On Oct. 31 the human world population reached 7 billion, according to measurements by the United Nations. Of course, reaching this number is merely symbolic, but it calls attention to many issues facing the world.
“Hitting the 7 billion mark is simply an opportunity to consider the challenges and opportunities of this global experiment,” said David Kyle, sociology professor and director of the UC Davis Gifford Center for Population Studies.
The Gifford Center is responsible for understanding the involvement of environmental change with human mobility and its impact on the environment, human security and global health, according to its website.
“‘Population’ can be a difficult topic because it seems so personal and abstract at the same time,” Kyle said. “It asks us to not only think of ourselves, but rather all of the other people consuming like me and how we may build more sustainable societies.”
According to professors, the population issue is a complex one, encompassing social, environmental and economic concerns.
“We’ve had this demographic storm as nations like China and India have wanted the level of affluence that Americans enjoy,” said UC Davis landscape architecture professor Steve Wheeler.
The reduction of greenhouse gases is the top priority around the world, Wheeler said.
“We’re in deep trouble unless we address the issues of population, consumption and equity,” he said.
Although California has seen its slowest population growth (10 percent) in decades, the state still faces its own microcosm of population and demographic changes. In 2006, the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove was the fastest growing city in the nation.
Populations are also changing the face of California. Latinos are expected to become the state’s largest minority and have already surpassed their Caucasian counterparts in much of Southern California.
Metropolitan planning organizations like the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) work closely on addressing these population-related issues of our time.
The Sacramento region is expected to contain just under 4 million people by 2050, according to SACOG, which is an added 1.5 million from the current population. The long-term population growth rate here is much higher compared to the state and the nation.
To address these issues the state and the private sector have responded through infrastructural change and policy. California high-speed rail, for example, the largest infrastructure project in the country, begins construction next year and will accommodate changing transportation needs.
By 2023, the United Nations expects the world population to reach 8 billion.
RAMON SOLIS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.