The Population Explosion: Causes and Consequences
by Carolyn Kinder Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute (2012) Until recently, birth rates and death rates were about the same, keeping the population stable. People had many children, but a large number of them died before age five. During the Industrial Revolution, a period of history in Europe and North America where there were great advances in science and technology, the success in reducing death rates was attributable to several factors. Food Production Distribution
The remarkable facts about the last 150 years has been the ability of farmers to increase food production geometrically in some places. Agricultural practices have improved in the United States in the last two centuries. Much of the world experi-enced agricultural success, especially in the last 50 years. Between 1950 and 1984, for example, the amount of grain harvested worldwide increased from 631 million tons to 1.65 billion tons. This represents a gain of 2.6 times at a time when the world population increased by only 1.9 times.9 The use of pesticides in LDCs, for example was expected to increased between 400 to 600% in the last 25 years of the twentieth century. 10 And world cereal production fell in 1993, according to the FAO, which predicted a food shortage in 20 countries during 1994. 12 However, most experts agree that there is no shortage of food, and that equitable distribution should be sufficient to meet all needs for the future. Lack of money to buy food is the problem of malnourishment. Pov-erty, in effect translates the world adequacy into national and local shortages. Within households, men and boys have priority for whatever food is available, while women and children, especially girl children are the first to suffer malnu-trition. Few resources are available to women, even though they are often re-sponsible the for food supply.13 Improvement in Public Health
People have concerns about surviving daily living, such as meeting basic needs: food, water, and housing. First, access to safe drinking water was related to the incidence of epidemic diseases such as cholera and child survival. Less than 50% of the population had access to safe drinking water before 1990. By 1990, access to safe drinking water had increased by 75 per cent. Second, the pressure to provide adequate housing increases as the population grows. More than half of the developing world's population will be living in urban areas by the end of the century. This growth outstrips the capacity to provide housing and services for others. In some countries, finding a place to live is hard, especially for women. Some women and children are forced to live in the poorest community where they are open to exploitation and abuse.16 The priorities for getting rid of poverty, improving food supply, ending malnu-trition, and providing adequate housing coincide at all points with those required for balanced population growth. Conquest of Disease
The biggest population story of the last hundred years has been the conquest of disease. Scientists have learned a great deal about the ways to prevent and cure many types of disease. Thus, millions of people who would have died of disease a century ago are more likely to live to old age. The most effective tools in the con-quest of disease have been improved knowledge about nutrition, vaccinations, bet-ter public health practices and the development of new medicines17 In the late 80s, a baby born in Iceland was 32 times more likely to live to the age of one year as a baby born in Afghanistan.18 The major reason for this large differ-ence in survival rate is nutrition. In many nations the people know about proper nutrition for young children and adults. The second most important factor is vaccinations. As far back as 1800, scien-tists knew how to use vaccines to protect people from infectious disease. Use of that knowledge has reduced the rate of diseases like influenza, smallpox,...