What Will Be the Impact of Seven Billion People?

On Halloween this year, the world’s population will hit seven billion — or so estimates the United Nations Population Fund. Spooky, considering we hit six billion only a little more than a decade ago. Elizabeth Kolbert offers a brief history of population growth in a recent New Yorker article:

Depending on how you look at things, it has taken humanity a long time to reach this landmark, or practically no time at all. Around ten thousand years ago, there were maybe five million people on earth. By the time of the First Dynasty in Egypt, the number was up to about fifteen million, and by the time of the birth of Christ it had climbed to somewhere in the vicinity of two hundred million. Global population finally reached a billion around 1800, just a couple of years after Thomas Malthus published his famous essay warning that human numbers would always be held in check by war, pestilence, or “inevitable famine.”

Of course, we all know that Malthus was a little off the mark. But as the world’s population continues to grow (to perhaps 10 billion and growing by 2100), Kolbert raises concerns about the planet’s ability to sustain all that life: “As many, including Bill Gates, have pointed out, just to keep per-capita food production constant in the coming decades will require a second ‘green revolution.’”  Part of what made the first green revolution possible was a sharp increase in the use of phosphorus-rich fertilizers,” she writes.  “Thanks to this increased use, experts say, reserves of phosphorus are now being exhausted…Other essential commodities that could similarly run short include oil, water, and arable land.”

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 17

View All Comments »
  1. ProfBob says:

    The population is already out of hand. I just saw the Australian parents of the seven billionth child on television. They were ecstatic. Australians seem to want more people to populate their land. What they don’t seem to realize is that every child leaves a carbon footprint.
    Freshwater is getting more scarce. Arable land, 10 to 20% of the planet’s land mass, is disappearing through erosion at the rate of tens of thousands of square miles per year. According to research at Oregon State University, the average American mother leaves a carbon footprint of 450 years per child. This is a disaster for climate change.
    Organizations and individuals have been warning us about the dangers of overpopulation. A little over a year ago ScienceDaily noted that it was the major world problem– with climate change second. It is certainly recommended that people familiarize themselves with all of the problems of overpopulation. The free websites at overpopulation.org, which keeps us current on news of the problem, and the free e-book series “And Gulliver Returns” –In Search of Utopia– (http://andgulliverreturns.info) that not only goes into the details of the problem but also explains the ethical and psychological barriers to changing people’s behavior, are must reads.
    Naturally business interests want more customers, political interests want more workers to support the welfare systems and more warriors to protect their ways of life, and religions need more souls to save. It is sad that we can’t see the cliff as we follow our lemming-like brothers into oblivion.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  2. The Regular Joe says:

    I don’t know and I’m not sticking around to find out. something has got to give
    http://theregjoe.blogspot.com/2011/11/7000000000-and-counting-back.html

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0