7

, by Albert Camilleri

7

At the close of October 2011, the world’s seventh billionth baby was said to have been born. Danica May Camacho, born in the Philippines, is the second child of parents Camille Dalura and Florante Camacho and instantly became the centre of the international media’s attention. Strangely enough, this wasn’t highlighted by our local news media, encouraging me to write a few reflections on this new magic number – 7.

Present at the birth was the Philippines own sixth billionth baby, who is now 12 year old, Lorrize Mae Guevarra. The Philippines declared her historical birth back in 1999. I wasn’t alone on reflecting on this landmark. UN chief Ban Ki-moon commented on how “This is not a story about numbers. This is a story about people”.

"Seven billion people who need enough food. Enough energy. Good opportunities in life for jobs and education. Rights and freedoms. The freedom to speak. The freedom to raise their own children in peace and security.”

The UN estimates that with the current rate of speed, the population will hit the 10 billion mark by 2100. But before getting carried away with even more numbers, it’s important to stop and think about what this number will mean to our lives and our generation. As Ban Ki-moon, this is not about numbers. 7 represent 7 billion humans, 7 billion lives and 7 billion individuals, all unique, all different, and all fundamentally distinct.

People will comment about what this will mean in terms of earth resources such as basic food and water. True, the growing number will mount further pressure on our planet. Also true is that more humans will lead to more environmental ruin, at this current rate of progress. Yet, this is not my main contemplation. 7 billion people mean 7 billion values and opinions, and in a globalised world, that is something to ponder about.

In the last few months we have witnessed how masses can bring about political pressure on governments and nations. The Arab Spring was one example, and the latest economic protests are a key example of groups of people joining together for a single cause. Indeed, 7 billion will continue to have an adverse effect on democracy as we know it. Population growth is focused in developing countries, mostly in the Asian and African continent, areas where democracy is still in its infancy.

However, even for us Europeans, we must deliberate on how much effect this massive growth in numbers will have on our continent. Migration and economic competition for instance. More people means more movement, especially to the more traditional European countries of the West. With some of these countries experiencing already dense population in inner cities, it will add even more problems such as traffic, congestion, and noise and air pollution amongst others.

Countries such as China and India, with blooming populations are also thriving economically, competing more and more with European manufactures. Will Europe hold strong and manage to survive increasing competition? What Europe needs in order to do so is to recognise its strengths and use its advantages wisely, as well as continue to innovate. With what is termed as an ageing European population, migration can also be seen as part of a solution.

A few decades back, the world was starting to be referred to as the ‘global village’. Alas, this village has grown bigger, which would suggest it becoming a town and even a fully-fledged city. We have since started to integrate the world economically and socially. However, political integration, apart from UN institutions and international courts, has been severely limited. Will this change in the light of a bigger and more globalised world population? How will indirect democracy be able to represent so many people? How will those in government be able to say they represent so many people in their different constituencies? I’m not expecting an answer, but it’s vital that we start thinking about this now.

In conclusion, this population boom poses new questions to humanity. How will we be able to bring 7 billion people together? How will be able to make compromises in our world of plenty? And my final reflection; how will we manage to stand out and make a difference?

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