Washington (BWA)--According to the United Nations, the world population is expected to rise to eight billion persons in 2025 and nine billion by 2050, up from the current 6.9 billion people. In 1970, there were 3.7 billion people living on Planet Earth, 4.4 billion in 1980, 5.2 billion in 1990, and six billion in 2000.
Yet there are fears that some countries, such as Japan and some countries in Western Europe, may suffer due to aging populations, or low birthrates. "Because declining fertility and increasing longevity lead to population ageing, population ageing is fastest in the low-fertility countries," a UN press release on May 3 states. At the same time, "population ageing is slowest among the high-fertility countries, which have still a very young population," the UN says.
The paradox is that countries that enjoy higher standards of living in economic terms tend to have low birthrates, while countries with high birthrates tend to lave lower standards of living economically. Yet, the economies of Japan, Germany, Italy and others with lower birth rates and that are commonly regarded as among the wealthier nations, are threatened by low birthrates, as younger persons, whose share of the population is decreasing relative to their elders, shoulder the burden of caring for their aging parents.
But population is not just about numbers, it is about the availability and sharing of resources. The steep rise and accelerated pace in population expansion in some countries and regions raise questions as to whether Earth can sustain such burgeoning population growth in light of diminishing or threatened natural assets, including water and food, all necessities for survival. Future wars, some analysts suggest, will be fought over natural reserves such as oil, but especially water.
What is likely is that countries with lower population growth and density, but which own or control much of the world's resources will expand their control over the world's depleted resources, while countries with high population growth and density will have access to fewer resources. But research suggests that the problem of resources is one of access rather than availability. "There are enough resources and know-how to grow enough, store enough, distribute enough, provide enough for every person on earth," the BWA observed as far back as 1982.
The solution to the impending dilemma seems to rest on a willingness for high population-growth countries to take measurable steps to curtail population increase while improving the lifespan of their citizens, and for wealthier countries to adopt more enlightened policies on immigration to address their own shortage of workers.
Baptists and other Christians have roles to play in preventing or mitigating the effects brought on by the "the depletion of nonrenewable resources, explosive population growth, worldwide deforestation, [and] pollution of air, land, and water" (BWA Resolution #1, 1989). We should exert "our influences through industry, business, agriculture, government and as persons to protect and restore the delicate balance of nature." We should also "recognize and accept our responsibility for stewardship of God's good earth."