Only One Planet

Today there are some 6.25 billion human beings on the face of the planet - double the number of people forty years ago. This is expected to increase by a further 50% within 50 years to 9.3 billion, although that estimate is expected to be down graded to 7 billion due to falling birth rates around the World.


POVERTY - At present the UN estimates that 1.2 billion people struggle every day to survive on less than one dollar per day. That's a figure that hasn't changed in a decade and represents one fifth of the entire World population!

% of Population "Living" on less than $1 per Day

FOOD - with a population of 6.25 billion we already have 800 million people who are malnourished - one in every eight. We now need to address the problem of how to grow enough food in the right places to ensure that everyone is adequately fed. On 24 June 2002 ActionAid released a report which claimed shortages in aid has cost the lives of 15 million children worldwide since 1990. It went on to say that if nothing is done to meet the "millennium development goals" (see below) by 2015, that figure could rise to 66 million. 
WATER - there are currently 500 million people experiencing severe and chronic water shortages around the World. This figure may reach 2.7 billion (one third of the world's population) in 50 countries within the next 25 years. Water is at a premium. It's major use is in agriculture but much is wasted, so if we are to feed the World and reduce the personal water shortages experienced by people we need to use water far more intelligently.
ENERGY - World oil production is expected to peak within the next six years, but there are no peaks in population growth in sight, just a steady growth. Industry is at the heart of World economy and energy is at the heart of industry. If we are to reduce the levels of World poverty then industry will need to rethink it's sources of energy so that it can continue to grow with the population. International trade will need to become fairer to reduce the inequities between the rich and the poor.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT - Mankind's current activities are causing global warming, climate change and the loss of biological diversity. The inter-relationship's between human activity and the environment are complex, to say the least.

We rip the skin off our Earth with open-cast mining, leaving livid scars in a previously whole environment.

60% of the destruction of the tropical rain forests is down to subsistence farming. People trying to scrape a living.

Tropical forests release huge quantities of water vapor - when gone, rainfall decreases, run-off into streams increases, soil fertility and moisture decline.

Pollution is caused by the activities of Man. It is the byproduct of industry, the agricultural runoff of synthetic fertilisers used to boost crop production and the natural end product of digestion. Pollution has rendered many of the essential water supplies of the World undrinkable. Pollution is in the air, contributing to the "greenhouse effect", the associated problem of global warming and the hole in the ozone layer. Pollution is jeopardising not only mankind's future, but that of all of the ecosystems on our planet and will only get worse as population increases unless dramatic changes are made in the way we conduct ourselves.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were set out at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000. They are an ambitious timetable for reducing poverty, its causes and manifestations and a strong and passionate statement was made:

"We will spare no effort to free our men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected"

The goals include: Halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education and gender equality, reducing under-five mortality and maternal mortality by two-thirds and three-quarters respectively, reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS, halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and ensuring environmental sustainability. They also include the goal of developing a global partnership for development, with targets for aid, trade and debt relief.

It is expected that every developing country will have produced a "goals and progress" report by the next review, due in 2005. However, it is expected that many countries will not achieve their goals. For instance, the goal for child malnutrition is to reduce the 1990 figures for malnourished children under the age of five by two thirds by the year 2015. The following map shows the expectations of countries achieving this goal:

MDG Map of Child Malnutrition expectations from the World Bank

Similarly, the goals for reducing under-fives child mortality has a similar two thirds reduction over the same period, but the expectation is shown below:

MDG Map of Child Mortality expectations from the World Bank

The World Bank has estimated that the cost of achieving all of the MDGs by 2015 will be between $40 million and $60 million per year in additional foreign aid, with the proviso that it can only be done if many of the participating countries "reform their policies and improve service delivery to make the additional spending effective". This estimate is in line with others from UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Debt Relief will play a highly significant role in achieving the goals. In a recent statement, the UN made the critical observation that:

"A recent study of budgetary spending in over 30 developing countries found that two-thirds spend more on debt servicing than on basic social services. Some spend three to five times more on debt. In sub-Saharan Africa, governments spend about twice as much to comply with their financial commitment to external creditors than to comply with their social obligation to their people. Debt servicing often absorbs between one-third and one-half of the national budget - making macro-economic stability an elusive goal. To spend more on external debt than on basic social services - when tens of millions of people see their fundamental human rights denied - is ethically wrong and makes poor economics."





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This page last updated: 28 June 2002