||POINTS OF VIEW:
Robert Engelman, Population Action International
is one of the success stories of the effort that’s been going on really since the 1970s. This
isn’t the result of population control. This is result
of governments and healthcare providers and nonprofit organizations
making available to women and men the means to basically
plan their own pregnancies and have children when they
want to have children.
Frederick Meyerson, Georgetown University
The average person in the United
States produces five times the global average of greenhouse
gases. And when you compare it to Bangladesh it’s more like a hundred
times. When you add 140 or 150 million Americans to the
world population, in terms of consumption, it’s a
really big impact.
Amy Coen, Population Action International
The greatest success story in
the world is that population is slowing – women are getting what they want. They’re
getting family planning. They’re getting the means
to slow their family size. And when they get that. Not
only do you give these people a healthy family, you give
Venkateswar Ramaswamy, Calcutta Community Leader
It's because of years and years of deprivation, poor sanitation,
scarcity of drinking water, general degraded environment,
that a kind of rage builds up, and it just needs small
sparks to set it on fire and riots can break out.
Thomas Homer-Dixon, University of Toronto
It's very easy for the billion
or so people in rich countries in rich countries to forget
exactly what life is like for the 3 to 4 billion very
poor people on this planet. We have to remember that
3 billion on this planet survive on less than $2.00 a
day – somewhere around 1 to
1 1/2 billion survive on less than a dollar a day.
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries.
This is where nearly 145 million people – roughly half
the population of the United States – are crammed into
an area the size of Wisconsin. Not very long ago the average
births per woman was just over six. Throughout Bangladesh’s
countryside, thousands of community health workers are helping
to reduce fertility rates. Today it’s half that and still
Most experts predict that in about fifty years our planet's
population will level off at about nine and a half billion and
then slowly begin to fall. Despite this extraordinary achievement,
there's a dark side to our victory over the population explosion.
It can be found in the crowded urban slums and rural shantytowns
of the developing world.
Too often those of us living with the luxuries
of the West assume that the battle to save the environment
will be fought amid the turmoil of the developing world.
This is where families walk great distances just to gather water
from tainted ponds and streams. Where women search barren landscapes
for scraps of firewood for heating and cooking. And men scratch
out a meager existence on small plots of arid land. While the
unemployed – suffering from extreme poverty and anger – often
turn to violence and even terrorism.
Bangladeshi women carrying water
Too often those of us living with the luxuries of the West assume
that the battle to save the environment will be fought amid the
turmoil of the developing world. But there's another, more familiar
battleground – it's located in our planet's richest country,
the United States.
As a result of immigration and low infant mortality, over the
next fifty years the United State's population is expected to
reach 420 million. The implications are enormous.
Americans live in a hi-tech world of automobiles and factories
requiring huge amounts of energy. Our life styles impose more
than a hundred times the stress on the planet than many of those
in the developing world. This raises one of the most fundamental
questions of our time: can our planet provide future generations
with even the basic necessities of life?
Though our planet is covered by an extraordinary amount of water,
over 97 percent is undrinkable seawater and another 2 percent
is locked-up in our polar ice caps. Satellite imagery shows a
more promising sight – the vast amount of water vapor circling
the Earth. The whitest areas indicate rain or snow – the
only source of our planet's freshwater. A closer view shows intense
activity over the Amazon Basin of South America.
We have journeyed here to dramatize the inequitable distribution
of our planet’s fresh water. The amount of rainwater collected
by the Amazon is enormous. In fact the river carries one fifth
of the world’s fresh water.
Amazon fisherman, Brazil
However the Amazon also flows through one of our planet's most
sparsely populated regions – a treasure of biodiversity
and indigenous cultures isolated from the rest of the world.
But as a result of its remote location, relatively few can benefit.
Unlike the Amazon, many of our planet's greatest rivers are
in danger of running dry. That includes the Amu Darya, the Nile,
the Colorado, the Mekong, and the Yellow River. In a world that's
growing by 80 million people each year – and where the
demand for water doubles every 20 years – this doesn't
bode well for the state of our planet, especially in the cities
of the world.
Recently, our planet’s urban population reached a watershed
mark in recorded history. It may have happened when a Kurdish
refugee sought relief in Istanbul, or a woman left Peru’s
countryside to give birth in the slums of Lima, or an unemployed
student left his village in Guatemala for a job in New York City,
or a young rice farmer started a new life working in the food
stalls of Shanghai.
The exact person or location is not important but the event
was truly historic. For the first time the urban population of
our planet outnumbers those living in rural areas. In 1950 there
were 86 cities with a population over one million. Today there
are more than 400. Within ten years 600 cities will each be home
to over a million people.