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7 billion and counting.

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The world is about to be populated by 7 billion human beings. That is a lot of people relying on an ever-decreasing number of resources to fuel our bodies, our electricity needs, our transportation, everything. It’s worth spending some time thinking about. There is no prescription here, but continued population growth at these rates does have consequences.

What does 7 billion people mean? Scientific American has a few ideas to report from an Earth Institute forum that was meant to “celebrate, raise awareness and sound a few alarms regarding a U.N. estimate that the 7 billionth human is due to join the party Oct. 31.”

So here are some numbers and predictions to ponder regarding human # 7,000,000,000:

  • “The 7 billionth addition to Homo sapiens represents a spurt of 4 billion people in five decades.”
  • “The growth rate prior to the mid-20th century was much slower and had effectively held steady for thousands of years until the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution.”
  • “By 2100, the African continent will have overwhelmed a historic balance among continents, with “five sub-Saharan Africans for every European.””
  • “With the steady increase over the past half-century has come improved life expectancy to a global average of 70 years.”
  • “Dwindling natural resources, food and water could mean 1 billion starving people across Africa and South Asia’s “hunger belt” sooner than many think.”
  • “We are going to need to construct a city of a million people every five days for the next 40 years”
And the most important aspect to remember: “the Earth is finite.” If we don’t figure out a new plan for everyone on the planet we will use up the resources on Earth, because the resources are not infinite. There is a fixed amount of water and air to be used, or polluted beyond use. The process of producing coal takes a whole lot longer than does the process for digging it up and burning it. What happens after 7 billion will likely be very similar to what happened after 6 billion. But will we be able to say the same at 8 billion marker? Or 9 billion? At some point things are going to tip; no one knows when or what it will mean. Whatever the solution to our resource problems will be, I sure hope it won’t be mining the moon because there’s nothing left on Earth.

Written by Christopher ZF

October 20, 2011 at 15:53

Posted in energy, population