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Happy birthday Humanity?

Humans are the only sentient species that we’re aware of on this planet. As a species and individuals we seem to need to find ways to mark the passage of our days. Among these days of our lives there are milestones that mark events of importance. They start out with birthdays and then advance to graduation, first job, marriage and children. As a species some milestones might include the age of enlightenment, first airplane, penicillin, vaccines, atomic energy and the transistor. There’s one milestone that as a species or individual we aren’t aware of or if we are we choose to ignore it – our population increase.

Animals undergo population increases and decreases which are influenced by a number of factors including food availability, water, disease and predation. These mitigating factors tend to keep their populations at an equilibrium level with the available environmental resources. There are occasionally exceptions like locust and lemmings but they don’t happen very often or last.

Throughout most of human history our population size was under the influence of the same force as all other species until we began to develop our intelligence. We used fire, made tools and kept warm with clothing and our population slowly edged upward. As our abilities to manipulate the environment increased so did our population. Due to the industrial revolution our population went up to 2 billion in 1800 and increased geometrically after that.

I was born in the early 1950’s and at that time our species had yet grown past the three billion mark (2.59). This year, 2011, it will reach seven billion. Given the world’s population growth rate and the life expectancy of males in the U.S. it will reach eight billion before I die.

Pressure on even basic resources like living space, water and food will be markedly increased. Nations that already have resource problems will be hard pressured to serve the needs of their people.

While population growth rates in some industrialized nations and China have declined to replacement levels or below there is still enough momentum in developing countries and the third world to keep the population on pace to reach nine billion by 2045. That’s 34 years from now. This all depends on birth rates approaching or staying below replacement level and no significant increase in life expectancy. Plus, continuing the increase in agricultural productivity and not to mention that we don’t blow ourselves up to for some reason.

Some good resource material for more information include ‘The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich, “Limits to Growth” by D. H. Meadows, D. L. Meadows, J. Randers and W. Behrens III and the “National geographic magazine” – January, 2011.

Think Global – Act Local!


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