Newborns in a maternity hospital in Sofia, Bulgaria, October 14, 2022 (AFP / Nikolay DOYCHINOV)
We will officially be 8 billion people on Earth on November 15, is that too much? Not necessarily, answer the experts, who rather warn about the overconsumption of the planet’s resources by the richest part of humanity.
“Eight billion is a major milestone for humanity”, notes the head of the United Nations Population Fund Natalia Kanem, welcoming the increase in life expectancy and the drop in infant mortality. and maternal.
“However, I realize that this is not a moment necessarily celebrated by all. Some worry about an overcrowded world, with far too many inhabitants and insufficient resources to live on,” she adds, calling not to be “afraid” of a number.
So, are there too many of us on this Earth? This is the wrong question, according to many experts.
“Too much for whom? Too much for what?
“I view the question of how many people the Earth can support as a two-sided question: natural constraints or limits, and choices made by humans.”
– “Gluttons” –
Choices that mean that we consume far more biological resources (forests, fish, land, etc.) than the Earth can regenerate each year and that this overconsumption, particularly of fossil fuels, always leads to more CO2 emissions responsible for the warming.
Graph showing the evolution of the world’s population and the various forecasts, according to the UN (AFP / )
In terms of resources, it would take 1.75 Earth to meet the needs of the population in a sustainable way, according to the NGOs Global Footprint Network and WWF.
On the climate side, the latest report by UN climate experts (IPCC) noted that population growth is indeed one of the major drivers of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, but less so than economic growth.
“Often we are stupid. We have lacked vision. We are gluttons. This is where the problem and the choices lie”, insists Joel Cohen, calling despite everything not to consider humanity as a “plague” .
“Our impact on the planet is determined much more by our behavior than by our numbers,” adds Jennifer Sciubba, researcher in residence at the Wilson Center think tank.
“It’s lazy and damaging to continue to highlight overpopulation,” she continues, pointing to the risk that rich countries, instead of changing their own behavior, blame the problem on developing countries that drive population growth. .
Whereas if everyone lived like an inhabitant of India, humanity would only need 0.8 planets each year, compared to more than 5 planets for an inhabitant of the United States, according to the Global Footprint Network and WWF.
Too numerous or not, these 8 billion people are already there, and the population will continue to grow, with 9.7 billion projected in 2050 by the UN, which notes that due to the large number of young people, a very much of this growth will take place even if the countries with the highest fertility were to fall today to two children per woman.
– Womens rights –
Map showing population density around the world (AFP/)
A question of fertility directly linked to women’s rights, which provokes immediate defensive reactions even from those who would lean towards a “yes” to the question “are there too many of us on this Earth”.
The NGO Population Matters thus pleads for a drop in the world population, but “only by positive, voluntary and rights-respecting means”, explains to AFP its director Robin Maynard, opposing any “policy of control”. births imposed by the state.
The Drawdown Project makes education and family planning one of its 100 or so solutions to curb global warming: “Globally, a smaller population with sustainable consumption levels would reduce the demand for energy, transport, materials, food and natural resources”.
Because “every person born on this Earth adds additional stress on the planet,” said Vanessa Perez, an analyst at the World Resources Institute.
“There were already too many of us years ago”, but “it’s a very thorny question”, she admits to AFP, refusing that “the elites take hold of this narrative to ask to cap growth demographics in the countries of the South”.
A baby being fed on September 13, 2022 in the hospital in Gabrovo, Bulgaria (AFP / Nikolay DOYCHINOV)
A narrative that she prefers to center around “equity” and the “distribution” of resources, in particular access to food.
Just like Joel Cohen. Even if there is mathematically enough food produced for 8 billion inhabitants, “800 million people, one in 10 people on the planet, are chronically malnourished”, he insists.
“The concept of ‘too many’ is a distraction from the real issues related to the well-being of the human species and the species with which we share the planet”.