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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Phat City?

Mention the phrase “big city” and you may well get images of Los Angeles or New York. By 2050, however, names such as Jakarta, Dhaka, Mumbai, and Karachi will make the ‘top ten’ list of most populated cites around the globe.

Our world of 6.1 billion people is growing by 78 million people annually-ninety-seven percent of this growth is in the ‘developing world’. By the year 2050 it is estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities.

October 21 through 27 is population awareness week. This year, over 250 organizations in six countries will sponsor events to raise awareness of this year’s issue, “Population and the Urban Future.”

In the last fifty years, populations in the “developing world” have shifted from rural to urban areas, overwhelming social services and overloading infrastructure. In part, this high population growth was made possible by reducing mortality through improved health care, inoculations and sanitation. The dangers of overpopulation were not generally recognized until the 1970’s.

According to Hal Burdett, director of Information and Communication at the Population Institute, an international, non-profit organization increasing awareness of the consequences of rapid population growth, cities such as Mumbai and Calcutta lack essential amenities for the newcomer such as health care, education and employment. Cairo, he adds, is trying to work with a sewage system built the 19th century.

Cities in industrialized countries have had nearly two centuries to prepare for what cities in the developing world must manage in decades. Cities like New York have been working to provide sanitation and water works for populations of many millions since the urban shifts of the Industrial Revolution. Conditions in the cities of developing countries are not unlike nineteenth century New York. Even with many millions of dollars and reasonable infrastructure, U.S. cities often have problems maintaining sanitation, clean water supplies, and adequate housing.

Municipalities in developing countries find themselves burdened with population-related issues that have been recognized only in the last few decades. Urban areas feel the most pressure because people leave rural areas for the economic opportunities of the city. Administrative and physical resources in these cities are insufficient to provide new arrivals the necessary infrastructure and essential services. The result is poverty, disease and a host of environmental problems such as polluted water supplies, water shortages, desertification of arable land, deforestation, and species loss.

What can we in the United States do about this?

Be aware problem exists. Urge your representatives to increase support of family planning efforts in developing countries (note: abortion is not considered a method of family planning). Additionally, improved health care leads to smaller families as parents begin to trust that children will survive.

Statistics show that in addition to access to family planning, long term commitment to educating women and assuring them a role in the cash economy outside the home are the best tactics to limit family size.

What else?

Reduce consumption. As a global economic leader, the United States is in the spotlight. Citizens in many countries aspire to the American lifestyle. We all know the numbers: our 6% of the population uses 30% of its resources. It is hard to ask developing countries to limit consumption and population when we will not-the U.S. needs to set an example the entire world can follow.

Could overseas population growth affect the United States? According to Burdett, problems that population pressures aggravate, such as unemployment and poverty, lead to social unrest, perhaps encouraging acts such as those on 9/11.

Information and statistics for this article were taken from various sources found on the Population Institute’s website: www.populationinstitute.org