In 2011, the UN announced that the world’s population had reached the 7 billion mark. Interestingly, it recognized a baby who was born in my home country, the Philippines, as the 7th billionth person in the world. The release of this news triggered once again debates on overpopulation and measures to counter population’s rapid growth.
The world population reached its first billion in 1804, and it took almost another century before it reached its second billion. After that, the next billion people came in at an alarming rate: we reached 3 billion in 1959; 4 billion in 1974; 5 billion in 1987; 6 billion in 1998. To some, these numbers come as a warning that the increasing population will harm us, but in actuality these numbers may be a sign of hope for humanity and our environment.
I personally believe that the world is not overpopulated. There might be regions crowded with people who have little space; The issue here is not overpopulation, but more of overcrowding in areas where there is development and urbanization taking place. These areas, rather than being “overpopulated,” are simply densely populated.
Such is the case here in the Philippines. A huge internal migration is taking place within the country. People living in the provinces are moving to Manila or to regions where there are more opportunities for better living. Some are even migrating to other countries because of the lack of opportunities here in the country. I believe the solution to such migration is improving and developing non-urban areas so that people have more reason to stay.
In WYA’s Track A Training, we discuss Population and Wealth of Nations by William McGurn. Upon reading the article I realized that the issue of overpopulation was conceived from our misconceptions of the human being.
The general and dominating view of the purpose of man is based mainly on his economic and material worth. According to this point of view, man is reduced to an object that can be easily disposed of once his function is done. Development is seen as more important than the individual, and a bigger population is perceived as resulting in scarcer resources and opportunities, poorer living conditions, and slower progress.
However, the fact is that (over)population is not detrimental to a country’s economic growth. Proof for this claim can be found in Asian countries that were once criticized for their big populations, and are now enjoying economic progress amidst crowded regions.
Instead of talking about decreasing the population, perhaps governments and societies should shift their focus towards providing better opportunities for their people. These opportunities should not only be about monetary or economic growth, but also about holistic and societal growth that cultivates human capital.
By: Monique Bugnosen, intern at WYA Asia Pacific