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Doris Lin

World Population Hits 7 Billion; Javan Rhino Extinct

By November 3, 2011

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On October 31, the world's human population reached 7 billion. It's not a pretty milestone - for us, for nonhuman animals, or for the environment.

And it's not just a third world problem. While people in the third world suffer more of the negative consequences and reproduce more, people in developed countries consume much more and create more pollution and greenhouse gases. According to a video by National Geographic, 5% of us consume 23% of the world's energy, 13% of us don't have clean drinking water, and 38% of us lack adequate sanitation. And I'm willing to bet that the 5% who consume so much energy are not the ones lacking clean drinking water and adequate sanitation.

So even though people in developing countries are reproducing faster, it's those of us who consume so much who are causing the problems. So if you live in a first world country, your decision to have fewer or no children will have much more of an effect on the environment than if you were part of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon.

And in a very related news story, the Javan Rhino is now extinct in mainland Asia. In 2004, there were only 2 Javan rhinos left in Vietnam - both female. By 2009, researchers could find only one, and in 2010, that last known rhino was found dead. Poached for her horn. Vietnamese officials officially declared the Javan rhino extinct in their country last week. The entire wild Javan rhinoceros population is now less than 44, living in Indonesia's Ujung Kulon National Park.

Poachers can only be partly to blame, since their decline was also due to habitat loss. As the human population increases, it can only be at the expense of other species.

Isn't it interesting how so many stories about endangered and extinct species mention habitat loss, but say nothing about people having fewer children? Is the subject that taboo? Yes, but we need to change that.

Learn more about the effects of human overpopulation, and the solutions.

Tom Bonaventure / Getty Images.

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November 7, 2011 at 4:37 am
(1) Ingrid says:

I couldn’t agree more. Genuine discussions about population growth are the elephant … er, rhino … in the living room. How very heartbreaking about the official rhino designation. Thank you for addressing the idea of population over-consumption and its connection to wildlife, habitat loss and the overall health of the planet.

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