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 Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

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

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  • http://feministing.com/members/mrtweed/ Ali

    There is inevitably going to be a limit to the human population so I believe it’s wrong to call the entire mood alarmist but certainly there are articles that are. I have a degree in biology and intend to enter into research to increase yield in agriculture because there is clearly a danger that access to food, where we still fail as a global society, is only going to get worse. In many countries demand has out-stretched supply for food and water that in many cases ethics falls behind to pragmatism; such as the expanding use of GM crops (which I’m entirely in favour of). The great success of the human race is the ability to influence our environment so much that we have been able to dictate the ecological niches we fill but in doing this we have exploited resources beyond sustainability and this isn’t just those that give us luxuries.

    Thankfully there is plenty of R&D being done that intends to change the status quo and allow us to more adequately cope but it is a business encapsulated in companies that profit most from market capitalism which supply fundings only to those that will provide more or less assured returns. If things continue like this the oil industry will continue to purchase or push out alternative energy patents, Monsanto will internalise and monopolise agricultural science for the next 100 years and the big pharma companies will keep science quiet from small discovery til big marketable pill which reduces peer review and spread of ideas.

    Eventually, before any real infringement upon the lives of us humans, our civil rights will be infringed upon on because at some point there will be an instance where continuing seems much better than sacraficing these intangibles.

    I strongly doubt that society as we know it will exist in the next 100 years and this is not due to an organic change of culture if today was merely kept going for that period but because society will begin running on fumes in some areas of sustainability. For now there is a real vanity where in Europe people will tear apart and destroy whole fields of GM crops for ethical reasons they hold…yet in central Africa people break into barbed wire enclosures to tear GM test crops out the ground…to replant them in their own fields because one failed crop can kill them or thrust them into absolute poverty. I think we are living at the hieght of human freedom, happiness and exploration and as such it is the best time to live but I also believe that at some point in the future we will dip below this level even if more achievements are made in the time leading upto this cataclysm by mm of rainfall.