The recent release of the UN World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision contains some sobering reading. The global population projection for 2050 has been revised up from 9.3 to 9.6 billion and for 2100 from 10.1 to 10.9 billion. The reason is that fertility levels in a number of developing countries, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa, have not fallen at the rate that was previously projected.
The difference between 9.3 and 9.6 billion may seem small when written on paper but when considering that this is roughly equivalent to the current population of the United States of America it is put into some perspective. An extra 300 million people who deserve to live with dignity, decency and an acceptable quality of life may be 300 million more than our planet can provide in such a way for.
There are a variety of reasons why fertility has not fallen as predicted, however, one of the main reasons is due to an unmet need for access to modern methods of contraception for the purpose of limiting family size or managing the timing of births. The more that is done to address this unmet need, the greater the chances of achieving a lower global population and a higher quality of life for all.
Take Nigeria for example. It has a current population of around 170 million. According to the 2012 revision, at current population growth rates, Nigeria could reach a population of 1 billion in 2100. Clearly this is unlikely to happen as such growth would likely lead to severe internal and external conflict, due to extreme competition for resources, and a resultant rapid increase in mortality. The human suffering would be almost unimaginable.
I could be wrong, but can we not look into the future through the crystal ball of population projections, and make predictions about the future well-being of those populations? Those populations being people not unlike you or me who will be living in that time and place. We must help Nigeria and other nations in similar situations to take the green line.