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Beyond 7 billion

This past week, the LA Times had a fascinating series about population growth and how our world looks with 7 billion people. There’s a bunch of great articles in the series, so go fill up your Instapaper. (In the time it took to write up this post, the world’s population increased by 17,000 people which makes me nervous and sweaty.) 2 especially interesting stories from the series:

With population growth, youth prospects fade, fostering violence

About 80% of the world’s civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations, known as youth bulges, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Population Action International. … In a sluggish agrarian economy, few young men can find legitimate employment. Their lack of a steady income essentially closes the door to marriage in a society where sex outside of wedlock is forbidden. Tradition requires paying a dowry and staging a wedding celebration, which together cost as much as $5,000 โ€” three times the average annual household income.

As Iran made contraceptives free, Iranian women made strides:

Without intending to, Iran’s clerical leadership helped to foster “the empowerment of Iranian women,” said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an Iran expert at Virginia Tech. “The mullahs may be winning the battle on the streets, but women are winning the battle inside the family.”

Iranian woman have fewer legal rights than men and are limited in which jobs they can hold and what they can wear. But more of them are attending universities and postponing childbirth. In public universities, female students now outnumber males 65% to 35%, leading to calls in parliament for affirmative action for men.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, however, has sought to reverse the trend toward smaller families. Doubling the country’s population of 75 million would enable Iran to threaten the West, he said.

He has denounced the contraceptive program as “a prescription for extinction,” called on Iranian girls to marry no later than 16 or 17 and offered bonuses of more than $950 for each child. So far, he has been widely ignored.