Stopping Population Growth: “Get Used to it”

Have you ever thought about how many humans there are on this planet? The simple answer is a lot. But by digging a little further, it is evident that the Earth’s population is continuing to grow at astonishing speeds. The world’s population was recorded by to be at 3 billion in 1960 and 7.125 billion in 2013. BBC estimates that the population will grow to 10 billion by 2083. Many people have seen this as an obvious problem, but what is to be done?

Professor of International Health at Karolinska Institutet and co-founder of Gapminder, Hans Rosling makes the case in one of his TED talks that the answer is to eliminate poverty. One might think that the concept is a little counter intuitive. Wouldn’t an increase in GDP (spending) and reduction of poverty cause more people to live longer and increase fertility rates if people are more well off?

Well one of the big facts when talking about population and fertility rates is that poor families in developing countries tend to have more children. This is why Rosling says that getting rid of poverty would actually stop population growth, because the poor would no longer have the need for 5 or 6 children.

Parents in developing countries use children as a source not only of satisfaction, but also income and insurance. People in poverty don’t have enough income to save or invest, so they try to have many children, who will hopefully be able to take care of them in old age.This is the insurance function of having children. Of course there is also the income function as well. Parents will use their children as a source of income as they are able to work for the family business or bring in income from a different job as they grow up.

You may say that this is an unpleasant way to view children, but poor families are forced to contemplate these types of factors when thinking about the future. Rosling considered this when looking for a way to reduce population growth. He decided to focus on these factors and said that we could stop population growth by getting these people out of poverty.

Of course, actually ending poverty is not as easy as simply saying the words. It would take a massive coordination of the world and help from developed countries to bring those in poverty, out. But as Rosling said, “the role of the… west, in the new world is to become the foundation… do it well and get used to it.”

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