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Population rise: A ticking bomb

Wednesday - February 6, 2019 7:07 pm , Category : WTN SPECIAL

WTN: Birth is an occasion of happiness. But what is happiness for the family may not be happiness for the world. There is a strange feeling of pride when we flaunt our population figures. It is something in which India is ahead of most developed countries of the world and that is in our psyche that makes us smile in confidence when we talk about literacy and poor human development index is directly related to population surge.

Unless there is population control, prosperity can never be had, because resources are always limited and it cannot cater to an endless multitude forever. Resource crunch will widen the gap between the haves and have-nots that leads to social tension and violence. After sometime, even the haves will have to fall in line with the have-nots and the have-nots will simply perish. It will end up in being a question of survival and people will pounce upon each other in the war to have a share of the pie. There is an ever increasing pressure on basics like food and water and to feed a teeming 7 billion mouths is a stupendous challenge for economies and societies.

Food production worldwide needs at least 50 per cent increase to ensure that 900 million people don’t go hungry every day. That is simply not happening with growing urbanisaton and rapid depletion of ground water levels. In 1798, an English clergyman, the Rev Thomas Malthus, predicted that one day the population of the world would outstrip the globe’s ability to feed it. Population grows exponentially – increasing by a set percentage per year – while food production grows arithmetically, by a set quantity per year. Even the smallest exponential progression will, given enough time, outstrip any arithmetical one.

Eventually, by the laws of mathematics and demography, humanity would overreach itself and face mass starvation. His warnings were echoed nearly two centuries later, by an American academic, Paul Ehrlich. His 1968 book, The Population Bomb, warned that by the end of the 20th century, humanity would face a population explosion followed by a sudden, devastating collapse. And the question is not just about hunger. There is gross malnutrition under which majority of South Asian and African population lives. Malnourishment causes lower intelligence, and a hungry body has a weak immune system. At least three billion people live on $2 or less every day. A weekly salary of $10 won't buy much, and it certainly won't provide a hungry family with healthy food. Experts say, let alone France or England, if Indians eat even equal to their Chinese counterparts, from a so-called self-sufficient or food-surplus nation, India will have to reel in acute food scarcity. With present consumption levels of fuel, our petroleum stocks will last not more than 45 years. Nearly two billion people are going to face absolute water crisis in next 12-13 years.

Continuous increase in coal consumption has already led to depletion in the mines and the day is not far when power production will plummet with the lack of coal to run the thermal power plants that generate most of the power in our country. And then, 7 billion is only a symbolic figure. The actual figures must be much more because millions of new births go unreported.  With anywhere around 50-55 babies reported born in India every minute, and four babies born every second in the world, the situation is more than alarming. In the last 50 years alone, the oceans of the world have become (30 per cent) more acidic, the atmosphere (four per cent) wetter and the earth's surface warmer (by almost one degree C).

There is also much less flora and fauna than ever before as our need for food and building materials has crowded out other creatures and destroyed their habitats. People have to understand how decisions made today can negatively impact their children and other descendants. Otherwise, our children's children and their children may well find the world to be a crowded, hungry place of squalor and chaos. -Window To News

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