Anastasia Cunningham, Senior Gleaner Writer
The world has officially passed the seven-billion global population mark, the birth of that child predicted to be in India yesterday.
Arun Kashyap, United Nations (UN) resident coordinator in Jamaica, speaking at the launch of the State of the World Population 2011 Report at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in downtown Kingston, said it was important to get a better understanding of the impact this rapid growth would have on the planet's resources.
With the UN projecting that the world will reach replacement fertility by 2030, Kashyap said, "The central challenge for us and for the future of the planet and the people is how to raise all of us out of poverty ... while reducing the impact each of us has on the planet."
He added: "An important message is that it is not the numbers or the space, it is how we arrive at a balanced lifestyle that will hold the key to a better future for all of us."
It took 12 years for the world population to increase by one billion registered births, and Jamaica holds the distinction of being home to the six billionth person in the world. Born October 12, 1999, Azziza Smith is regarded by her parents as the apple of their eye who has brought them nothing but joy.
Father, Reggae-singer Abijah Smith, today still beams with pride that his first child is celebrated around the world.
"She is my world. I am so proud of her. I really admire her. She is so sweet and humble, a real blessing to me," Smith said with a smile, as he recalled the fanfare in 1999 when he was told how special she was.
So soft-spoken, she was barely audible, Azziza said she found out about her world status when she was about four years old.
"I feel proud and I would like to thank my mom for making that possible," said the 12-year-old grade-six student of Excelsior Primary, who has her heart set on attending St Andrew High School.
Island on track
Looking at the impact of the world population growth on Jamaica, Easton Williams, manager of social policy, planning and research at the Planning Institute of Jamaica, said the island was on track in stabilising its population growth in line with UN recommendations.
He said Jamaica's population has slowed quite dramatically over the past 15 years and it was expected that by 2040, the population would reach its maximum of 2.88 million, and thereafter start to decline. The population now stands at 2.7 million.
Noting that these achievements have introduced fundamental changes in the structures of populations at all levels, he said in the case of Jamaica, there were three distinct patterns: "The decline of the zero to 14 age group, an increase in the working-age population 15-64 years, and the 65-plus age group also increasing but being the fastest-growing segment in the population, which is the typical pattern for developing countries."
A recent phenomenon
According to the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the rapid growth of the world population is a recent phenomenon. About 2,000 years ago, the population of the world was about 300 million. It took more than 1,600 years for the world population to double to 600 million. The rapid growth of the world population started in 1950 with reductions in mortality in the less-developed regions, resulting in an estimated population of 6.1 billion in the year 2000 - nearly two and a half times the population in 1950. With the declines in fertility in most of the world, the global growth rate of the population has been decreasing since its peak of two per cent in 1965 to 1970.
The United Nations Population Fund reports the current population figure to be six billion more than the early 1800s.