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A world more crowded

CAIDEN LEWIS MCCRINDLE, whom the Ottawa Citizen declared the world’s seven billionth baby, was born Oct. 31 at 8:32 a.m. at the Queensway Carleton Hospital. England, India, and the Philippines also claimed the birth of the world’s seven billionth child, based on a projection by the United Nations’ population council that the world’s population will reach seven billion on Oct. 31.

“[The Ottawa Citizen] determined, when they heard that the seven billionth baby was due to be born on Monday, why not have it here in Canada and in Ottawa,” said Judy Brown, director of communications and patient relations at Queensway Carleton Hospital. “Any birth in the child care centre is special, and this just made the occasion even more so for both the family and our staff.”

Although it’s not possible to determine the exact moment the world’s population will reach seven billion, the level is a milestone for humankind. Many of the claims arose because of the release of the 2011 Human Development Index Report. The yearly report, published by United Nations Development Program, touches on issues of sustainability and suggests local, national, and global policies to combat it.

“When I read that the seven billionth child had been born, [I thought], ‘Who knows?’ It is very difficult to determine,” said Nipa Banderjee, professor of international development and global studies at the U of O. “The Human Development Index Report came up a few days ago and sometimes there were differences between what the Human Development Report writers find and the government’s views.”

The six-billionth-person benchmark was broken in October 1999. At that time, the UN estimated that this century would have a slower growth rate comparatively to last century because of aging populations and lower fertility rates. Tenth years ago, the UN projected the world would hit 10 billion people by 2200.

The Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs revised their estimates in 2010. These figures explained that Asia’s population would rise one billion by 2052. Africa remains the continent with the fastest growth at over two per cent each year.

Regardless of which child broke the benchmark, the seven billion baby’s birth raises awareness of overpopulation.

“What [the birth] definitely implies is that the population of the world is increasing and there are two problems with that,” said Banderjee. “One, it is in the way of poverty reduction in developing countries mainly. If you have two children, you definitely will be able to provide for them better than if you have 10 children. Control of population and family planning is very important.”

“The second thing is that, from an environmental point of view, the world has only so many resources,” Banderjee added. “When the population increases, there is stress on the resources and the environment. The environment is very much linked to development.”

The UN explains that as life expectancy lengthens and fertility rates increase in some countries, the population will continuously increase to unsustainable levels. The consequences of overpopulation, such as risks to the sustainability of resources and the environment, are experienced more so in Africa and Asia than Canada.

Though Caiden may not know yet that he has been chosen as the world’s seven billionth person, he has been quite busy with baby business and was not available for comment.

“Caiden is doing fine,” said Brown on his behalf. “He is at home with his older sister and brother, and all are doing well.”

—Chris Radojewski