Population numbers is not the crisis today. Today's population is at more than 6,000 million and the growth it represents is far higher than ever before.
Evolutionary changes and growth of knowledge made human beings the 'homo sapiens' they are today. Cultural Development that occurred in course of time paved the way for multiplication of humankind. In recent years, the explosion in population numbers became a hurdle in the way of human progress. In the twentieth century, population growth has become a crisis. Humans are considered a world resource. If so, then what is the need to decrease its numbers? Let us see, in this lesson, how this growth, in fact unprecedented growth of population, is a hurdle in the path of social and economic development.
The population of the world today is approximately 6,300 million. They are not however evenly distributed. They occupy one-fourths of the world geographical area. They are in very large numbers in some areas and in very small numbers in some others. This unequal distribution over space may be attributed to the nature of terrain and the rates of growth of population. In the present circumstances, even the 1.3 per
cent growth of the world population is considered high. We could understand the growth of population in the world today through a French riddle (Figure 2.1).
At the time of Christ, the world population was estimated at less than 300 million. But this increased to 600 million in the 18th century. It crossed the 1,000 million mark by the year 1820 A.D. At the turn of the 20th century, it was 2,000 million. In 1960, it increased to 3,000 million. It was estimated that it might double itself by the turn of the 21st century. This growth through the ages indicates to the fact that what was doubling once in 1,700 years has acquired the capability to double in just about 30 years. It is in fact difficult to imagine the kind of growth the human population is capable of.
The world's average annual growth of population now is about 1.3 per cent. Even though it appears small, in real terms this increases the population numbers rapidly. This growth rate is again uneven the world over. There are now about 1,000 million people in the developed world and more than 4,000 million in the developing world. If the growth prospects continue in the same fashion, then the developed world will have less than 2,000 million while the developing world double the existing in about 30 years.
In the early times, humans were either hunters or food gatherers. Later, humans came to depend on agriculture for their livelihood. He lived according to the tenets of nature, even in areas considered most developed today. There were then checks to population growth. Plaque, diseases, famine, floods, fire and wars acted as the controls for population growth. Only the fittest survived. There are still some areas of the world which show similar circumstances. There were fundamental changes in the growth of population, in the last 400 years. Agricultural and industrial revolutions began in England. As a consequence, there was economic, industrial and scientific progress in the world over. Increasing economic production supported the increasing population. The improvements in medical care, health, flood control and fire protection helped to control the natural loss in the population. Hence, there were increasing births. There were low death rates too. As the rates of birth were smaller than the rates of death, globally, the rates of growth increased.
Human numbers are indeed a great resource. But if it increases uncontrollably, then it cannot improve the quality of life. We need therefore a working potential, in any country, corresponding to the population numbers. Thus, human working potential is an essential resource along with the natural resources potential. Every human being requires his working potential for his/her welfare. However, it is not easy to bring out this potential. Individuals acting alone cannot lead their country towards developmental success. This means that human beings acting in cooperation with others could lead to an appropriate understanding of development efforts and also to an increase in human knowledge. For example, estimates have it that if 2.6 million people of ages between 15 and 64 years work together in a collaborative effort, for an hour, their working potential would be equivalent to 200 million kilowatts of electrical energy.