Living on Earth: World Population Day

July 11, 2013 • Family Planning, Reproductive Health, United States, Daily Email Recap

Living on Earth: World Population Day
The United Nations recently issued a report that anticipates world population will reach 9.6 billion people by 2050, an increase from previous projections. Host Steve Curwood talks with Robert Engelman from the Worldwatch Institute about the factors causing this dramatic population increase.


CURWOOD: From the Jennifer and Ted Stanley Studios in Boston, This is Living on Earth. I’m Steve Curwood. There are more than seven billion people alive on Earth today, and a new United Nations report projects population will be pushing 10 billion by 2050. At the same time, climate change is projected to cause significant sea level rise and flooding, as well as more wild fires and destructive storms. It all raises the question of whether our planet can support so many people, especially as resources become scarcer – an important question as we approach July 11, World Population Day. Population expert Robert Engelman is President of the Worldwatch Institute.

ENGELMAN: This new UN report that came out actually says something very significant about population, which is that it is growing faster, particularly in the poorest countries in the world, than demographers had previously thought.

CURWOOD: But let’s look at the regions of the world where you’re expecting to see the most increase in the population. Where should we go?

ENGELMAN: Well, an interesting country to look at is Nigeria. Not too many years ago, the UN demographers thought Nigeria would have about 290 million people in the middle of the century. They’re now projecting 440 million people for the middle of this century. That’s a huge uptick. Chad, Somalia, Uganda, a number of the poorest countries in the world, particularly in sub-saharan Africa, women are having more children than demographers thought they would be at this point in time.

CURWOOD: So as I understand it, the US sends a lot of foreign aid for contraception in the developing world. In fact, I think we’re the largest single donor nation. And yet at times, we’ve had this policy that no funds can go to an institution that supports abortion, or in certain cases, even contraception. How has that strategy changed during the Obama administration?

ENGELMAN: Well, the Obama administration has been more open and tolerant to different approaches to family planning and reproductive health than its predecessor. We’ve gone back and forth between Republican and Democrat presidential administrations restricting aid based on whether providers of family planning also give any advice – just even advice – on abortion. If they even mention abortion, Republican presidents restrict their capacity to provide family planning services with US aid. Obama doesn’t have that restriction. But overall, there just hasn’t been much money put in it. It’s been fairly stagnant, even as the population of women who need family planning is constantly growing, and growing pretty rapidly.

To read the full transcript, please click here:

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