At the very recent World Food Security Summit in Rome lip service was paid to feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people by 2050. Firm monetary commitments were lacking.
Hunger fueled the French Revolution. When Marie Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake!” reached bread starved peasants, all hell broke loose. (French history simplified.)
Recent reports have water levels in the world’s great rivers falling. Glaciers are melting. Fully one fourth of humanity lives in water stressed area. Droughts, probable results of climate change, are becoming more prevalent. Many human beings are thirsty, as is much of the land. How does “Let them drink Coke” sound?
The United Nations Population Fund launched its 2009 State of World Population on November 18, the theme being women, population, and climate change.
As predictable, the countries with the least carbon footprint are reaping the consequences of the disproportionate carbon footprints of the developed world. Women are being disproportionately affected. Who will bear the brunt of the costs to mitigate the worst?
The report also emphasizes women’s contributions to food production, contributions which are threatened by the effects of climate change. And it discusses the probable increase in the numbers of environmental refugees from rising water levels in low lying countries. Migration poses increased hardships on women, particularly women with children, pregnant, or lactating women.
On page 91 we see the population numbers which should astound. By 2050 Africa’s population will increase from 1 billion to 2 billion with a 4.52 fertility rate. The Arab states will increase from 352 to 598 million with a 3.3 fertility rate. Asia’s population will increase from 4.1 billion to 5.2 billion with a 2.32 fertility rate. Latin America and the Caribbean will increase from 582 million to 729 million with a fertility rate of 2.21. And North America will increase from 348 million to 448 million with a 2.03 fertility rate. Europe will be the only area with falling population. Europe’s population will decrease from 732 million to 691 million. All in all, by 2050 there will be 2.3 billion more people to feed and water on a planet coping with substantial climate change.
The 2009 State of World Population from UNFPA recommends five steps to take us back from the brink. They are:
- Bring a better understanding of population dynamics, gender and reproductive health to climate change and environmental discussions at all levels
- Fully fund family planning services and contraceptive supplies within the framework of reproductive health and rights, and assure that low income is no barrier to access
- Prioritize research and data collection to improve the understanding of gender and population dynamics in climate change mitigation and adaptation
- Improve the sex-disaggregation of data related to migration flows that are influenced by environmental factors and prepare now for increases in population movements resulting from climate change
- Integrate gender considerations into global effort to mitigate and adapt to climate change
Voluntary access to family planning to everyone on the planet should be the number one priority. To quote Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA: “There is no investment in development that costs so little and brings benefits that are so far-reaching and enormous”.