How many people can the Earth sustain?

The population of the United States will hit 300 million in October. To this the Americans respond with mixed feelings. After entering the new century, France, whose birth rate has long remained low, saw its population topping 60 million. Several years ago, with its population hitting one billion, India, a country intended to make itself the most populous country, was somewhat joyful inwards. However, the figures which make the world ill at ease in fact are telling the world that it is not yet far from the next one billion. According to latest estimation by U.S. Census Bureau, the population on the Earth hit 6.5 billion on Feb. 25.

The 21st century will see a still grim situation of the world population.

Not only are populations continuing their sharp growth in developing countries, signs of growth have also been seen in developed countries, which presents an unstoppable tendency of population expansion.

The United Nations set Oct. 12, 1999 as the "Day of 6 Billion", which is aimed to call for the attention of governments and people to the issue of population.

Six years have passed, the situation, unfortunately, has not progressed on the expected path. Authoritative agencies predict that the world's population will mount to eight billion in 2025, to 9.3 billion in 2050, while calculation concludes that the Earth can afford 10-15 billion people. If the world's population continued to grow at the current rate, the Earth would not be able to sustain its population and the mankind would be doomed to sheer destruction.

The ballooning growth of the world's population has occurred accompanying global socio-economic development.

There were only 10, 000-20, 000 people in 1,000,000 B.C, which experienced no big changes in thousands of years after till Neolithic, with a growth rate of 0.03 percent. Though low, the rate brought the world's population from stagnation to a period of slow growth, then to fast growth, and soaring growth. It took at least 30, 000 years for the global population to double in the Paleolithic Period, and shorter and shorter. In the year 1650, the figure stood at about 500 million and one billion in 1830, 180 years later. Afterwards, it was a sheer super acceleration. From 1830 to 1999, the years taken for every one-billion growth are: 100, 30, 15, 12 and 12 respectively. People would be shocked when they are made aware of these.

Such speedy population expansion surely has imposed huge pressure on resources, environment and the society.

The world needs its limited amount of resources not only to raise the newborns but also to meet the demand of the entire mankind for rising living standards. In order to feed more and more compatriots, people have had to dig more and more natural resources, leaving behind less and less reserves of un-renewable resources and making the renewable more and more difficult to renew. Fight is escalating between various sides for resources.

It is estimated that currently, 60 percent of the world's eco-system has been under serious threat. 1.1 billion people have no safe drinking water and 2.6 billion people lack basic health care. Experts say if the world failed to secure sustainable development, the globe left would no longer be inhabitable for younger generations.

The stunning growth of the world's population has rung alarm to all that the issue of population should be put on agenda as a major item. Only when the issue of development is well handled can the countries with fastest-growing populations turn from high birth rate and relatively high mortality rate to low birth rate and low mortality rate. For this, developed countries should not sit aloft and aloof, but should perform more duty to narrow the South-North gap and reduce the poverty-stricken populations.

On global population problem, global consensus should be reinforced. Outdated prejudice attacking family planning should be shed. What is more needed is to map out and carry out development strategies and rules of action on population on a global scale. Only though this can world population growth be put under effective control with enhanced quality, and ultimately within the sustainable scope.

By People's Daily Online

People's Daily Online ---