Population a potential problem

Each year, the planet’s population of 6.7 billion grows by another 82 million people. Some argue that to make the planet truly sustainable, people must look beyond surface issues and focus on the underlying problem — population growth.

“The bottom line is there are too many people and not enough resources,” said Werner Fornos, founder of Global Population Education, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of the ramifications of rapid population growth, according to its Web site.

“Other countries are leading the way for solving the international population crisis while America trails behind,” Fornos said.

Jordan Stone, president of the Alliance of Concerned Students at USF, said the belief that there are not enough resources to sustain the current population is a common misconception.

“Right now, there is enough food to feed the world two times over. The problem is with the distribution of those resources,” Stone said.

According to the Population Institute, global aid for family planning helps prevent 60 million unplanned births, 105 million abortions, 22 million miscarriages, 3 million infant deaths and 685,000 deaths of women during pregnancy. However, 200 million women are still in need of assistance. President Barack Obama has already lifted a ban on funding for global family planning programs.

“The global impact of population growth on forests, topsoil, climate change, and food and water resources tells a cautionary story — one that presents a convincing case for prioritizing population stabilization,” Fornos said.

As it stands, 1.1 billion people on the planet consume unclean water — while 90 percent of sewage and 70 percent of industrial waste is dumped into surface water.

According to the Sierra Club’s Web site, sierraclub.org, all environmental efforts may be
short-lived if they do not address population growth, such as by increasing access to voluntary family planning services, health care education and economic opportunity.

Environmental leaders hope more people will recognize the connection between global population problems and environmental sustainability issues.

Robert Bair, former vice president of Students for Social Justice at USF, said high consumption often raises a population’s quality of life but at the same time damages the environment. The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s people, consumes more than 25 percent of its resources, according to the World Resources Institute.

“As Americans, we need to lead by example, voice opinions to political leaders and become a culture that is OK with consuming less,” Bair said. “We can’t function if people stop consuming, but we can consume things that are better for the earth.”

The Sierra Club offers a way for students to better understand how personal consumption habits stack up in terms of environmental degradation. The “Calculate your Personal Ecological Footprint” link on its Web site has a short questionnaire to calculate the environmental impact of personal consumption choices.

One way for students to get involved, Stone said, is to engage with friends and the community in local and global movements for social change by joining student and non-governmental organizations.

“If people would think with their hearts, they would realize that life is precious and we are all interconnected,” Stone said.

The many active student organizations on campus are listed on the Center for Student Involvement Web page involvement.usf.edu, along with meeting times,  locations and contact information.