Dear Minister, Mayor, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen and dear students,
Today, the world’s population is just over 7 billion. On the 31st of October this year, the 7 billionth person was born – who and where is up for discussion. Since modern Homo Sapiens first appeared around 50,000 BC, an estimated total of 108 billion people have lived on earth – which means that about 6.5% of all humans ever born are alive today. Another interesting fact is; If you packed the world’s population in at New York City’s density, we would fit inside the state of Texas.
It is a pleasure for me to be here today to open this photo exhibition that welcomes citizen number 7 billion to the world. The United Nations Population Fund has taken the initiative to organize this exhibition which has also been shown in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
The moving and beautiful images by National Geographic’s photographers that you see around you, introduce us to people from all around the world. People who lead different lives and who live under very different circumstances.
You will meet a little baby who was born in Kampala in Uganda. Every day 370.000 babies are born into this world and each and everyone of them deserves a good life.
You will meet a girl called Asia who lives in Yemen. She is about your age - fourteen years old and she already has two small children to take care of. She is ill, but sadly cannot afford to go to the doctor to receive the treatment she needs.
You will meet another girl and her teacher in a boarding school in India. Her school was established to give girls who come from poor families an opportunity to receive an education. Here she is learning to read and write so that one day she can find a job and create a better future for herself.
In text and photos, the exhibition will show that in some ways the world is meeting the challenges of the expanding population. Today, there are fewer people living in extreme poverty than there were 20 years ago.
More people have access to clean drinking water. And new technologies are allowing us to make better use of our natural resources, like the sun, water and wind as alternative energy sources.
We also live longer and healthier lives. More will have the chance to get to know their great-grand parents and perhaps some of these elderly may even be wind surfing when they are 100 years old, just like Fred who you will also meet in the exhibition. Others will need help in their daily lives. You will see an example of this from Japan, where robots are used to help older citizens when they go shopping.
You will also learn that around the world more children are going to school. But still, more than 100 million children, which is about 20 times the number of people living in Denmark, do not have this opportunity. Imagine how different your life would be if you had no education. Imagine how your future would look.
You are part of the biggest generation of youth the world has ever seen. In fact 3 billion of the people who live on earth are under the age of 25. Everyone of you will have an impact on the future.
In a big crowd of 7 billion, you may think that your choices do not matter. But it is the combined choices of, all of you, that make up the future of our world.
I hope that you will enjoy these thought-provoking images and learn from and be inspired by the sometimes surprising facts that are presented in the exhibition.