|National Geographic Special Series: 7 billion|
Given the attention generated by this milestone, it is timely that scholars at the University of Chicago released Girls Grow, a report on the importance of supporting women and girls in rural communities. Equity in the education, health, and nourishment of girls in underdeveloped rural areas worldwide is a humanitarian imperative in its own right. Cultural relativism goes too far when it allows generations of women to be marginalized, sometimes brutally. Not only are the results inhumane, but failing to invest in the human capital of girls contributes to the perpetuation of poverty. The importance of investing in the capacity of girls is captured in the subtitle of the report: A Vital Force in Rural Economies.
Another commonly-cited cause for optimism, however, is that greater numbers of people mean greater potential for innovators. It is true that Kenya environmentalist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai was born in a high-growth country. In creating future leaders, however, the care taken in the education and encouragement of girls is far more important than overall population numbers.