Press releases

Monday 03 Sep 2001

6.2 Billion world population put pressure on human life-support systems

World Population Day July 11, 2001 - Humans are growing like cancer on earth. Combined population growth and increased consumption of natural resources per capita are merging to collapse the very life-support system on spaceship earth. Right now, on World Population Day, the number of people on Earth is estimated at 6,169,232,446 and climbing. In the three minutes it may take a reader to finish this article, the world's population will have increased by 438 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Speaking on the occasion of World Population Day, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan linked the growing population to ecological stress on the planet's resources. Calling attention to deforestation, pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, he said, "Our ecological footprints on the earth are heavier than ever before," adding that "humanity must solve a complex equation." Further stating that, "we must stabilize our numbers, but, equally important, we must stabilize our use of resources and ensure sustainable development for all.

The United Nations Population Division says world population is currently growing at an annual rate of 1.2 per cent, or 77 million people per year. Six countries account for half of this annual growth: India for 21 percent, China for 12 percent, Pakistan for five percent, Nigeria for four percent, Bangladesh for four per cent, and Indonesia for three percent.

China's first exposition on new technology and products in the family planning and reproductive health fields opened in Beijing today, marking World Population Day with 300 exhibits. World population is expected to be around 9.3 billion by 2050, the UN estimates, but it could be anywhere between 7.9 billion and 10.9 billion, depending on fertility, longevity and rates of death.

To watch the World Population grow, visit To access in depth analysis of World Population Trends, visit the United Nations Development Programme: . The World Population Film and Video Festival is online at: . Source, "Growing Population Stamps Heavy Ecological Footprint," Environment News Service (ENS), New York, July 11, 2001. Get the full story at .


Over-consumption of resources by a small developed population also a major problem

It not just population growth, it is the growth of consumption per capita by hog nations like the United States, Canada, and those in Europe. Like vacuums, they suck up resources from around the world to satisfy their needs.

For example, coffee and pineapple plantations are grown on the best fertile bottom lands of Africa for export to the North, while the local people are forced onto the marginal farmlands in the hills and semi-arid deserts. The United States with one-quarter billion people consumes more resources than one and a half billion people of China.

The wealthiest 20 percent of the world's population for consuming 80 percent of the goods and services produced from the earth's resources.

The average rich-nation citizen used 7.4 kilowatts (kW) of energy in 1990-a continuous flow of energy equivalent to that powering 74 100-watt lightbulbs. The average citizen of a poor nation, by contrast, used only 1 kW. There were 1.2 billion people in the rich nations, so their total environmental impact, as measured by energy use, was 1.2 billion x 7.4 kW, or 8.9 terawatts (TW)-8.9 trillion watts. Some 4.1 billion people lived in poor nations in 1990, hence their total impact (at 1 kW a head) was 4.1 TW. The relatively small population of rich people therefore accounts for roughly two-thirds of global environmental destruction, as measured by energy use. From this perspective, the most important population problem is overpopulation in the industrialized nations.

The United States poses the most serious threat of all to human life support systems. It has a gigantic population, the third largest on Earth, more than a quarter of a billion people. Americans are superconsumers, and use inefficient technologies to feed their appetites. Each, on average, uses 11 kW of energy, twice as much as the average Japanese, more than three times as much as the average Spaniard, and over 100 times as much as an average Bangladeshi. Clearly, achieving an average family size of 1.5 children in the United States (which would still be larger than the 1.3 child average in Spain) would benefit the world much more than a similar success in Bangladesh. . See the report entitled, ""Population Reports, Population and the Environment: The Global Challenge," published by the Johns Hopkins Information Program, at the website .


Reducing our ecological footprint

The Ecological Footprint measures what each person consumes of nature's resources. It shows how much productive land and water we occupy to produce all the resources we consume and to take in all the waste we make. (Redefining Progress, 2000). In other words, an ecological footprint represents the average amount of bio-productive land and ocean required to sustain an individual or a community. It has been calculated that "nature provides an average of 5.5 acres of bio-productive space for every person in the world. With a global population of 10 billion for the year 2050, the available space will be reduced to 3 acres. This should also give room for the 25 million other species. Already, humanity's footprint may be over 30 percent larger than what the world has to offer as it consumes more than what nature can provide. The average American uses 30 acres to support his or her current lifestyle. This corresponds to the size of 30 football fields put together. In comparison, the average Canadian lives on a footprint one third less, and the average Italian on 55 percent less. Source, Redefining Progress website at .


