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Population: Why we should worry.

The sixth billionth inhabitant of the Earth has arrived. While the United Nations has welcomed the baby into the world, born shortly after midnight on October 12 in Sarajevo, the future of 240,000 others born everyday is far from certain. Most of these children are born to parents in the developing world, parents with little formal education or knowledge of health care. The pregnancies will probably have been unwanted, and the mothers may have already seen other children die in their early years. If these mothers do survive giving birth, they are likely to fall pregnant again since they have little modern support in family planning. And so the cycle continues. Under pressure Since 1927, in less than a lifetime, population has tripled. Global birth rates are slowing - down to just 1.4% in the industrialized north and 1.7% in developing countries. But the number of actual births continues to rise, largely because of the near one billion fertile people aged 15 to 24-years-old. Earlier this year, governments and development experts met at the United Nations in New York to discuss these issues. At that conference, the United Nations' Population Fund (UNFPA) predicted that if we introduce the correct policies now, population will stabilise at 7.9 billion people by 2050. But if we leave both growth and associated consumption unchecked, it warned, it will lead to catastrophe - even more deaths from famine, energy crises and civil breakdown in some regions as the fight begins for scarce resources such as water and arable land. "Children are not cared for, they are not healthy, women die in childbirth, the economy of the family is much worse because the mother and the father cannot support the children. "They don't have proper housing, they don't have proper education and so the economy suffers." The Vatican has also been accused of using its UN membership to try and block contraception-based initiatives and legally agreed programmes, a move which led some campaigners to call for it to be thrown out of the body. The UNFPA says that, besides resources, the key areas which must be addressed are:

Adolescent reproductive health. The number of people now aged 15 to 24 is the largest it has ever been. Their attitude to family planning will be crucial Refugee populations and access to emergency contraception Abortion Civil society: What role non-governmental organisations should play in devising family planning policies

Consumption However, many population experts say that one critical part of the issue is being overlooked, the populations of the industrialized north cause the most damage to the planet. And as increasing numbers of people in the developing world shift into urban areas to seek similar consumer lifestyles, the pressure on the world's finite resources intensifies.

"In the UK we have a population growth rate of 0.2%, we produce 120,000 more people every year," said Dr Myers. "Bangladesh has a growth rate 10 times higher but because of the way we use our resources, we produce 50 times more emissions than Bangladesh. "We are causing two and half times more damage to the environment." Dr Myers said that while people speak of grain shortages in the developing world, America's annual consumption of 800kgs per person - feed for cattle in a meat-based diet - is far more concerning. He called for nations such as the UK to implement population policies alongside tax incentives to change consumption and fuel use. "There is a great deal that we can do," said Dr Myers. "Some people say that you cannot shift consumption patterns. But 60 million Americans have given up smoking. That's a social earthquake. "Whether the political will is there to act in other areas, we will have to wait and see.