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Global population could reach 7 billion by Oct. 31

October 19, 2011 | 11:46 am

Newborn-baby
Want a real Halloween scare? The planet's population will reach 7 billion by Oct. 31.

That's according to the United Nations Population Fund, which is trying to use that staggering figure as a wake-up call and an opportunity to harness the world's resources -- and not just resources of the food and water kind -- for the greater good.

"It's a big number," Omar Gharzeddine, a spokesman for the population fund, told The Times. "We're confident that, while it's a challenge, it's also an opportunity with all of the young people in the world and how we can change."

The fact that the milestone figure could be reached on Halloween is coincidence and not commentary, he said. The projection is based on the U.N.'s census data and birth rate information, but experts are already haggling over whether the data are accurate or not. The U.S. Census Bureau reportedly predicts a February 2012 due date.

And buckle up for the inevitable media race to anoint the 7 billionth person. Plan International, an international child advocacy agency, is planning to seize that limelight on Oct. 31, according to Live Science. It will present a 7-billionth-person birth certificate to a baby girl in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, in a bid to draw attention to the problem of sex-selective abortions in that country.

Regardless, it seems that everyone can agree that Mother Earth's population continues to grow by leaps and bounds -- and won't slow down anytime soon.

That recognition could help shape global policies going forward, even as authorities grapple to understand what the population growth will mean and how the world should respond. No doubt, there are politically charged discussions about family planning and birth control on the horizon, as well as tough decisions about how to best help areas of the world burdened by poverty and hunger.

Here are some U.N. projections to mull over with a handful of candy corn:

-- Looking ahead, the U.N. projects that the world population will reach 8 billion by 2025, and 10 billion by 2083. But it cautions that those numbers are mere projections, and could veer dramatically with changes such as access to birth control.

-- Average life expectancy is also expected to continue rising, but again that depends on a number of factors. Today, 893 million people are 60 or older. But by the middle of this century that number will nearly triple, to reach 2.4 billion, according to the population fund. Globally speaking, today's average life span is 68 years, compared with 48 in 1950.

-- The population explosion will be especially felt in cities around the globe. Right now, one in two people live in an urban area. In about 35 years, two out of three will.

It all adds up to a lot of mouths to feed.

So, what's next? The population fund will release its annual State of World Population report next week. Titled "People and Possibilities in a World of 7 Billion," it promises to make the case "for sound planning and investing in people" as a way to deal with population growth.

"By empowering people to improve their own lives, we can foster sustainable cities that serve as catalysts for progress, productive labour forces that fuel economic growth, youth populations that contribute to the well-being of economies and societies, and a generation of healthy older people who are actively engaged in the social and economic affairs of their communities," the report's teaser says.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Newborns but none are the planet's 7 billionth baby. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

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