How to limit population growth? Save the children.

How to limit population growth? Save the children.

 Crowded slums in Rio de Janeiro provide a stark embodiment of the challenges presented by population growth. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/26107309@N05/2550699761/">Crystal Davis, World Resource Institute (flickr)</a>
Crowded slums in Rio de Janeiro provide a stark embodiment of the challenges presented by population growth. Photo: Crystal Davis, World Resource Institute (flickr)

The world’s seven billionth person is more likely than ever to see her fifth birthday, according to Save the Children. But some people might view that as a bad thing.

According the UN, the world population is now past seven billion. That’s got some people worrying about overcrowding and resource scarcity. In the worst case, it may even make them less likely to give aid to those in need.

But Save the Children, a disaster relief and long-term development charity that focuses on children, has a different take: The more children we save, they argue, the smaller the world’s population growth.

In places where child mortality is high, families have more children. “In the poorest countries, where parents are often petrified that their children will die and leave them to fend for themselves, it’s understandable that they would choose to have larger families," according to Brendan Cox of Save the Children. More children can help their parents farm the land, work in the family's small business, and otherwise improve the lot of the poorest of the poor.

But when that fear is mitigated by better income or greater access to aid, family sizes stay small. According to the Save the Children report, the child mortality rate and the global fertility rate have both fallen by more than half since 1970.

And when you have fewer children, you can invest more of your resources into each child, ensuring not only survival, but also success.

So, one way to curb population growth is to keep children alive and thriving.

Ben Osborn is a 2011 graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Read his other contributions to Global Envision.

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