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How many people is too many?

An approximate of 7.8 billion people coexist with us. The enormity of this figure can probably translate better when one thinks of the fact that mankind took 200,000 years to reach to a billion and the next 200 years to reach 7 billion.

Photo Credit: Soltan Frédéric

These figures become a real problem when the ecological footprint (quantity of natural capital it takes to support a person) of the human population exceeds the capacity of the resources. While unsustainable use of natural resources has been our USP, homo sapiens—the imminent ecological collapse, poor quality of life and a possible extinction is enough for most to take population moderation seriously.

It makes sense for developing countries even more, considering the infrastructure is overwhelmingly insufficient. With this in mind, the next step would be population control, right?

Well, India has had bills in the Parliament regarding family planning that aimed to control the country’s population growth rate since 1951. Yet, on 15th August 2019, PM Narendra Modi called on Central and State governments to control the country’s population growth rate. Despite the total population, the population growth rate has decreased steadily – in 1991-2001 it was 21.5% and by 2011 it was 17.7%. In fact, the fertility rate is already dipping below the replacement rate. Replacement fertility is the minimum fertility level needed for a generation to replace itself. Though it will change if the country has high infant mortality rate or a heavily skewed sex ratio due to the practice of female foeticide and infanticide that it still prevalent in many countries including India. But overall, the population growth continues to decline and the world rushes towards the last phase of demographic transition, which means we shall not burden our Earth anymore.

So, does that mean population control is slowly working? .

The effects of the growth that we have seen are far beyond the realms of sustainability. The social, economic, cultural and most importantly ecological consequences are exceedingly complex and in many cases, out of control. A smart action to go along with responsible family planning will be education for all. Education, not in its traditional sense but in a way that teaches people how to use the existing resources wisely, to not procreate just to have another earning member. Empowerment of women by both education and reproductive health can lead to a great impact on population growth rate too. Most importantly, to change our consumption pattern and deal with the structural over-consumption of the world’s ‘developed countries’.

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