Around the world, population is rising most rapidly in places where life is most precarious.As noted previously, this series is taking a "limits to growth" approach, and it's frankly coming off as eugenic. See: "Beyond 7 Billion: The Biggest Generation."
Across Africa and in parts of South Asia and Latin America, hundreds of millions of people live on the edge of starvation. A drought, flood or outbreak of violence can push them over the brink.
Many end up on the march, crossing borders in search of relief. Some arrive in places like Dadaab, famished and desperately ill. Millions more are displaced within their own countries.
They represent one face of hunger in a world that, on paper at least, produces enough food to feed all 7 billion inhabitants.
Somalia, a nation of 10 million, has one of the highest birthrates in the world, averaging 6.4 children per woman. Runaway population growth, food scarcity and political strife have combined to cause a mass exodus. One-fourth of Somalis have fled their homes.
Last year, during the worst of a three-year drought, shortage turned to famine. Forty percent of Somali children who reached the refugee camps in Dadaab were malnourished. Despite emergency feeding and medical treatment, many died within 24 hours.
More commonly, children live on tenuously, the effects of chronic malnutrition masked by the swelling caused by kwashiorkor. By the time their parents realize how sick they are and take them to the camp hospital, it can be too late.
It has been four decades since advances in agriculture known as the Green Revolution seemed to promise relief from this kind of mass suffering.
An American plant breeder named Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for helping to develop high-yield, disease-resistant varieties of wheat and other grains, making it possible to triple harvests around the world.
Mankind finally seemed to be gaining ground on its longtime nemesis: pervasive hunger.
Yet Borlaug cautioned against hubris: "The frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed," he said. "Otherwise, the success of the Green Revolution will be ephemeral only."
Today, with nearly twice as many people on the planet, his words seem sadly prescient.
And here's Tuesday's segment at the Times, "BEYOND 7 BILLION | TINDERBOX OF YOUTH: Runaway population growth often fuels youth-driven uprisings."