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World Watch; Sep/Oct2008, Vol. 21 Issue 5, p40-45,

Elizabeth Leahy
Sean Peoples


The article focuses on the link between population growth and security globally. It states that the growing population is contributing to risk associated to youth, migration and environmental stress. According to General Michael Hayden of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, population is one of the top three destabilizing trends for security and demography. It emphasizes that majority of the global population lives in countries whose populations will continue to grow for the long term. It denotes that 42% of the world's people live in nations where the average family size is below the number needed to maintain a stable population level.

Risks from growth, youth, migration, and environmental stress

In April 2008, General Michael Hayden, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, cited population growth as one of three top destabilizing trends facing the world (the other two were the rise of Asia and the changing relationship between Europe and the United States). While no reasonable expert would argue that there is a simple causal relationship between demography and security — e.g., that a total fertility rate of five children per woman indicates that civil war will break out 20 years from now, or that a country cannot remain stable unless its age distribution resembles a bell curve — demographic trends can clearly interact with poverty, poor governance, competition for natural resources, and environmental degradation to contribute to conflict. As examples, we need look no further than Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Haiti, or Egypt — places where in recent years tensions that led to conflict may have been heightened by demographic pressures.

Other Sections:

Demographic Diversity


Population Profiles

Rapid population growth in countries with limited state t capacity may compromise natural resource management, thereby threatening livelihoods and sparking violent conflict. When resources are threatened by environmental hazards (e.g., droughts, tsunamis, hurricanes), conflict can erupt between people fighting to preserve their livelihoods. One example of the contribution of population growth and environmental disasters to conflict is the simmering-dispute between India and Bangladesh, where population densities have skyrocketed and devastating floods regularly engulf portions of each country. Those affected in Bangladesh flee to India, engendering conflict between new and existing residents and sometimes leading to organized violence against the newcomers. This situation may continue to worsen: climate experts predict that 16 percent of Bangladesh's low-lying territory could be inundated as seas rise, increasing the risk of health problems such as dengue fever and water-borne pathogens. Another example is Sudan, where desertification and regional climate change, coupled with population displacement, have rendered the country and surrounding region vulnerable to natural disasters and drought. In both cases, cooperative resource management and state capacity-building measures are key to addressing these problems.

Implications of Population-Aging