Way too many people

World Population

Phil the test manager, Going Postal

The prologue:

At the dawn of agriculture, about 8000 B.C., the population of the world was approximately 5 million. Over the 8,000-year period up to 1 A.D. it grew to 200 million (some estimate 300 million or even 600, suggesting how imprecise population estimates of early historical periods can be), with a growth rate of under 0.05% per year.

A tremendous change occurred with the industrial revolution: whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 for world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in 30 years (1960), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).

During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.

In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.

Because of declining growth rates, it will now take over 200 years to double again, but that would mean 15 billion people on the planet, and that, surely, cannot be sustainable.

Let’s take a look at some figures about the world population

Year Population Yearly % Fertility Density Urban
    Change Rate (P/Km²) Pop %
2018 7,632,819,325 1.09% 2.51 51 54.90%
2017 7,550,262,101 1.12% 2.51 51 54.40%
2016 7,466,964,280 1.14% 2.51 50 54.00%
2015 7,383,008,820 1.19% 2.52 50 53.60%
2010 6,958,169,159 1.24% 2.57 47 51.30%
2005 6,542,159,383 1.26% 2.63 44 48.90%
2000 6,145,006,989 1.33% 2.75 41 46.50%
1995 5,751,474,416 1.53% 3.02 39 44.70%
1990 5,330,943,460 1.81% 3.44 36 42.90%
1985 4,873,781,796 1.80% 3.6 33 41.10%
1980 4,458,411,534 1.79% 3.87 30 39.20%
1975 4,079,087,198 1.97% 4.46 27 37.60%
1970 3,700,577,650 2.07% 4.92 25 36.50%
1965 3,339,592,688 1.94% 4.96 22 N.A.
1960 3,033,212,527 1.82% 4.89 20 33.60%
1955 2,772,242,535 1.80% 4.96 19 N.A.

Population by region

From Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population

Six of our planet’s seven continents are permanently inhabited on a large scale. Asia is the most populous continent, with its 4.54 billion inhabitants accounting for 60% of the world population. The world’s two most populated countries, China and India, together constitute about 36% of the world’s population. Africa is the second most populated continent, with around 1.28 billion people, or 16% of the world’s population.  Europe’s 742 million people make up 10% of the world’s population as of 2018, while the Latin American and Caribbean regions are home to around 651 million (9%). Norther America, primarily consisting of the USA and Canada, has a population of around 363 million (5%).

Today then we have 7.6 billion people on the planet. Can we feed and water them?  The answer is a no-brainer, we cannot.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that about 815 million people of the 7.6 billion people in the world, or 10.7%, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2016. Almost all the hungry people live in lower-middle-income countries.  There are 11 million people undernourished in developed countries.  (https://www.worldhunger.org/world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/)

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. The causes of poverty include lack of resources, unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict and hunger itself. As of 2013, when the most recent comprehensive data on global poverty was collected, about 767 million people are living below the international poverty line of less than $1.90 per person per day (The World Bank, 2016). This was a decrease of about 1 billion people below the poverty line from 1990 (The World Bank, 2016). However, although the number of people living in extreme poverty globally has been declining, in lower-middle-income regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the number is actually growing.

Hunger is also a cause of poverty, and thus of hunger, in a cyclical relationship. By causing poor health, small body size, low levels of energy and reductions in mental functioning, hunger can lead to even greater poverty by reducing people’s ability to work and learn, thus leading to even greater hunger.

Conflict. More than half (489 million) of the 815 million hungry people in the world live in countries affected by conflict. Ranging from non-state and state-based violence to one-sided violence, some of the conflicts that result in internal or international displacement have occurred in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, among many other countries throughout the world. In addition, most of the 19 countries in complex, prolonged conflict are located in Africa.

It seems to me that 6 billion people at the most, on our planet is all we can cater for. Here though is the forecast for population growth for the rest of this century:

Year Population Annual Growth Rate
2020 7,795,482,309 1.06%
2025 8,185,613,757 0.98%
2030 8,551,198,644 0.88%
2035 8,892,701,940 0.79%
2040 9,210,337,004 0.70%
2045 9,504,209,572 0.63%
2050 9,771,822,753 0.56%
2055 10,011,171,422 0.49%
2060 10,222,598,469 0.42%
2065 10,409,808,296 0.36%
2070 10,575,846,551 0.32%
2075 10,721,963,763 0.27%
2080 10,848,708,184 0.24%
2085 10,957,565,804 0.20%
2090 11,050,055,193 0.17%
2095 11,126,032,796 0.14%
2100 11,184,367,721 0.10%

So, why do we keep on increasing our population, despite knowing that we cannot feed and water them? I have done much research and it appears these are the key factors:

The answer is the theory of ‘Natural Selection’:

Now this natural selection determines the equilibrium of any species on this planet. Any species which has an ‘inherent advantage’ will have relative more population

Our ancestors started using tools by combining stones and sticks, this gave them an advantage over other species to hunt. It took many calories to tear the meat of animals, and by discovering ‘fire’, the food become soft and tasty. This lead to less burning of calories, another advantage. With the rise of the wheel, more energy was spared and a lot more leisure time led to thinking.

