By The Numbers: Population, Consumption, and Reproductive Health

This fall, world population will reach 7 billion people at a time of accelerated environmental disruption. This article part of a series commissioned by RH Reality Check and with Laurie Mazur as guest editor, to examine the causes and consequences of population and environmental change from various perspectives and the policies and actions needed to both avoid and mitigate the inevitable impacts of these changes.

Here, Victoria Markham gives us just the facts on consumption, population, and reproductive health.  All of the articles in this series can be found here.

Global Consumption and Population at a Glance

Percent of planet’s ecosystems degraded by human activity in the past fifty years
Percent of per capita consumption by the richest 20 percent of the world’s population
Percent of per capita consumption by the poorest 20 percent
less than 2
U.S. rank in population growth and numbers among industrialized nations
Global rank of the US ecological footprint (1 = worst/heaviest impact)

Population, Energy and Climate Change

U.S. share of global population
U.S. share of total global CO2 emissions
Amount of CO2 emissions each American generates compared to world average
5 times
Expected date U.S. reaches 1 billion high-consuming Americans
Global oil consumption, U.S. Rank
Expected percentage increase in amount of current oil consumption by 2025
Household energy use worldwide, U.S. Rank
Developing nations’ share of global population
Developing nations’ CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)
US CO2 emissions per capita (metric tons)
US energy consumption per capita (kilograms oil equivalent)
Developing nations’ energy consumption per capita
Total motor vehicles per 1,000 population, U.S.
Total motor vehicles per 1,000 population, less developed nations
Percent of species projected to become extinct from climate change by 2050

Population and Environment

U.S. annual water withdrawals per capita (cubic meters)
Developing nations’ annual water withdrawals
Percent of population with improved sanitation, U.S.
Percent of population with improved sanitation, least developed nations
U.S. annual per capita paper consumption (pounds)
Developing nations annual per capita paper consumption

Population, Reproductive Health, Status of Girls and Women

Average births per minute U.S.
Average births per minute in developing nations
Percent of population under 25 in U.S.
Percent of population under 25 in Sub-Saharan Africa
Percent of women among the 1.3 billion people globally who live in absolute poverty
Percent women contribute to the world’s working hours
Percent of world’s income earned by women
Percent of the world’s property owned by women
less than 1
Percent of girls among the 77 million children globally not attending primary school

Poverty and Affluence

U.S. gross income per capita
Less developed nations’ gross income per capita
Percent living on less than $2 a day, U.S.
Percent living on less than $2 a day, less developed nations

Reproductive Health and Family Planning

Total fertility rate (number of children born per woman of childbearing age), U.S.
Total fertility rate, less developed nations
Percent of married women using contraception, U.S.
Percent of married women using contraception, Sub-Saharan Africa
Number of women globally who want to avoid pregnancy but are not using an effective method of contraception
215 million
Expected percent increase in demand for contraception globally by 2050
Amount needed for family planning globally per year
$6.7 billion
Amount of US military budget per day
$1.9 billion
Annual cost to achieve universal access to reproductive health
$70 billion
Average share of that amount contributed by donor governments
less than 50
Percent of global health funding earmarked for reproductive health, 1994
Percent earmarked for reproductive health, 2008
U.S. funding for family planning and reproductive health programs, 2010
$648 million
U.S. funding for family planning and reproductive health programs, 2011
$615 million
U.S. funding for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2010
$40 million
U.S. funding for UNFPA, 2011
$25 million
U.S. funding for Title X (family planning for low-income/uninsured people), 2010
$317 million
U.S. funding for Title X 2011
$299 million

Sources (all accessed 2011)

UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005

US National Report on Population and the Environment, Center for Environment and Population (CEP), 2006

US Population, Energy and Climate Change, CEP, 2009

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment, 2003/2011 update

Population Estimates and American Fact Finder, US Census Bureau

National Vital Statistics System, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education

Population Reference Bureau (PRB), World Population Data Sheets, Women and Girls Data Sheet 2006-2011; Data Finder

UNFPA reports, data and factsheets

UN Population Division reports, data and fact sheets

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, Living Planet Index

Global Footprint Network database

CARE, “Women’s Empowerment” Factsheet

World Resources Institute, Earth Trends

Population Action International (PAI) fact sheets, communication

Guttmacher Institute factsheets, communication

Definitions: “Less developed” and “least developed” nations are defined by the United Nations.


