7 Billion Humans | Empty Pockets, The Youth Bulge in Developing WorldBy Randy Olson
Empty pockets – Fertile Developing World: Half of Uganda’s population is under the age of 15 and they have one of the highest fertility rates on the planet (6.7 children per woman) and ranks third from the bottom in education. Uganda just does not have enough support for young people. It is also third in the world for stresses in health and infrastructure. It doesn’t help that their President Museveni looks to China as a healthy role model and believes it is the number of “boots on the ground” (he is former military) that has led to their success. So Museveni just wants to wait until the thirty million in Uganda hits sixty million before he even thinks about putting in any extra infrastructure for them. One of the side affects of this is that Kampala has become one big parking lot. The traffic just sits there and the only way to get anywhere is to hire a boda boda, a guy on a dirt bike who weaves between all the bumpers of the parked traffic.
I witnessed the worst maternity ward imaginable there—women brought a tattered sheet of plastic with them to the maternity ward because they knew they would give birth on a hospital hallway floor, probably along with multiple women giving multiple births (twins, twins, twins,) on their little sheets of plastic while the few beds were full of multiple women and not enough staff to save anyone’s life if there were complications. Uganda’s population has doubled since 1990. According to the UN, the world’s population reached 7 billion on October 31, 2011. Two hundred years ago, there were only 1 billion people on the planet. In the past fifty years alone, the world’s population has more than doubled. When I started photographing the “7 Billion” story for National Geographic Magazine, I thought I would be doing a story about carrying capacity—basically that there are not enough resources and there are too many people and we are going to be screwed in a Malthusian way. Then I read a book called “How Many People Can the World Support,” by Joel Cohen which is all about all the predictions for the planet’s carrying capacity over the last couple hundred years and how each prediction was wrong. Bottom line is, you can’t really talk about how many people the planet can support when things like fertilizer keep being invented, but you can talk forever about population shift. With the realization that this story was about population shift and how that affects the planet, we came up with four subcategories within which to concentrate the field photography: Urbanization, Immigration, Empty Pockets (the fertile poor), and Empty Nests (the depopulation of aging, rich countries). These four concepts are interrelated. This gallery is the “empty pockets” portion of this story.