In 1999 the global population surpassed 6 billion. Never before in human history has the population of Earth been as great as it is today, and never before has it grown so rapidly within one century. Even though population growth is now slowing, absolute population growth will remain high for many years because of the dynamics already set in motion by a youthful age structure. The world has made important progress in slowing population growth, improving the food security and quality of life of the world’s people, and protecting the natural resources on which development depends. But progress has not occurred everywhere, nor has it by any means affected everyone.
More people will inevitably mean greater demand for food, water, education, health care, sanitary infrastructure, and jobs, as well as greater pressure on the environment. There must come a point when population growth threatens global food security and the Earth’s finite natural resources. But what specific threats does population growth present now and in the coming decades? How can the world achieve sustainable development in the face of an ever-growing population? To what degree can this task be accomplished through human inventiveness and new technology? How important is it to drastically slow population growth? What are the elements of an effective and human-centered population policy? These are the questions addressed by the book Six Billion and Counting: Population Growth and Food Security in the 21st Century by Klaus M. Leisinger, Karin Schmitt, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute.