Rapid World Population Growth

“There are more than twice as many people on the planet today as there were in 1960. …The overwhelmingly young populations of developing countries will produce almost all the future population increase. Even with falling birthrates, the world’s population is still growing by about 80 million people a year. The less developed world will account for more than 95% of future population growth, especially Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.”

We in the United States cannot gloat; our population growth of 72% since 1960 is the highest of any industrialized country in the world due in part to the significant rate of teenage pregnancies and a steady influx of immigrants. Immigration alone, both legal and illegal, accounts for 82% of our population growth.  By 2050 America’s population is expected to top 400 million.

“Populations boom as living conditions improve and a country enters successive phases of a process called the demographic transition. The death rate falls, but there’s a lag before the birthrate also falls. The result is that population soars and it takes the time period of a generation to level off. Phase 1: Preindustrial; a high birth rate matches high death rate. Phase 2: Boom begins; Uganda, Nigeria, Angola; birthrate remains high and population booms as the death rate declines. Phase 3: Still rising; India, Brazil, Bangladesh, United States*; birthrate declines as women become educated in family planning, however, the population is still rising from the phase 2 boom. Phase 4: Leveling off; Japan, Russia, Italy, China; population stabilizes as births and deaths come into balance.”

Note that National Geographic placed an asterisk (*) by the United States in phase 3 and omitted the United States from phase 4. This is because the high numbers of immigrants and their high birthrates restrict the United States from category 4. The United States, by the way, admits more immigrants than the rest of the world combined, and this is the chief factor contributing to our rapid population growth.

We can still have immigration, but it must be legal, orderly and in sustainable numbers. What is sustainable? Immigration numbers that equal emigration numbers, about 80,000 to 100,000 per year.

The United States has long been a trendsetter, and we nearly reached population stabilization in the early 1970s. Then, mass immigration began and wiped it all away. This policy change was extremely irresponsible because Americans are the most ravenous consumers of resources on the planet, and we cannot afford to have too many of them. Will we ever learn?

I commend National Geographic for this extensive story on world population growth and planned future articles on this subject to come throughout the year. This is the greatest problem by far our country and the rest of the world faces, and the longer we bury our heads in the sand, the more difficult it will become to solve.

(Source:  National Geographic, January 2011)

Kenneth Roy is a resident of Center Lovell.

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