8 billion population milestone | The Hill

Eight billion.

That’s how many people will be living on this finite planet from 2022, according to new data from the United Nations Population Division.

It’s only 11 years since we climbed past the 7 billion people milestone, which is the fewest years it has ever taken to add a billion people to the planet (it has taken all of human history to make our first billion to reach, about 1800). People’s fertility desires – and their ability to achieve them – will determine how quickly our world population peaks and whether it rises to 10 billion, 11 billion or 12 billion. And because rising numbers, coupled with unsustainably high consumption, are destroying large parts of the natural world every year, we must now invest in progressive solutions for population growth – namely universal access to the full spectrum of family planning options.

Growth enthusiasts often point out – correctly – that the global fertility rate and population growth rate are declining. But so is the number of years it takes us to add every billion new people, due to a difficult phenomenon called population momentum. As large generations of young people reach and live out their reproductive years (considered by most demographers to be 15 to 44), their children are added to an already large group of people. This is why there was a mini-population boom when Baby Boomers had their own children. And why a larger capital investment can yield higher profits than a smaller investment, even if the smaller investment has a higher interest rate (not to compare people to IRAs).

But the inevitable growth that has been built into our future demographic outlook by population momentum does not mean that there is no reason to aim for slower growth starting now. Doing so is a boon for the future – lower fertility and slower growth today will set the second half of this century to see an earlier population peak, at a lower number, than when fertility rates remain high for decades to come.

Some people on the other side of this issue have accused population activists of hating people and being NIMBYs (those who preach “not in my backyard”). I would like people who believe this to explain why we are advocating for a more just, less pressured future that will only be seen and felt after many of us are long gone.

In fact, I would argue that those of us who dedicate our time and money to population stabilization are doing so because of a deep concern for the well-being of future generations and of those who are today the most vulnerable and marginalized around the world.

After all, the continent with the fastest population growth is an ocean away from the United States. Africa’s 1 trillion population is expected to double by 2050, making improvements in health, education, employment and poverty alleviation an even more distant development dream for the people living there. And what reason do we have in North America to worry about this threat, other than worrying about the welfare of the world’s people who are most at risk? People in countries with the highest infant and child mortality rates, the lowest educational achievement rates and the least ability to adapt to the climate changes that are taking place where they live at the most disastrous levels.

There are 8 billion reasons to advocate for progressive policies and adequate funding to ensure that everyone around the world who wants to use modern contraception can do so – it is the best and only morally acceptable way to voluntarily reduce global population growth. We have seen it in every country on earth that has reasonably good access to contraceptive education and services – when people can plan their pregnancies, they have less of it, starting later in life.

This will not be the last population milestone we reach, but if we work together for the health and rights of women, we can postpone the 9 billion milestone by a few years, which could bring us to a peak before we ever reach 10 reach. billion.

Marian Starkey is Vice President of Communications at Population Connection, a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC

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