Population Awareness Week Highlights Food Shortages

by Jan Holt, Population Chair, Weminuche Group

With World Population Awareness Week taking place the last week in October, just how aware of population issues are you? Along with looking for events and speakers in your area, consider the following facts and how they contribute to decreases in world food production.

According to the Population Reference Bureau's 1997 World Population Clock, there are 4.4 births a second, or 381,887 births every day--a world population of 5.8 billion and growing! Taking into account births and deaths, the 1996 world population grew by 87 million. That's 87 million more people to feed.

At the same time, overfishing and pollution threaten fish harvests, and some 67 species are on the verge of collapse. Despite technological advances in agriculture, chemical poisoning, erosion, salination, desertification and development of land have resulted in decreases in food production.

Grain harvests peaked in 1984 and have fallen. Meat production, much of which relies on grain for feed, has been rising but probably will not continue. Scarcer grain harvests mean higher feed prices. This in turn puts both grains and meats beyond the means of the poor, while the wealthy will still be able to afford both. Unfortunately, the environment suffers on all fronts.

At the 1994 United Nations Conference on Population and Development, the U.S. agreed to spend $1 billion by the year 2000 for international family planning, but we are spending less than a few years ago and are far short of our promised goal. We need to do more.