This week saw the birth of a baby that took the world's population to over 7 billion people. She was born in India, or rather he was born in the Philippines, or maybe Germany? Perhaps it was twins born in Peru, or quite possibly a child born into a village in Ethiopia where HOPE do so much of their work. The truth is, no one really knows when we reached the landmark number of 7 billion people. The celebrations were largely symbolic than specific. What is for certain, sometime in first few days of November 2011 a baby was born that tipped us into in new era of human history.
By contrast, my birth, back in 1968 was unremarkable. I was only the 3.5 billionth baby, so I caused little concern (except that my parents hadn't planned to have another child). Back then, thoughts about overpopulation and the impact this might have on the environment and the earth's resources were largely restricted to a handful of specialist. The majority of us (especially in the developed world) could only see a bountiful future. 40 years on, things are very different. Rapid population growth goes hand-in-hand with concerns about global warming, food and fuel security and peak oil. By now, most of us have some grasp of these issues. Less well known, but just as concerning, is how we provided a sustainable, safe water supply to this swelling human population.
We may think there is plenty of water on earth, but the fact there is no more water today than when I was born four decades ago. What's more, only 2.5% of it is fresh. If you have seen the BBC's Frozen Planet, you will know that most of that is unavailable for human consumption as it is locked in glaciers, snow and permafrost. In fact, only 0.4% of the world’s usable water is easily accessible. As our human population continues to grow, reaching 9 billion people by 2050, the strain on this, our most precious commodity, may well reach breaking point unless we all work to protect it and respect it.
Alan Mann, Trustee