A few weeks ago we were treated to a letter by the The Irish Times’ new editor, Kevin O’Sullivan, welcoming the soon-to-take place birth of the 7 billionth person into our ‘work in progress’ unequal world. Cross-posted below in full, we think it is well worth a read.
If you were writing to this person, whomever or wherever he or she is, what would you say about our planet?
Not so bad world
Editorial, The Irish Times
September 24, 2011
WELCOME TO this grubby, overpopulated, squabbling planet, citizen No 7,000,000,000. Some day this month, we’re not sure when, or where, you will be born, tipping the global population over the seven billion mark. Up from a paltry billion in 1804, a mere two billion in 1927, and five billion in 1987.
Apologies for naming you by number – it has become all too common – but we don’t know your name yet. Chances are, however, you will be born in booming Africa or Asia, and, if a boy in the former, you may be Mohammed, a girl in China, Fang. Both continents will be adding one billion each to the world’s numbers in the next 40 years, doubling Africa’s population, and increasing Asia’s by about a quarter to five billion.
Chances are that you will be born in a city, now the home to more than half the world’s people, and into a slum, the fate of a third of those born in the developing world’s cities. And that, like every second child, you will be born into poverty – at least four out of five of humankind lives on less than $10 a day, a fifth, on less than $1.25. And if, as likely, you are born among the world’s poorest 60 per cent, your fate will be to share in only a fifth of global consumption.
Chances are, too, that life will short-change you. If you’re lucky you might stretch it out to the world average expectancy of 67 years, but a mere 40 if you are born in Swaziland. If you’re Irish, however, you’ll get to enjoy two Swazi lifespans.
Chances are you won’t be born in what the Economist defines as a “democracy or a flawed democracy” where some 49 per cent of the world’s population live .
Why would you want to join us? But the picture is not all bad – the grim equation proposed by mathematician Robert Malthus between population growth and inevitable starvation has not been vindicated. The world population may have quadrupled in the 20th century, but the calories available per person went up, not down. In 60 years we have trebled the total harvest of the three biggest crops: wheat, rice and corn.
The numbers in absolute poverty have declined by a third in the past 15 years and the population explosion is fading. Fertility rates are falling, the product of enrichment, urbanisation, women’s emancipation and education. There is room for us all, and an ability to feed us all, but we have yet to master how we organise to share our wealth to put a meal on every plate.
We are a work in progress. Welcome to our world.
Source: The Irish Times