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7 billion and counting

Submitted by on July 11, 2014 – 11:00 amNo Comment

Paper artist Gurpreet Singh’s model of the hazards of the increasing population

Check out this website. It shows a flickering total of the population of the world where every second the figure changes several times to account for births and deaths. It’s actually quite creepy…but it puts things into perspective.
In 1970, there were half the number of people there are today. Half the amount of resources needed, but also (probably less than) half of the understanding of what we should be doing to keep the planet going. On 11th July 1987, the World’s population hit 5 billion – forever marked as World Population Day by the UNFPA. The statistics around population growth up to this point are fairly mind blowing – in the 20th century the population grew from 1.6 billion to the current 7 billion. It took all of human history, as World Meters point out, for humanity to reach 1 billion. And look at us now. With the populations in China and India at 1.3 and 1.2 billion, respectively, there are more people in a single country than there ever were in thousands of years of human history.

But what does all this mean for the planet – energy consumption, food production – can we withstand this continual population growth and can we all, individually, do anything to mitigate the effects? The population of the UK is hardly insignificant – with the 22nd highest population in the world at nearly 64 million, we can’t really afford to sit back and let China and India take the rap for any global warming/destruction/depleting resources. If you want to be relatively blameless move to the Pitcairn Islands – they only have 56 people.

Our carbon emissions, for example, have stayed at approximately 7.68 metric tons since 2009. China’s, in stark contrast, stood at 7 billion tonnes; way higher than anticipated in the International Energy Agency’s 1998 forecast. But 7.68 metric tons isn’t negligible and the aim of our 2008 Climate Change Act is to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. Whether we achieve this remains to be seen (we’re doing our bit.)

When it comes to food production, a global increase of 70% by 2050 is estimated, where 50% of cereal production is going to feed the animals who make up a large percentage of the overall total. But right now about an 8th of the world is undernourished anyway – what happens to them? And with a growing population, the strain on land and crop production is inevitable without an increase in sustainable farming techniques (for more info see here)

The use of more resources will also lead to a huge increase in waste. According to the Millennium Project, “In 2025, 4.3 billion urban residents will generate 2.2 billion tons of solid waste per year, an increase from 1.3 billion tons per year today. However big the population of the world gets, recycling needs to be a priority, evidently. There’s so much potential strain on the planet that the only way we can truly know we’re attempting to make a difference is to do everything we can to live sustainable lives. Or just move to the Pitcairn Islands.

For more information about World Population Day, see the UNFPA website.





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