Thursday, May 5, 2011

Seven Billion in Six Months

On 31 October 2011, the population of the world will be 7,000,000,000, according to the UN report titled 2010 Revision of World Population Prospects, upon which a news item released a few days ago by Reuters was based.  This news item has been picked up by at least one Philippine daily, but hidden somewhere in the inside pages of the newspaper.  This is a large number, which I’m not used to because the numbers I deal with everyday are tiny numbers based on my income.  Hence, I find some difficulty appreciating the significance of these big numbers.  Bet let’s look at these figures beyond their literal meaning.

Elsewhere, it has also been reported that there are about 800M food producers (farmers) the world over today.  Interestingly, 200M people go hungry everyday, too.  They have nothing to eat.  Now, let me complete the picture using hypothetical figures as actual numbers are not available.  So there are 200M who have nothing to eat.  Perhaps we can guess that about two billion are eating once a day, 3 billion twice, and may be 1.7B three times daily.  And the 100M remaining?   They’re probably the people who overeat.  Even if we eliminate them, there’ll still be too many people in the world.  Still, they probably should reduce their food consumption so that what food they save can go to feeding the other 200M.

Clearly, we do have problems providing enough food for the vast majority of people in the world.  We should produce more food, as many believe.  There’s no argument against this idea except that there’s a limit to the capability of food producers to produce more food and the planet to continue providing resources for food production.  Food production cannot continue to grow infinitely to meet the food demands of a growing population because the planet will not permit it.  Some experts say that the planet can only support 10B population.  And by the end of October 2011, we will be 7B. 

Interestingly, amid this increasing world population, the populations of China and Russia are expected to decrease or contract, even if slowly.  For example, China has the biggest population today at 1.34 billion, but due to their ageing population and effective population control program, that country will have smaller population by 2100 – only one billion.  Russia, which has a population of 143M today, will have a population of 126M in 2050, and 111M in 2100.

In contrast, let’s have a look at the case of the Philippines.  We don’t have actual figures, but since we know our current population (92M), and population growth rate (2.8%), we can extrapolate.  I’ve tried doing it and arrived at these figures: population of 137M in 2025, and 275M in 2050.  I’d rather not calculate the expected number of Filipinos in the year 2100.  Where on earth are we going to get the food to feed the additional number of Pinoys?

We have rich agricultural lands that can produce the food?  Oh, that one.  At the rate our first class agricultural lands are being reclassified into built-up areas for residence, we’re running out of land on which to produce food.  Practically all of our agricultural lands have been converted to subdivisions.  What are left for cultivation are mountains that do not have water since we have destroyed practically all of our forests.

So, where’s the “tuwid na daan” here?  Not through the RH Bill, according to the CBCP, which has been, hammer and tong, fighting to prevent the Bill from becoming a law and conveniently avoiding offering reasonable alternative solutions to the rapidly growing population problem.  One wonders if the CBCP is not simply enjoying an increasing number of Filipinos who they expect to grow to be Catholics and contribute to the Sunday collections.

I’m not insinuating anything, just asking a rhetorical question.

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