Population growth expectations revised, future looks grim

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As if your doomsday checklist weren't already full with climate change, nuclear disaster, global fuel and food shortages, and a future of subjugation at the hands of damn dirty apes, I'm happy to add one more item: overpopulation. Yes, the United Nations recently revised its population predictions, claiming that the world population is expected to hit ten billion or more by the end of the century.

Previous predictions had the world population reaching nine billion by 2050 and leveling off, but the revision comes from the sobering realization that fertility rates across the world aren't dropping fast enough, and in some cases are outpacing the projected economic growth of the country. Niger, for example, already has a population growth rate exceeding its economic progress — twenty percent of women have ten or more children and only one in 1,000 women completes secondary school.

Blame can also be placed on the lack of information about birth control and family planning in many distressed areas. In Kenya, for example, the richest fifth have three children, while the poorest have eight. The lower bracket reports the highest need for family planning (defined as women who say that they do not want another child in the next two years but are not using contraception), but richer women are the only ones with access to birth control.

A renewed focus on making family-planning services available in targeted countries and initiatives to change preferences about family size are two short steps to making sure these predictions don't become a reality — research has shown that without consistent focus on family planning, countries begin backsliding into expansive growth.

It's tempting to take an isolationist, "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" approach to the idea of population overgrowth, particularly in the face of America's many issues right now, and sure, I don't really plan on being alive when things get really out of hand, but this is one situation where we cannot afford to look the other way.