In November last year, we hit the 8 billion world population target. This was possible because of the improvements in public health which helped reduce death rates while increasing life expectancy. While it is energising to leave behind 2022 with a round number, what does this increase in population mean exactly for the average citizen and most importantly for wildlife and the planet?
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), two thirds of the world population live in a low fertility context with an average of 2 births per woman. Nevertheless, this population growth is concentrated in the world’s poorest countries being the majority concentrated in Southern Africa and Asia. Rapid population growth makes it more difficult to eradicate poverty, address malnutrition and improve the coverage of health and education systems. It is very important to highlight that countries with the highest consumptions rates are those where populational growth is slow or non-existent. However, people with the lowest emission rates are likely to suffer the effects of climate change disproportionally. Therefore, the main challenge of sustainable development is to find a balance between the exploitation of natural resources and their conservation.
Unfortunately, population growth has a devastating effect on wildlife species. Human populations expand into the habitats of wild animals and as a result, natural wildlife territory is displaced. When food and water become scarce, animals seek alternative sources. This battle for land, food and water results in conflict between wildlife and people. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Human-wildlife conflicts (HWC) are becoming more frequent, serious and widespread as human populations grow and habitats are lost. Alarmingly, these conflicts primarily involve endangered species and result in broader environmental impacts on ecosystem balance and biodiversity preservation.
HWC can be reduced by putting in practice a number of measures which include; a) Creating more protected areas and buffer zones, b) Enhance the safety of people and wildlife and to create mutual benefits of coexistence, c) Implement and enforce strategies to reduce HWC at national level and regional levels, given that wildlife knows no physical borders and most importantly, d) Guarantee the involvement of local communities in wildlife management which is aimed at tackling the threat effectively at local level. This participatory approach enables local communities to become guardians of their environment and ensure ownership and sustainability.
But people living in other parts of the globe, who don’t usually experience the struggle of sharing resources with other beings, also have an important role in promoting the sustainable use of natural resources. Adopting a greener attitude is quickly becoming less of a trend and more of an emergency. The good news is that it is doable, and it is called ‘Simple Living’.
Simplicity promotes healthy living and creates a proactive, sustainable living environment. Simple living triggers less production by reducing consumerism. It is ecologically efficient because it encourages green measures such as cycling or walking to work, which have positive health benefits while reducing emissions. Simple living boosts individual finances, health and happiness levels. But most importantly, it encourages a direct relationship with nature and an opportunity to remain mindful of all living beings.
© EHRA Namibia