Happy Birthday to the 7 billionth person!

gift boxHave you heard? The world population hits 7 billion today!

Conflicting reports put the 7 billionth baby as having been born in a few different places (The Philippines! India! China!) but it matters little to me: for the most part the milestone is symbolic.

So .. what of it? Behind all the rhetoric and symbolism, what does this milestone really mean for us, for our families, and for our quality of life? What kind of world is the 7 billionth baby in being born into?

Lots of people have weighed in on what this all means.

As Miriam pointed out back in July, coverage of global issues related to population, health, and development can easily take on an alarmist tone, and often missing from the conversation are the voices of the people most affected. I joked in a recent piece on the PSI Healthy Lives blog that I believe it to be a convenient coincidence that the date of the 7 billionth birth corresponds with Halloween, given the extreme scare tactics that have so thoroughly characterized discussions about world population.

So today, join me in avoiding the alarmism. Here’s a great takedown of population alarmism over at the Crunk Feminist Collective. I also really like this take on the importance of comprehensive sexuality education in the context of this population milestone.

Another angle on this topic (and a way to avoid the alarmist rhetoric) is to use the population framework to raise issues related to resources, consumption, and sustainability. As Miriam noted on World Population Day, “while the number of people on earth is obviously an important factor in sustainability, climate change and resources, the more important element is often use of resources.”

My own interpretation of this milestone is that it’s cause to put a magnifying glass on youth and young people in the world. Because you can’t address the future of the planet without addressing those people who will determine it, right? Lori luh the kids. From my piece on the PSI Health Lives blog:

The 7 billion figure has been bandied about incessantly, but as Adrienne Germain pointed out in a recent Letter to the Editor published in the New York Times, there are perhaps more telling numbers to consider. “More than half of projected future population growth in developing countries (excluding China) will come from today’s adolescents and young adults,” she writes.

Overwhelmingly, these young people don’t have access to the sexual and reproductive rights and health information and services they need to lead healthy and empowered lives in a world of 7 billion people.

To address “population issues” must become synonymous with addressing their needs.

You can read my whole piece over at the recently relaunched PSI Health Lives blog. And while you’re over there, you can check out their entire issue 7, which is themed around the 7 billion population milestone. Friend of Feministing Jill Filipovic also has a great piece on contraception that’s not to be missed. And for some stunning images related to check out the special feature on Boston.com’s “Big Picture” which really never fails to amaze.

What are your thoughts on this population milestone? What is your wish for the (proverbial) 7 billionth child?

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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