The greatest advantage natural selection gave us was ‘standing up-straight’. This happened because man couldn’t see his prey in tall grasses on 4 limbs. Our 2 hands could be used for many other purposes. As a result associations came to be formed, males combined to catch the prey and females to cook, not to mention common dens and houses made of twigs and branches helped. This led to exchange of communication and development of linguists.

The greatest turning point was the invention of agriculture. Before agriculture a lot of energy was wasted to catch scarce prey but agriculture changed everything. Now 10 more people could be fed with 1/10th of land means a rise of factor of 100.

By 1 BC, ‘Philosophy and Logic’ was developed all thanks to Greeks. Weird activities and religion was sidelined. This led to a giant leap forward in rational thinking of man. With the rise of the arts, writing, cannons, guns and modern industrial revolution, the ‘Natural Selection’ theory favoured us greatly.

The rise of medicine also lead to great rise of population. Naturally death rates declined. As the comfort zone kept rising the population rose every time.

Why is Growth Slowing?

Giving birth to 5 to 7 children per woman used to be the norm all over the place. Many died young, many more in wars, from hunger or from epidemics.

With more food available, fewer are starving, plus better medical treatments, so fewer people dying at young age.

After a while, people started realising that all these children need to be fed for a long time because schooling them becomes a necessity. Also these children tend not to provide old age security for the parents any more, and so the Europeans started having less and less children. Then Americans. Then Asians. Right now, we are left with just a few places where more than three children is a norm – mainly in Africa and parts of the Middle East. Most States are converging towards simple reproduction rate of (slightly above) two children per woman.

The crucial number is the average birthrate globally

Around 2.1 is considered a rate that would yield a stable population. If the average was 3 and remained so permanently, the population would pretty quickly be astronomical. 3 doesn’t seem like a lot, but that kind of mathematical progression adds up much faster than most people realise.

Right now I believe we are somewhere between 2.5 and 3. Most growth will be in Africa, South Asia and all Muslim countries. This also means that any country in the world importing Muslims will also find their growth rate becoming unsustainably higher, and with so few economically active (i.e. paying taxes) those countries will become poorer as well, which leads to hunger and war.

Just watch the world population clock. It is scary to see that every new day there are 200.000 more people here then the day before.

You can check out how big the population was in the year of your birth. Check out per country and see the future here: World Population Clock: 7.6 Billion People (2018)

So, we now know why we have more and more people on the planet, and a good estimate for the future quantity. Scared? We should be.

How can we control this growth?

A country can control growth if it has the political will. China for example had the 1 child policy only, but now has 2, though as a country it is still growing massively. A country could, for example stop payment benefits to husbands with more than one wife, and for a maximum of one or two children only, making it economically unviable to breed more. This sort of “voluntary” thing would be unlikely in my view to happen on a continental or global scale.  I believe that paying people to breed is exceptionally stupid unless after a period of great loss of population.

As we will most likely not try and control over-breeding, this leaves death and war to control it:

Death by Natural Disaster

In this next century, we could see some major Earth shattering disasters, which could include:

Death by Volcanoes – Over the past 13.5 million years, 19 giant eruptions have each spewed more than 1,000 cubic km of rock which is enough to coat an entire continent in a few centimetres of ash and push the planet into a nuclear winter. The most recent eruption: Toba in Indonesia 74,000 years ago may have been the cause of last ice age and cutting human population. There would be a 1% chance of a super-eruption in the next 460-7,200 years.

Death by Fungus – Fungi have caused 70% of the recorded global and regional extinctions, and now threaten amphibians, bats and bees. The Irish Potato Famine was caused by a fungus.

Death by solar flare – The sun occasionally launches outsize solar flares, which can fry electricity grids. A major flare could kill hundreds of millions of people and set us back 150 years.

Death by Asteroid – The possibility of large comet or asteroid strike. 65 million years ago, an asteroid 10 km wide hit Earth and triggered the end-Cretaceous mass extinction. 2km wide rocks hit the planet 1-2 times every million years.

Death by Water – The main threat is tsunamis, one of the more recent examples is the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 which killed up to 280,000 people.

Whether any or all of the above happen, there is always the possibility of a really big world-wide war, probably based initially between countries and then at a continental level, either because one side thinks their god is better than someone else’s or because one side wants more land to grow food.  That should reduce the population significantly, it then becomes a question of whether or not land is still suitable to grow food and hold clean water.

Something will happen, just not sure what, as our planet is basically full to brimming already.

Mind how you go, don’t bump into anyone.

© Phil the test manager 2018

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