As of Monday, October 31st, the United Nations officially made its proclamation that Earth now contains 7 billion people. Now, let’s be real first before delving into the article, this number is based on a percent error of 2% because there is no way to accurately know the exact number of people in the world. So theoretically we could be off by as much as 60 million. But that is beside the point, if we haven’t hit the exact number yet, we’ll hit it in a month or so.
The real issue at hand is how this will impact the world and whether or not we have become too top-heavy to support ourselves. Obviously 7,000,000,000 is no different from 6,900,000,000 from about a year ago… but the mark of 7 billion people warrants a look into our population growth. For the most part, Earth’s human population remained constant for tens of thousands of years. At year 1 we were at a population of about 200 million people. 1,800 years later we hit 1 billion people. So it took 1,800 years for our population to grow 800 million people. Nowadays , it takes about 5 years to do the same thing! From the year 1800 until now, we have gone from 1 billion to 7 billion people and it doesn’t look like the rate is slowing one bit.
What is it that pushed the snowball down the slope? It had to be something around 400 years ago because population was largely constant up until that point. I’ll tell you what happened. Around the year 1620, Sir Francis Bacon published Novum Organum (New Method), which was what he believed should be the new method of understanding, knowledge, and science, that would replace the, then, 1700 year old Aristotle Method. If you notice on the growth chart presented above, you will see that right around the time his new method came about was the same time the population began its rather significant incline. Right around this time was also the first real great progression of science and medicine (largely in part to his new scientific method that is still used today). Though, rudimentary by today’s standards, the 17th century was just past the end of the dark ages and many new and great things were turning around… let me just list a few: The first refracting and reflecting telescope was invented, the slide-rule was invented, blood transfusions came about, steam turbine was invented, micrometer is invented, barometer is invented, first calculating machine invented, the first bacteria under a microscope were seen and described, among other things.
Not only were these inventions massively triumphant in the science world but also around this time, travel and global communication was becoming more consistent. The world was being mapped and all corners of the globe were being traveled to on a regular basis. Knowledge was being exchanged, obviously significantly slower than today, but it was still consistent. All of this is what led to the dawn of the industrial revolution of all the major nations in the world… and when that happened, there was no stopping human growth. Those who normally would die in the world, were living. And those who normally weren’t able to support their family were now able to easily trade desired commodities.
This is all fine and dandy right? Not really. The reason is our expansion has grown past the point of our rate of developing new and better technologies. The lead-acid battery is [for the most part] the only way we store a charge and it has remained unchanged for 150 years. Other than nuclear, burning coal and gas has been around for longer, and we still primarily rely on coal for power. Whether you like it or not, these methods of energy consumption are not long-term solutions and the question we begin to ask ourselves is where will our population exceed Earth’s capable output? Don’t just say that we’ll soon develop technology to overcome it. You can’t predict the future, that’s a very dangerous thing to do because you don’t know if and when that technology will come about and you don’t know if and when the population will stop growing. And by the looks of it, it’s not going to anytime soon. In just 10 years we’re expected to be at 8 billion and in less than 20 we’re expected to be at 9 billion. This can’t go on forever.
Now for the real brain buster. What if we cure HIV/Aids, as well as cancer? Millions of people who would otherwise be dying would now be living, and those people you would now have to support as well. There’s only so much land to farm, so much coal and oil to mine, so much minerals to extract, only a certain rate at which to harvest trees. Don’t liken me for some leftist hippy because that is NOT what I am. What I am saying is that it is irrefutable that the current method of resource extraction and consumption will most definitely not support humans at the rate at which we are expanding, and that doesn’t even include the people who could be saved from a possible STD and cancer cure.
Am I saying we shouldn’t care about finding these cures or improving technology to the point that everyone on the planet has a fighting chance at a quality life? Not at all, we just need to make sure we improve our technology in other areas that make it easier to support such a population growth and to do it efficiently. Hopefully this will get you to think about how you consume, and what things are important in this world. I didn’t go into possible solutions for this problem, but I plan to at a later time.
Feel free to share or leave comment on what you think, there’s also a “contact” link above if you wish to talk to me directly.
- 7 billion people in the world: past, present and future (flowingdata.com)
- 7 Billion People: What Number Are You? (tvnooz.com)
- 7 Billion People (greenlifegirl.wordpress.com)
- What Does 7 Billion People Mean? There’s An App For That (mashable.com)
- 7 Billion People (maboulette.wordpress.com)