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What Lies Ahead after the World’s Population Reaches 8 Billion? 

Cody Peluso Aug 12, 2022

November 15, 2022, will be a historic date in humanity’s history. According to the United Nations, that is the date when the Earth’s population will reach the 8 billion mark. Never before have so many people been alive on Earth at one time. How much higher will the world’s population go?  

The answer depends on how effective we are at empowering each person alive on this earth. We move forward, together. We harness the power of 8 billion people, for powerful change.  

Hitting the 8 Billion Mark 

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There is also the possibility, according to the United Nations, that we will never reach 9 billion. What makes that possible? 

Population growth has accelerated greatly in the last 100 years. In 1952 Earth’s population was 2.5 billion people. It took over two millennia to reach that level. Over the next 70 years, the total population grew by 5.5 billion. Current projections are that the next 70 years will see another 2.5 billion people added. The 20th century was a century of rapid population growth. What made this possible?  

Changing behavior and seizing all the opportunities, by working together.  

Our population growth came from very positive developments – major advances in medical technologies, life expectancy increasing, child mortality rates dropping. Population growth also came from very negative realities that deny people the ability to make their own choices about when and if they will have children – like gender inequity, low rates of girls’ education, gender-based violence, and child marriage.  

It’s also important to note that where population growth continues at a relatively rapid pace, it can often put pressure on human development. “Rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combating hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult,” Liu Zhenmin, UN undersecretary-general for Economic and Social Affairs said. “Conversely, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those related to health, education and gender equality, will contribute to reducing fertility levels and slowing global population growth.”  

Many nations have taken steps to slow their growth. Some nations have embraced the rights of children and women. Some communities have recognized reproductive rights are human rights. Some nations have recognized that we only have one earth and need to protect it. Population Media Center works in communities, with communities, to create large scale, positive change because we believe that is the way to change the world. This is the way we move forward, together. This is the way we harness the power of 8 billion people, for powerful change.  

What Is Coming Next? 

Family planning only works if it involves families actually planning for themselves and their livelihoods. It doesn’t work if a government or powerful institution is telling them what their family must do. Family planning must include and advance human rights, including robust reproductive rights.  Anything else strips away power and autonomy and is wrong. Plain and simple.  

We must empower people with reproductive autonomy and the ability to determine their own future. We must build stronger, healthier, more sustainable, and more flourishing communities for both today and tomorrow. 

Population growth is slowing down from the highs of the 20th century. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs observed that growth is at its slowest since the middle of the 20th century. Still, this reduction in growth rate may not prevent the world from surpassing the 10 billion point in population before the end of this century. The only way to prevent unsustainable growth is by growing our collective impact.  

The reasons why we must work together are all around us. For example, the global effects of climate change are everywhere. For example, rising temperatures in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The MENA region is experiencing severe desertification, reducing its ability to increase agricultural production to meet the needs of a growing populace. Some nations in this region have already experienced unrest as a result of food shortages. All these factors are combining to create a potential humanitarian crisis.  

But, we can combat these combination of problems by working together. We can empower women and girls. We can respect the earth. We can work together to give all living beings – including living and breathing ecosystems – the power to make their own choices and the power to change the world. We know we can’t solve any of these issues individually. We can recognize the 8 billion possibilities our future presents and see each person for the unique gifts they truly are. We can work together to slow population growth by recognizing the urgency in empowering everyone in our collective movement.