The Environment and Population Growth: Decade for action

 The 10th Special Topics series emphasizes how population growth is linked with environmental stress.  Each of the 90 million new people added to the Earth each year requires food, energy, and water.  By the year 2000, >50% of developing countries will not be able to provide food for their populations.  Almost 50% of the world's population will not have enough fuelwood to meet their needs.  Only a few large stands of tropical forests will survive by the year 2010.  Carbon dioxide emissions from energy use in developing countries will have increased 3 times its present rate by the year 2020.  Ocean levels could increase at least 1 m due to global warming which would flood coasts and uproot millions of people.  Humans will have depleted immediately accessible oil supplies by the year 2030.  The total hectares of tropical forests destroyed annually equals an area the size of Uruguay.  Soil degradation is apparent in exhausted farmlands and eroded hillsides.  Pollution has permeated the water and air supplies to the point where they cause disease rather than support life.  Therefore pollution and overuse are threatening resources once considered renewable:  air, water, forests, and soil.  Farsighted economic and social policies, protection of high risk areas, support for family planning programs, resource conservation, and pollution control are now imperative to preserve ecosystems and to improve the quality of life.  Many women want to limit their family size and more and more females are joining women in their reproductive years indicating these programs could be successful.  If developing countries could provide family planning to 50% more couples during the 1990s world population growth would peak at 12 billion.  Sidebars in this issue center on sustainable development, 5 major population impacts, what will happen if current trends continue, "overshoot," environmental pollution, global carrying capacity, and policy implications.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program