Happy World Population Day!
Today is the day of the world population, meaning all of us. At the moment, we are living together with 7.1 billion people. The world population is growing exponentially since about the Industrial Revolution (1770). This will have an effect on the geology of our planet, for example through the high CO2 levels. A Dutch scientist invented the name Antropocene for the current geologic epoch.
All the more amazing when considering our humble beginnings. Last weekend, we were at the National Museum here in Nairobi. Among other things, it contains the most important collection of hominid fossils in the world. These fossils are hard to find, and just as hard to classify into species.
It was a special experience for me to see the skulls of early hominids that have been excavated in Kenya. History comes close and is almost touchable, like walking through the ruins of Rome. Just as for some Christians in Holland, this is also a hot issue in Kenya, see ‘Kenya’s human fossils disturb church’. I myself do not experience faith and being impressed by our origin as a contradiction.
But where do we all live at the moment?
In an interesting experiment someone drew a world map where the inhabitants of the country with the largest population have moved to the country with the largest area. The second-largest population migrated to the second-largest country, and so on. The result is the world map below. The Netherlands would end up in Japan. We see that Bangladesh is densely populated, because it is now in India.
World Population Day inspires fascinating maps, but is mainly a call to reflect on the downside of population growth. This growth is mainly taking place in ‘developing countries’. In a situation of poverty, pregnancy and birth come with a lot of health risks. This is especially true for adolescent pregnancy. A lot of these pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married, often without choosing themselves. One of the consequences is that their education is cut short.
This day is for all of us. From a past that is shrouded in mystery, we have come a long way. Let us strive towards a future where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.