Science

World population reaches 7 billion

Wednesday, 26 October, 2011
Bob Beale

The world’s population is growing astonishingly fast – adding another billion people in a little over a decade. Is this a triumph of human ingenuity or a recipe for global disaster?

Now, with 7 billion mouths to feed – and many more to come - how will our cities, economies, health systems and natural environments cope? What new pressures will Australia face and how will it be changed?

In a special new website aimed at contributing to public debate on this vital issue, some of UNSW’s distinguished academics canvass the big issues. In articles and videos, we look at topics such as food security, water, ageing population, energy and climate change.

The site includes contributions from across UNSW and includes two prominent academics from the Faculty of Science.

Professor Richard Kingsford, the Director of the Australian Wetlands and Rivers Centre, points out that humans are appropriating more of the world’s freshwater than ever.

"We can’t do without it," Kingsford says. "And with more than 200,000 of us added to the planet every day, we need more water because we need to drink, eat and be clothed."

He says every major Australia city already has concerns about water shortages: "The future challenge will be to do more with less water across urban and rural Australia."

Professor Steven Sherwood, co-director of the UNSW Climate Change Research Centre, notes that as populations grow, practices that were once sustainable cease to be so.

"Humanity is conducting an unprecedented experiment caused by what may become the largest belch of carbon into Earth’s atmosphere ever in a single century," says Professor Sherwood.

"Continued population growth obviously presents severe challenges for avoiding massive climate change in the future. To cut global emissions in half within a few short decades would be hard enough without population growth, but becomes significantly harder if we expect a couple billion more people, and harder still if all of them wish to approach current western living standards."

 

Link: 7 Billion reasons to be a feminist - by Professor Rob Brooks

 

Visit the website for more:

 

http://www.7billion.unsw.edu.au/

 

Media contact: Bob Beale 0411 705 435 bbeale@unsw.edu.au