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  • anderson-evans

    Human rights, the rule of law, peace — they all will be useless if we do not maintain our environment.  Recommended reading — Collapse by Jared Diamond.  It’s not totally pessimistic, though it got me to focus more clearly on environmental issues, and put them at the top of my priority list.

  • steven-earl-salmony

    The family of humanity appears not to have much more time, perhaps a couple of decades if we are lucky, in which to make necessary changes in our conspicuous overconsumption/hoarding lifestyles, the endless expansion of overproduction by big-business enterprises, and its unbridled overpopulation activities. Humankind may not be able to protect life as we know it or preserve the integrity of Earth and its frangible ecology, even during the years many of us in my generation of elders are alive.

    If we project the fully anticipated increase of unrestrained per-capita consumption/hoarding, rampant economic globalization and unrestricted propagation of 75 to 80 million newborns per annum for the foreseeable future, will someone please explain how the ‘trajectory’ of our civilization can be sustained much longer on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth? According to my admittedly simple estimations, if humankind keeps doing just as it is doing now, without beginning to do whatsoever is necessary to modify the business-as-usual course of our gigantic global economy, for example, then the Earth could not sustain life as we know it much longer. It appears that all the chatter in the mass media regarding an already accepted event, a “demographic transition” in the coming four decades, during which time humankind will pursue a path to the future marked by underdeveloped countries not following the path of the overdeveloped countries but instead “leap-frogging” traditional economic growth activities and automatically squeezing through a ‘bottleneck’ to population stabilization around 2050, is nothing more than wishful and magical thinking. Where is the science to support these ideas? Although it has not been sensibly and openly discussed, extant scientific evidence appears to directly contradict demographic transition theory in such a way that I am led to believe that this theory is a product of preternatural thinking and inadequate research. Please note that the demographic transition theory could be supported by unscientific evidence that is widely known to be ideologically based, politically convenient, economically expedient, socially agreeable, religiously tolerable and culturally syntonic. 
    Unfortunately, in the face of all the elective mutism and willful denial of what the human population is doing on our watch, many too many top rank scientists have adopted a code of silence, apparently at the behest of super-rich and powerful greedmongers who rule the world in our time. Scientists have got to find adequate ways of communicating to humanity about what people somehow need to hear, see and understand: the reckless dissipation of Earth’s limited resources, the relentless degradation of Earth’s frangible environment, and the approaching destruction of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation by the human species are primarily the result of the colossal current scale and fully expected growth of human consumption, production and propagation activities worldwide. When taken together, these global overgrowth activities of the human species appear to be occurring synergistically,proceeding at breakneck speed, and moving fast toward the precipitation of a catastrophic ecological wreckage of some unimaginable sort unless, of course, the world’s huge, ever expanding, artificially designed, manmade global political economy continues to rush headlong toward the monolithic ‘Wall’ called UNSUSTAINABILITY, at which point the runaway economy crashes before Earth’s ecology is collapsed.
    If this representation of the human-driven global predicament is somehow on the right track, then it seems that responsible and humane efforts made by a conscious human community to slow the world-engulfing overgrowth activities of the human population would be a step in the direction of sustainability. Either we will choose to take a “road less traveled by” toward sustainability while there is still time or else become one of many species to be victimized by our soon to become, somehow patently unsustainable presence on Earth, I suppose.
    Sincerely yours,
    Steve Salmony
    Steven Earl Salmony
    AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population,
    established 2001
    Chapel Hill, NC