Thursday, February 4, 2016

Population Concerns

One look at the world’s population explosion in the last two centuries provokes concern. Over seven billion souls inhabit the planet, six billion more than the world population at the beginning of the 19th century. The problem is not physical overcrowding. The capacity of the Earth is ample, but every location does not appeal to Earth inhabitants as desirable or even adequate. In many places, particularly in the “third world,” personal survival supersedes desirability.

In our current world, developing nations account for over three-quarters of the world’s population and are largely responsible for the ongoing population increase. The increase occurs in tandem with high fertility rate, high poverty levels, low economic development, poor utilization of natural resources, and heavy dependence on industrialized nations for financing. These economically poor nations have high rates of illiteracy and disease and are technologically less advanced. For some autocratic and otherwise unstable nations, an abundance of natural resources is actually detrimental to solving their problems—some national leaders use their abundant resources to indulge their worst instincts. We do not assign blame to the average citizens of these countries. We note, instead, existing problems inherent in those countries.

A few nations, notably China, have implemented unique responses in their attempt to limit their population. Their birth rate has declined, but so has their mortality rate. Births have been declining owing to forced abortion and other undesirable practices. Their actions have contributed to an aging population and an imbalance in the ratio of males to females. China and India are the two most populous nations in the world, comprising 36% of all Earth residents. India will surpass China’s population in 2028, making up the 126 million by which they currently trail China.

Least developed and less developed countries in the world will contribute virtually all the world population increase projected until the year 2050. This increase is projected to be approximately two billion more residents than at present. These countries comprise approximately 85% of total world population. More developed countries, which includes the US and Western Europe, will contribute much less to the population increase in the next 35 years. These countries currently comprise approximately 15% of total world population.

Shining through the welter of population and demographic statistics is the question of how humanity adheres to the mandate of Genesis 1:28. Did God have in mind a planned, measured, coherent population growth plan for mankind? Does the population explosion from one billion to 7.2 billion in the past 200 years conform to the will of God? Do we have divine guidelines for human population trends? These are difficult questions without clear answers.

Our ability to pursue knowledge is a gift of the Creator. Our quest for individual and collective wisdom in matters of human habitation of our planet is also a gift of the Creator, according to Scripture (James 1:5). Christians are also guided by the Scripture mandate of Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV) Our world’s teeming billions are a source of concern calling for wise responses to the challenges they face.