From part 2 of a 7-part series from the LA Times.
About 80% of the world’s civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations, known as youth bulges, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Population Action International.
[Youth] bulges have emerged in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and the Palestinian territories — part of what security experts call an “arc of instability” reaching across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
Of the 2 billion or more people who will be added to the planet by 2050, 97% are expected to be born in Africa, Asia and Latin America, led by the poorest, most volatile countries.
From the first article in the series:
He was 11 years old. She was 10.
Their families had arranged the marriage. The couple delighted their parents by producing a son when they were both 13. They had a daughter 2½ years later. […]
At 15 and finally able to grow a mustache, Ramjee made a startling announcement: He was done having children.
“We cannot afford it,” he said, standing with arms crossed in the dirt courtyard of the compound he shares with 12 relatives, a cow, several goats and some chickens in the northern state of Rajasthan.
Horrified, his mother and grandmother pleaded with him to reconsider.
“Having one son is like having one eye,” his grandmother said. “You need two eyes.” […]
Think of population growth as a speeding train. When the engineer applies the brakes, the train doesn’t stop immediately. Momentum propels it forward a considerable distance before it finally comes to a halt.
U.N. demographers once believed the train would stop around 2075. Now they say world population will continue growing into the next century.
In India, a country of 1.2 billion people, women have an average of 2.5 children each, and the birthrate is projected to fall to 2.1 by 2030. At that point, parents will merely be replacing themselves.
But even then, India’s population will continue to grow because of momentum. It is on track to surpass China’s and is not expected to peak until 2060, at 1.7 billion people.
Momentum isn’t the only factor in population growth. In some of the poorest parts of the world, fertility rates remain high, driven by tradition, religion, the inferior status of women and limited access to contraception.
Population will rise most rapidly in places least able to handle it: developing nations where hunger, political instability and environmental degradation are already pervasive. […]
To meet the projected demand, the world’s farmers will have to double their crop production, according to calculations by a team of scientists led by David Tilman, a University of Minnesota expert on global agriculture.
William G. Lesher, a former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the brightest minds in the field haven’t figured out the solution.
“We’re going to have to produce more food in the next 40 years than we have the last 10,000,” he said. “Some people say we’ll just add more land or more water. But we’re not going to do much of either.”