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WACUNA: Ordinary Council meeting, speaker Wendi Momen 'Too many people?'

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After ordinary business was discussed, Dr. Wendi Momen MBE, JP gave a talk.  She is a promoter of social justice and the empowerment of women, an author and the founder of EBBF (European Baha'i Business Forum).  She spoke on 'Too many people? Thinking about living together in peace and prosperity'.  She discussed the size of the world's human population and strategies for controlling it.

So far, scientific advances have kept pace with demands for food. Yet everyday, 25,000 people die from malnutrition and hunger-related diseases (most under five years old).   The seven billion people in 2011 are expected to grow to over nine billion in 2050 and 10 billion by the end of the century. The number of over-65s may triple by 2050. Poverty is linked to this and this affects the Millenium Development Goals. The World Bank estimates that more than three billion people in the world live on less than $2.30 a day, while 1.3 billion survive on less than $1.  We could reduce the rich–poor gap, for example, by limiting the amount paid to the world's wealthy.

Do we have too many children? More developed countries average around two children per family.  Aside from individual choice, a large family may result from cultural tradition, religion, a need for child labour, or because there is no welfare system or no access to contraceptives. There are millions of unwanted pregnancies. China’s one child policy was effective in some ways, but drawbacks include fewer female carers.  

Are there too many people – how large should the global population be and why?  Some estimate nine or 10 billion people is the maximum for whom enough fresh water, food and energy can be feasibly supplied. Fewer people mean fewer demands on resources.

What are the impacts of and risks caused by over-population? We need to study the complex web of factors, for example, food and water supply, available land, healthcare, pensions, employment opportunities, living standards and consumption rates, terrorism and violence, education, security and justice, as well as environmental protection. Land is being grabbed from the poor, which bodes badly for their future agricultural needs. The environment is already under strain.  Over-crowding in cities and slums brings infection, congestion, unemployment, air pollution and social tensions. Climate change has widespread effects.  

So for prosperity and the eradication of poverty we need justice, rule of law and good governance; education for all; equality of men and women; recognition of the reciprocity between the individual and societal progress, allowing each individual to make their own contribution to development; recognition of the universal needs of humanity to create a sense social unity that crosses borders. Overall, we need a coherent relationship between the material and moral dimensions of human life.

Wendi was thanked for providing clarity on this wide-ranging subject and for encouraging us to reflect on the issues raised.

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