As of January 1st 2021, there are around 7.8 billion humans on Earth. By 2064, the global population is expected to reach its peak, near 9.73 billion [note that another estimate predicts 10.9 billion by 2100].
We’ve talked about agriculture, transportation, waste management, and many more important topics. In each section, the bottom line has always been that we need to reduce our energy/resource consumption to decrease our impacts on the environment. Successfully doing so would mean mitigating climate change and biodiversity loss. Additionally, most of the solutions we’ve presented stem from a basic concept that we were taught in kindergarten: sharing is caring.
A growing population won’t help us reach sustainability or harmony with nature – but nearing 10 billion people is certainly manageable if we learn to share resources. Not just between humans, but with all the natural world.
Population growth rates are less than half of what they were 50 years ago, but they’re still positive [i.e. population is increasing but less quickly]. That’s mostly because lower birth rates are being countered by both lower death rates and a higher number of fertile women [less births/woman but more women counter each other].
The whole process where the population size increases, peaks, then decreases is called a demographic transition. With this global demographic transition almost completed, the older generation’s share of the population is set to increase every year for the foreseeable future. This means that the younger generations, including the ones being plopped out now, are likely going to be around for a while – and once they get old they’ll have a much stronger voice in our societies than our seniors do now. For that reason, we can’t mess up this next batch of humans.
We have to invest in our future to develop sustainable societies. Quality education around the globe will give us the best return on all possible investments.
More than ever, developed and developing countries need to teach sustainability and environmental responsibility. Science, literature, history, and geography are all extremely important, but we need more courses that can help students relate ‘success’ to other things than just money. Alas, that’s a hard lesson to teach when textbooks are extremely expensive – instead of being tools that encourage accessible learning for all.
For companies that have positioned themselves as leaders of our modern societies, it’s important to remember that with great influence comes great responsibility to do good and help others, instead of exploiting the less fortunate and their resources.
For environmental sustainability and prosperity, we’ll have to promote facts and intellectual curiosity over personal opinions. “Let’s agree to disagree” doesn’t work when scientists and experts that have spent their life in a field are opposed by village idiots.
We’ll also have to be wary of ‘traditions’ that are highly respected in certain areas of the world, but that keep parts of their population grounded. A prime example in many cultures is the terrifying number of young girls married off to much older men – before they have a chance to complete their basic education and get out of the flytrap. Another good example would be voluntary homeschooling, where kids are often quickly secluded from the world and other sources of information. That’s great for parents that are looking for a clone, but wouldn’t it be best to let the kids learn all sorts of stuff so that they can make up their own mind when faced with contradicting pieces of information?
Covid-19 deniers, anti-vaxxers, and Q-anon supporters are a few of the latest examples of systemic distrust in our governments – without any tangible proof. Listening to these supporters speak with confidence shows how vital quality education is. In some of the most developed countries on Earth, it makes no sense that such a significant share of the population would lose a ‘Tic-Tac-Toe’ game against an 11th century serf.
When we say we need everyone to be educated, we mean it. Half the population won’t do. Women need to have the same access to education as men to transform the society that didn’t let their mothers learn, work, drive, or earn equal wages. The same goes for minorities.
There’s an extremely visible correlation between a region’s education quality and its birth rates. Low-quality education typically leads to high birth rates of children who will also receive poor education, if any. This vicious circle has been broken in many parts of the world, but not everywhere.
In addition, increasing sex education and access to contraceptives are 2 surefire ways to reduce population growth anywhere in the world.
Education impacts the way we treat one another, and how we co-exist with nature. One example is the way we hunt down pangolins, among many other poached animals. These scaled mammals are being hunted by humans for their scales’ supposed medicinal properties – even though there’s no evidence to back it up.
Once the majority of us clue in that we can’t live without nature, we’ll start making decisions that make sense. Unfortunately, the world has other problems than just the environmental crisis right now – but nothing that better education and increased sharing of our resources can’t fix. Simply put, better education will help an increasing population shape a better future for itself.