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Population Growth Rate (continued)

Population growth, the economy, and the environment

Rapid population growth rates can make it difficult for countries to raise standards of living and protect the environment because the more people there are, the greater the need for food, health care, education, houses, land, jobs, and energy. Adding more people to a country’s population means that the wealth must be distributed among more people, causing GNP per capita to decrease at least in the short term.

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Responding to the needs of a rapidly growing population can challenge a country’s ability to manage its natural resources on a sustainable basis. For example, people may not be able to get access to safe water because more and more households, farms and factories are using increasing amounts of water. Deforestation may occur as trees are cut to provide fuel for cooking, building materials, or land for grazing and agriculture. Desertifcication may occur as land that has been intensively farmed becomes depleted of its nutrients or eroded when trees whose roots systems once anchored the soil are gone. The air may become polluted as people crowd into cities, the number of cars increases, people use more and more energy, and economies continue to industrialize.

Strategies for change: Affecting population growth rates

Parents tend to have larger families when they fear that many of their babies may die, when they need laborers to work on the family farm or business, when they want to ensure that they themselves will be cared for in their old age, and when they lack access to education and to family planning if they want it.

Experience shows that three of the most successful strategies to reduce fertility rates are to ensure that people 1) have greater access to primary health care and family planning services, 2) receive a basic education, especially girls and women, and 3) have government services that help protect them when they are sick, old or unemployed.

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