Not enough food for growing human populations

A report prepared by Dr. David Pimentel, Cornell University et. al, entitled, "Impact of Population Growth on Food Supplies and Environment," warns that as the world population continues to grow geometrically, great pressure is being placed on arable land, water, energy, and biological resources to provide an adequate supply of food while maintaining the integrity of our ecosystem. It states that according to the World Bank and the United Nations, from 1 to 2 billion humans are now malnourished, indicating a combination of insufficient food, low incomes, and inadequate distribution of food.

This is the largest number of hungry humans ever recorded in history. In China about 80 million are now malnourished and hungry. Based on current rates of increase, the world population is projected to double from roughly 6 billion to more than 12 billion in less than 50 years (Pimentel et al., 1994). As the world population expands, the food problem will become increasingly severe, conceivably with the numbers of malnourished reaching 3 billion. The per capita availability of world grains, which make up 80 per cent of the world's food, has been declining for the past 15 years (Kendall and Pimentel, 1994).

More than 99 per cent of the world's food supply comes from the land, while less than 1 per cent is from oceans and other aquatic habitats. Nearly one-third of the world's fertile cropland (1.5 billion hectares) has been abandoned during the past 40 years because erosion has made it unproductive (Pimentel et al., 1995).

Solving erosion losses is a long-term problem: it takes 500 years to form 25 mm of soil under agricultural conditions. Most replacement of eroded agricultural land is now coming from marginal and forest land. The pressure for agricultural land accounts for 60 to 80 percent of the world's deforestation. Despite such land replacement strategies, world cropland per capita has been declining and is now only 0.27 ha per capita; in China only 0.08 ha now is available. This is only 15 per cent of the 0.5 ha per capita considered minimal for a diverse diet similar to that of the U.S. and Europe.

Water is critical for all crops which require and transpire massive amounts of water during the growing season. For example, a hectare of corn will transpire more than 5 million liters of water during one growing season. This means that more than 8 million liters of water per hectare must reach the crop. In total, agricultural production consumes more fresh water than any other human activity. Specifically, about 87 per cent of the world's fresh water is consumed or used up by agriculture and, thus, is not recoverable.

Source, "Impact of Population Growth on Food Supplies and Environment," by David Pimentel, Xuewen Huang, Ana Cordova, and Marcia Pimentel, Presented at AAAS Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD, 9 February 1996.

See the full report at website . Contact Zero Population Growth, 1400 Sixteenth Street, N.W., Suite 320, Washington, D.C. 20036, ph. 202-332-2200, fax 202-332-2302, email . Visit their website at


"Amsterdam declaration", hundreds of the world's leading scientists urge political government action to protect the environment.

Almost 1,400 scientists from all over the world have signed their name to the "Amsterdam Declaration" on the state of the planet and call for strong actions in a number of areas such as population, fisheries management and forest protection, etc.

The scientists warn that the world faces significant environmental problems that encompass and go way beyond global warming, they say. "The accelerating human transformation of the Earth's environment is not sustainable. Therefore the business-as-usual option of dealing with the Earth is not an option," the declaration states.

Because the Earth behaves as a single integrated system, climate change cannot be separated from changes in biodiversity, vegetation, land cover and ocean circulation. The scientists say that climate change is a component of global change. Even if we were to completely stop emitting greenhouse gases tomorrow, there would still be many profound challenges facing us.

The declaration points out that humans are now such a dominant force on the planet and are making such dramatic changes to all aspects of the physical environment that the Earth system is beginning to respond. Though it is tempting to think that the Earth will continue to respond in gradual and predictable ways, there is now mounting evidence that some changes may occur abruptly and without warning. "These issues are not simply interrelated environmental issues but are development issues threatening our ability to meet the human needs of adequate food, clean water, a healthy environment and safe shelter," said Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a participant at the conference.

The Declaration was signed at a conference held from July 10-13, 2001 in Amsterdam and was attended by 1,400 global change scientists from over 100 countries and all continents of the world. For more information contact Susannah Eliott ( or Paola Fastmark ( - Phone: 46-8-8739-556, Fax: 46-8-1664-05. Download a copy of the declaration at . See the press release at the website

Monday 03 Sep 2001
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