our economies, such that immediate resource depletion feedbacks inform us about our populations. We do not want to soil our own backyards by depletion or pollution. Thus, a relocalized economy - with community design that allows lots of room for nature - has a built-in tendency to stabilize the population explosion. We are not saying that we should not trade, but we should also be able to provide essential resources locally. This has the potential to eliminate resource conflicts at the same time.
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      Apr 23 2011: I agree 100%! Thats exactly what its about, bringing economies to the scale they were designed for...using history as an analogue...we can see 'simple' items such as basic foodstuffs and materials/tools were provided by producers within close proximity to main centres of habitation..long distance trade was only for 'speciality items'. In todays world, most goods can be locally produced - staple foods, cars, furniture, clothes (through common principles/designs!)... speciallty items (non foodsuff related) and items of scale (ships/heavy machinery) may still be developed by expert global providers...

      But by and large the day-to-day economy can be serviced and developed around local provisions. Local solutions to local needs. Your blueprints highlight a down-scaled, hands on approach to production and industry..

      Yes, the challenge is to create an economy/employment framework which strengthens environmental resilence rather than depletes it.. More hands again don't necessarily mean more production as you mentioned, I tend to believe that we are headed for a "stabilised population", the big challenge like you eluded to is raising standards of living for the majority, not the minority.

      Thank you for your useful comments.
  • Apr 21 2011: do you want to feed all humans?
    do not worry
    who feed them until now will fee them in future.
    there is saying:
    who gives tooth, gives bread
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    Apr 19 2011: Just watched Marcin Jakubowski's 2011 TED University talk!

    Great approach to pushing productivity up! Distributing sharable, scalable tools and machines to the people who need them most... These design blueprints put the power into the hands of the people who are sowing the crops, building the barn, and raising producitvity...

    Maybe a cross-initiative with micro-loan companies can provide the start up capital for the machinery and tools, with the increased productivity of the land, circling back to cover the loan and further investments??

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    Apr 19 2011: So what are our choices? Drastic change or a mass die off.
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      Apr 19 2011: Undoubtedly some people may pay the ultimate price, but additionally this population boom may just prolong the suffering of the so-called 'bottom billion'...The rich will be able to cope, as a large portion of resources is under their control and ownership...

      The subsistence (and raising up) of millions of people below the poverty line will be critical. Bangladesh has made drastic improvements in health care, education and have shown an incredible resilence throughout entire communities.

      The mobility of their people semms to be essential in facing the challenges of constant flooding, tropical cyclones, salt intrusions into fields and a population density of immense proportions (more people than Russia!).

      See the recent National Geographic Feature on their site, an excellent insight into these remarkable people..
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    Apr 18 2011: Is it simply that we have passed the point of perpetual motion and there is no way of turning back the clocks?
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      Apr 19 2011: Population is set to peak mid-century (@ 9 billion)...Dealing with the difficuties of providing for all those people seems to be central to the issue... Greater productivity (crops/acre) and innovation can ease the ride..Those in urban areas, of which 1 billion are below $2/day face a tremendous challenge...

      Its my belief that a 're-migration' outwards to the periphery is a way of easing the burden of urban centres and revitalising rural landscapes... a productive life is not about proximity, but rather connection (see Iqbal Quadir, and his 'a cellphone is a cow' analogy). An excellent talk.