When it comes to the environment, human population is the 900-pound gorilla in the corner. I know this from first hand--I once got into hot water for a New Scientist piece that slammed conservatives in the U.S. for failing to support family planning.
Now, in a provocative essay, Jonathan Porritt asks why is nearly everyone--including most leading environmental groups--so reticent to talk about population?
It's a good question. According to the U.N. Population Division, Earth's population is projected to peak at nearly 11 billion people this century.
Africa will have 400% more mouths to feed, according to the U.N. Nigeria--already teetering on the edge of social and economic chaos--will have five times its present population.
These are incredible figures, and they underscore momentous challenges ahead--for global food security, social welfare, immigration and national security issues, and of course the environment.
The challenge is growing. According to a recent analysis by Leontine Alkema and colleagues, by 2015 nearly a billion women will need contraception or will have an unmet need for contraception. This number is rapidly increasing, especially in developing nations.
Demographers like Alkema keep saying the same thing: One of the smartest long-term investments we can make today is in family-planning and contraception, especially where population growth is fastest and most likely to be destabilizing in the long term. A good place to start is Africa.
We need a lot more talk--and action--on population.