Monday, October 12, 2009

contemplation of population

cheesy title, I know...but this is seriously what my mind has been digesting over the past few weeks. In my global public health class, I am lucky to get the viewpoint of several different professors offering a wide range of views from Penn. So far, we have had guest lecturers presenting on food security, water, child health, history of public health, etc. We've discussed the implications of outside aid, outreach issues often overlooked, pressing problems that deserve immediate attention and more. Its so much to take in at once that I find my head spinning at times.

But the topic of population growth -- I should say the problem of population growth has been mentioned in every class. It is an underlying theme that influences every issue in public health. For me, its turning my thoughts and perceptions upside down. Current estimates, though varying, land the world population in the approximations of 10 billion in the next 50 years -- with conservative estimates assuming this will be the high point, where we will see a leveling off and potentially a decrease.

The problems this rapid growth implies are endless...a few obvious being lack of energy resources, lack of land, food security, and the list goes on and on. On an individual level I'm trying to sort out the implications for my personal mission to support fresh and local agriculture.

This topic came up in the population debate in class, and though I still can't wrap my brain around this entirely, I had a professor who was willing to stay after class for an hour as I grilled him for answers and stumbled through my explanations of my mindset. Overall, what I took away to process was that it would be impossible to achieve a sustainable approach to agriculture and food supply on a local level, especially as the population grows, because there is not enough land to do so. He explained that if we all go fresh and local that by the time our population reached 10 billion, around 40% of those people would be starving. I'm not sure what I think of this, or if this truly is the reality, but its totally opposite from my thought process. I'd like any and all comments you have on the topic as I ponder this further.

As I persisted, asking him what someone like myself can do to solve issues of food security and development issues in the face of such a dilemma, he gave a few suggestions. First, always work towards solutions, and adjust as needed as more information is provided. Ask lots of questions, and don't allow the popular view or the media influence you more than academic or empirical evidence. And finally, work on a local level to do what you can. Though he emphasized the lack of reality for food security if we decentralize agriculture, where it is possible, local food really is helpful for local economy and sustainability of a community. The population issues are most prevalent in big cities, where land for agriculture is scarce. I see his points, but I'm still not convinced local sustainability is impossible to reach. What I do know however, is that my desire to work in underdeveloped areas to reach sustainable options for health is still an important mission. Especially in water issues - where the largest problem is not availability of water, but the lack of access to that water.

check out for some illustrations that will help connect the dots on these issues...its a great website!

more to come as I learn and process further...

Consider it:
family planning options. adoption. wasting less and valuing the resources you have.

Unlearn it:
that you have a RIGHT to everything you have. if we all had a right to all the resources we abused, and everyone in the world used them so unwisely, we would have no resources left!

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