A Challenge From a Planet About to House 7B People

Time to change the way we think about prosperity: Joel Cohen
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2011 11:07 AM CDT
Joel Cohen: World Population, 7B
The world's population could reach 7 billion in the next week.   (Shutterstock)

The world’s population is set to hit 7 billion within a week, according to UN estimates, and we’re looking at 10 billion people by century’s end. And that raises a new challenge for Westerners, who must must "shake off, at last, the view that large and growing numbers of people represent power and prosperity," writes author and population expert Joel Cohen in the New York Times. This idea that "more workers, more consumers, more soldiers" would lead to a prosperous nation is a long-running one—and, now, one that we have no more use for.

The "dire" predictions that a vast population will lead to starvation are similarly unjustified, Cohen notes—we're fine for the "short term." Still, about half the world is living on $2 a day, at least 850 million people suffer from "food insecurity or chronic undernourishment," water shortages will rise, and our population will grow more elderly. "Henceforth we need to measure our growth in prosperity: not by the sheer number of people who inhabit the Earth, but by how well we satisfy basic human needs ... and care for our biological and physical environment, our only home." Click to read Cohen's full piece. (Read more world population stories.)

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