Making room

Today's section is loaded with numbers, statistics from the United Nations.

In two weeks, the population of the planet will hit 6 billion. By the year 2054 the number will be 9 billion - a 50 percent jump in less than one lifetime (see article right). Who can make sense of such figures?

There is no easy way to wrap one's head around the implications for cities, the environment, and resource allocation, but Brad Knickerbocker gets us started. His is not a Malthusian lament. It is a sober, comprehensive look at the challenges that face our planet because of explosive population growth.

If the UN projection is anywhere on target it means that 3 billion more people will need a home, sooner rather than later. In the global pushing and shoving to come, we in the West are going to have to learn how to find our way in more crowded urban and metropolitan areas. We'll likely have to alter our definition of "private space."

Ruth Walker reviews the first full-length biography about the father of the post-apartheid South Africa (page 18). It is compelling to see how Nelson Mandela coped with private space while he was imprisoned. South Africa offers vistas of the widest, most-open horizons conceivable. Prison would be especially confining there. He carved out a mental, spiritual spot for himself in the space of prison; and the solitary confinement that ironically accompanied his prison life for many years.

Am I saying the crowded planet we face will be like a prison? No, not at all. But the spiritual efforts outlined by Mr. Mandela in coming to terms with incarceration are fundamental to each one of us and our sense of harmony as we contemplate the planet's expanding population.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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