BELLAGIO, Italy — Will Planet Earth be able to handle the mega-surge of people pouring into the cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America?
Back in 1950, there were 2.2 billion of us, mostly spread across the world's rural areas. Today the United Nations estimates world population at 6.6 billion. Half live in cities where an accelerating human flood of rural people — many desperately poor — generates slums, endangers water and sewage systems, and breeds local misery and potential pandemics.
If today's birthrates continue unaltered, U.N. figures suggest there could be 11.7 billion people by 2050.
There is some good news here. Birth rates have declined as rural people migrate into cities and have fewer children than farm and rural families typically do. The mid-range population expectation for 2050 is 9.1 billion.
And humans have the power to effect huge change on our future numbers, Joel Cohen, head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller and Columbia universities, told a global Urban Summit, assembled by the Rockefeller Foundation, here two weeks ago.
If women, on statistical average, have half a child more than now predicted, Cohen noted, then the world population will soar to 10.6 billion. Conversely, if they choose to have a half child less, then the global population will rise to a comparatively more manageable 7.7 billion.
Already, decisions by families to have less children have brought us back halfway from the unprecedented fertility surge that increased world population by over 2 percent a year in the late 1960s.
Never mind that the birth rates of many European countries fall below population replacement levels. Curse those fertility surges! And will someone please explain how women decide to have half a child more or half a child less? (Actually, I do understand this is just the lingo of statisticians, but I find such phrasing rather comical.)
Of course such an article fits right in with this story in today's Chronicle about daycare for dogs.
Most day-care dogs spend their time in an air-conditioned playroom — few of these pampered pooches are accustomed to being out in the heat and humidity for long — although many offer a small outdoor yard for additional play time and calls of nature. In the suburbs, where land is less expensive than in the dog day-care nexus of Inner Loop Houston, many have large lawns.
Prices average $20 to $30 a day.
Some offer Web cams, allowing owners to check on Fido from afar. That's proven so popular that Molly's Mutt House limits people to five minutes on the Mutt Cam at its Heights location.
"A lot of people keep it on all day," owner Molly Gill said. "Everybody watches, even their friends from other countries."
Consider that more evidence that dogs have become surrogate children.
"We've got a lot of single people, and their dog is their child," said Debra Sullivan of Jackson's Place in Montrose. "We have married people that have no children, and their dog is their child."
Many customers want their surrogate children to be tired at night.
"When dogs can stretch and get their energy out, it's a lot less stress and less work on the owner," said Jenny Bacon, office manager of Midtown Doggy Daycare.
Daycare. Braces. Health insurance. Who needs children when you can spend your money on a dog? How sad that our culture views parenthood as a self-serving act that can be replaced by owning a dog. How counter cultural it is to open oneself up to God’s gift of life and generously offer one’s life to the vocation of parenthood.
Perhaps those advocating for tighter population control and those substituting owning a dog for having a child should consider the words of Mother Teresa:
How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.