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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

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It’s seven billion and counting

It was indeed a matter for celebration as the world’s population passed the seven billionth milestone on October 31, 2011. It was also a symbolic day across the globe

The first child born on this day in the enchanting, now peaceful Sri Lanka was at the state-run Castle Street Maternity Home. It was not only a symbolic day for the baby and the parents but also a day to remember and cherish throughout the child’s life as, when she grows up, she could look at the picture hung on her modest home, holding her by no less a person than the First Lady of Sri Lanka, Shiranthi Rajapaksa.

It was also reported that, in the Philippines, a newborn baby was picked to symbolise the seven billionth addition to the global population. She was born at the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, a public institution in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Occasion to rejoice

The child and her parents were met by the UN officials and presented them with a cake and a certificate of appreciation, the symbolic gesture of the UN reported to have displayed when they visited the babies born on this day that were reported or made public. Gifts for the child from the local benefactors, including a scholarship grant and a livelihood package for the parents to set themselves up in business, were among the other gifts they received on this significant day.

Other countries too have celebrated the births of babies on this day in various forms: Zambia throwing a seven billion song contest; Russia showering gifts on selected newborns; and Ivory Coast putting on a comedy show.

Babies, like sweet-scented rose buds just opened up, are sure to win the hearts of any human being. Their births are, indeed, an occasion to rejoice, and every corner of the globe has reportedly done it.

Skilled workers

But, there looms a darker outlook to the unprecedented growth of the population over decades.

The resultant pressures added to food production, housing, educational facilities, environment and infrastructure across the countries, especially in the developing countries, make the picture a bit gloomy.

It is projected that the world’s population would balloon to more than 10 billion by the end of the century. Three centuries back, in 1800, the population stood only at one billion.

The rapid but steady increase has created wide fluctuations in the demographic profile and the geographic distribution of people.

There is a widening gap between the younger and the old, the rich and the poor in almost every country, and between the countries themselves. There are more people now in developing countries than in developed, industrialised countries.

The high fertility rates in most developing countries have increased. The resultant increases in the population perpetuate poverty with high figures in unemployment as against the developed countries with low rates of fertility, brought about by improved birth control methods, and women putting off marriage for studies and employment. These countries, on the contrary, have come up with problems of shortage of skilled workers to sustain the growth of the economy and their social security schemes.

Cultural and religious attitudes can be attributed to the problems of developing countries, particularly in Africa, with no adequate birth control methods to add to their woes.

Greener pastures

Most of these countries come closer to rich countries, crossing the geographical borders, as migrants or economic refugees. Migration has now become a vexed diplomatic problem. Refugees frequently make perilous journeys in dilapidated boats across wild seas to reach greener pastures.

The increase in life expectancy as a result of improved medical, sanitation and nutrition and health-consciousness of people have, no doubt, added a greater dimension to the population growth.

There is always a darker side to any problem the humanity faces. The current trend of population expansion may be slowed down by natural forces, as in the past, or by the amazing technology we now experience.

It is also possible for technological developments even to overcome most of the problems as advocated by those against the Malthusian theory at the time.

Homo sapiens are clever creatures, and doomsayers often forget that mankind has a genius for adaptability and survival.

Larger the number of people the earth accommodates, the greater would be the people’s attempts to surmount the problems of over-population. Perhaps, the arrival of the world’s seven billionth human should be, as the birth of any child, a cause for celebration and rejoice.

 

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