A child is born and world population hits 7 billion
Countries around the world marked the world’s population reaching 7 billion Monday with lavish ceremonies for newborn infants symbolizing the milestone and warnings that there may be too many humans for the planet’s resources.
While demographers are unsure exactly when the world’s population will reach the 7 billion mark, the U.N. is using Monday to symbolically mark the day.
A string of festivities are being held worldwide, with a series of symbolic 7-billionth babies being born.
The celebrations began in the Philippines, where baby Danica May Camacho was greeted with cheers and an explosion of photographers’ flashbulbs at Manila’s Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital.
The Guardian newspaper reported that Danica, whose name means morning star, had been chosen by the U.N. to be one of a number of symbolic 7 billionth babies. It is not known who the actual baby is.
Danica arrived two minutes before midnight Sunday, but doctors decided that was close enough to count for a Monday birthday.
‘She looks so lovely’
The baby received a shower of gifts, from a chocolate cake marked “7B Philippines” to a gift certificate for shoes.
“She looks so lovely,” the mother, Camille Galura, whispered as she cradled the 5.5-pound baby, who was born about a month premature.
The baby was the second for Galura and her partner, Florante Camacho, a struggling driver who supports the family on a tiny salary.
Dr. Eric Tayag, of the Philippines’ Department of Health, said later that the birth came with a warning.
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“Seven billion is a number we should think about deeply,” he said.
“We should really focus on the question of whether there will be food, clean water, shelter, education and a decent life for every child,” he said. “If the answer is ‘no,’ it would be better for people to look at easing this population explosion.”
Chart: 7 billion people (on this page)
The Guardian reported that children chosen to mark the world’s population reaching six billion and five billion — Adnan Nevic, 12, of Bosnia Herzogovina, and Matej Gaspar, from Croatia, respectively — felt they had been forgotten.
“We saw Kofi Annan as almost like a godfather to him,” Adnan’s father, Jasminko, told the Guardian. Adnan said: “He held me up when I was two days old but since then we have heard nothing from them.”
Population growth rate slows
According to the United Nations Population Fund, the seven-billionth child is most likely to be a boy born in India or China, but the trend of fertility in the longer term is in a different direction, Dudley Poston, a professor of sociology and demographics at Texas AM University, told Reuters.
For the first time ever, the human reproduction rate is slowing, in many places slowing significantly, and the slowing growth is not only happening in Europe and Japan, he said.
“Once your fertility rates drops below two, it is very very hard to get it to go back up again,” Poston told Reuters.
“We now have 75 countries in the world where the fertility rate is below two,” meaning the average woman is having fewer than two children.
Video: India’s growing population (on this page)
That is far below the rate of 2.2 to 2.3 considered optimal to hold the population steady, factoring in the number of females who have no children or who don’t live to reach childbearing age.
While he said Europe and the industrialized democracies of east Asia are the poster children for demographic shift, low birth rates are also being seen in Brazil, in China, and in the Islamic Middle East, where the fertility rate in the United Arab Emirates is 1.8.
“Japan is losing more people today than they’re gaining,” Poston said. “South Korea has an alarmingly low fertility rate, 1.1.”
Not long ago, the opposite was true. In 1970, the average fertility rate worldwide was 4.5, leading to predictions of demographic doom in books like Robert Silverberg’s “The World Inside” and Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb.”
Wars, unrest once feared
They saw a world where hoards of wildly reproducing humans desperate for dwindling food supplies would destroy social cohesion and spark wars and societal unrest.
But a funny thing happened on the way to population Armageddon.
Poston said the fastest growth period in the history of the world was in the mid to late 1960s, which prompted a gloomy outlook for the future.