Will the world go hungry in 2000 A.D.? The answer depends on how seriously and effectively all the countries of the world and particularly the developing countries tackle the problem of population explosion as also the regularly occurring flood damages, and at the other extreme drought conditions and desertification. Demographic statistics show a little fall in the birth rate in the developing countries, but the death rate has been falling still stepper with the result that their populations are continuing to grow alarmingly bigger and bigger.
The World of today faces two threats. Nuclear War, which means total destruction with no victors or vanquished, and is therefore unlikely; and population explosion which is very real and looms nearer and nearer, and threatens to get beyond the world’s capacity to send, clothe and house its peoples. The present population of the world has crossed the 4 billion mark, which would have been considered impossible a century ago. Population statistics, show an alarming increase since the beginning of the 20th century.
At the beginning of the Christian Era, A.D. 1, the world population was said to be only 300 million, which is less than half the strength of the population of India alone. It took no less than 12 centuries, 1200 years, for this 300 million to double; but the next doubling only took! 50 years, representing a stecp rise in population growth in comparison-actually eight times higher. By the end of the 19th century, the population of the world had risen to 1650 million thanks to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, but was still comfortably well fed and easy going. The third doubling of the world’s population took 70 years, less than half the previous doubling time of 150 years. The two world wars of this century had no noticeable effect on population growth which continued to rise faster, and the population of the world in 1970 was 3,600 million. A study of the growth trend projects the fourth doubling within 35 years.
Already in many parts of the World, large number of people live in hunger and poverty under sub-human conditions. A tragic feature of the heavy rise in population growth is that it is the developing and less developed countries which are burdened with bigger populations. The developed countries which can support bigger populations with less strain have a smaller growth rate while the developing and less developed poor countries which can ill afford big populations, continue to grow at alarmingly high rates year after year in spite of living under adverse conditions and heavy death rate. The need for early stabilization of population (achievement of Zero Population Growth ZPG) is becoming more and more urgent.
Social scientists and demographers who have studied the subject state that societies tend to move through three stages of population growth:
- High Birth Rate and High Death Rate resulting in a near stationary population
- High Birth Rate and declining Death Rate resulting in increasing population-the stage which the world of today seems to be going through; and
- Low Birth Rate and Low Death Rate resulting in near stationary population, the stage which the world must now make every ciłort to reach.
In former times, diseases and calamities which science and technology had not conquered in those days helped to maintain a satisfactory near stable population. New scientific and technological advances have conquered diseases and time and space and must be utilized to reduce the birth rate compared to the death rate if humanity is to be retrieved from the peril of overpopulation and stark hunger. Failure in this will take the world back to the first stage of high death rate through hunger, disease and suffering. The developed countries are nearing the third stage, after passing through stages i “and 2, and it has taken them a hundred and fifty years to reach stage 3 from stage 2. The developing countries which are still in stage 2 dare not adopt the same leisurely pace, because at the present rate of growth the population will multiply many fold and make nonsense of all plans for progress, if the trend is not arrested and reversed.
The fundamental question, therefore, for the developing nations is to find a rational and humane system that will achieve a stationary population (ZPG) before the end of this century.
Already the wisdom of containing population within manageable Donuts has dawned on many developing countries, and their efforts in this direction have begun to show a noticeable decline in crude birth rates, but the pace is still too slow as the decline in death rate is even sharper. The aim must be one child for each – parent during a lifetime, which is the ZPG motto before it gets too. late and nature comes to the rescue with death and destruction to restore the balance.
The developing countries show a growth rate three time as heavy as the developed countries. Left unchecked this rate is likely to increase as advances in medicine will further reduce the death rate, and the world of the 21st century will face a grim prospect. Science and technology experts believe that with optimum utilization of all available talents and resources, the maximum population that the earth can support, at a “minimum-needs-net” standard of life, is 8-billion at which ZPG must be achieved if a disaster is to be avoided.
Whether this happy position will be achieved remains problematical. The tragedy of it is that it is the poor countries and poor masses which form the major part of the world’s population that have large families. There is fear that even with national and international efforts to check population growth, it may reach 11 billion before ZPG is achieved. This would mean a sub-human, head-to-mouth existence for the masses. Unchecked it may break out to 16-billion which would be real disaster.
There is, however, a ray of hope that the governments of modern times in the developing nations now have greater ability to reach across people over national, linguistic, ethnic, cultural and other barriers through effective means and methods of communication, and the steadily increasing intercourse among nations has helped to create an awareness of the advantage of better living standards through smaller families and less traditional styles of living, among the masses. Many governments have already committed themselves to accelerate the process of reaching near ZPG through education; raising the living standards of the low-income groups; enhancing the status of women through social equality with men; family planning programmes, and incentives to small families.
A study of the various relevant characteristics in some 64 countries, has clearly shown that more equitable income distribution and better distribution of social services are closely associated with small families and low fertility. With genuine will and ensuring free and easy availability (compulsive, if necessary) of education, remunerative employment, and modern safe means and methods of birth control, like contraceptives, sterilization and even abortion, the world may yet meet the challenge. Side by side also improving agriculture to produce higher and better yields of great multinational value, through water control, use of high yielding varieties, afforestation to prevent soil erosion, and pollution-free industrial growth through beneficial advances in science and technology, for the welfare of humanity as a whole, instead of adopting ad hoc piecemeal remedies too feeble and too little to be of any lasting value will contain population explosion.
The twin basic needs of limiting population growth and increasing agricultural yield have been fully taken cognizance of by our new and popular Government. The basic aim is to improve the economic conditions of the rural population by providing greater scope for intensive and extensive cultivation besides establishing small scale industries on a large scale. If the economic and educational level advances, the population growth will automatically get arrested. Simultaneously unemployment will disappear and our nation will become self-sufficient in production as well as industrial development. We must, therefore, concentrate in implementing the Govt’s economic program for prosperity and plenty with zeal and enthusiasm. We must work hard and give a lead to the world to conquer hunger. With dedication and determination, we must win and succeed.