Monday, 31 October 2011

Global population = 7 Billion

UN predictions suggest that today the world's population reaches a staggering 7 billion and I have to admit that it is pretty cool, although slightly scary, to think that I share my birthday with the 7 billionth inhabitant of Earth -  quite fitting considering it is Halloween!

The graph above illustrates where I fit into the picture - 5,582,734,706th person when I was born, making me the 80,819,731,395th person ever alive on Planet Earth - follow the link to find out which 1 of 7 billion you are....

I realise you are not going to be short of things to read on this topic over the coming weeks so I am not going to delve to much into the details of this pretty historic moment but first up for a few statistics that I am sure we could all slip into a Geography essay (or two!) over the common year...

Globally, every hour there are:
- 15,347 births
- 6, 418 deaths
= Average yearly increase of +1.162%
Fast-growing country is Qatar at +514 people per day
Fast-shrinking country is Moldova at -106 people per day

Highest life expectancy is in Japan at 82.7 years
Lowest life expectancy is in the Central African Republic at 45.9 years

97/100 new people on the planet are currently being born in developing countries

In the UK, the population is around 62156764 and every hour there are:
- 85 births
- 66 deaths
- +23 immigrants
= Average yearly growth of 0.6%
Average life expectancy is 79.6 years (81.7 for females and 77.4 for males)

It is quite hard to visualise all these statistics regarding population expansion but this interactive graphic produced by the Guardian, based on the UN projections, is quite good, especially when aiming to make comparisons between countries. Whilst talking about the Guardian and the resources they offer, they are very good at reporting on development and environmental issues and so checking up on that ever so often would be a good way to keep up with your independent reading, or if you are likely to forget to check you can like the facebook pages for both. However, if the thought of reading lots doesn't really excite you much then they also produce podcasts which are not too long and quite interesting to listen to - I find some of them quite good for helping me form opinions on this human geography stuff - here is the link to a recent podcast on population growth.

Whats next? Will people numbers stop rising?
The global population is expected to continue to increase during the course of this century, reaching 10 billion by 2083 - follow the link above to see a clip that illustrates this quite well. However, the rate of this growth is expected to slow in comparison to the rapid rate of exapnsion witness over the last 100 years. Little of this growth is happening in countries such as the UK, who are expected over coming years to see a drastic reduction in growth with many possibly experiencing negative growth. Instead, the growth is occuring in the developing world - with Asia presently experiencing most growth although this is soon likely to switch to Africa. We have recently placed quite a bit of focus on to the issues of ageing populations and so it is easy to forget that the world's population is actually quite young, with 43% under 25 (this constitutes 60% of the population across developing countries).

I have been struggling to know what excatly to write but the idea of writing a letter to the 7 billionth person caught my eye so I thought I would give it a try.......

Dear 7 billionth person,

First up, welcome to the world! We havent really been looking after Earth that well and unless we start to change our attitude then the future does not really look that bright......

I am trying really hard not to start on a negative but I have to admit its not easy. 7 billion people on the planet - I doubt if you said that 50 years ago anyone would have believed you, especially in the given timescale. 1 billion people added to the planet in 12 years is crazy and worryingly, for a while atleast, the rate of population expansion could continue to accelerate before it begins to slow down - I would love to know what Thomas Malthus would think about this all if he was still alive today. Anyway, whilst its easy to focus on all the doom and gloom that the future may hold, I think that this historic moment in time warrants us all to sit back and reflect, reflect on the progress made my mankind over the past few centuries. As a race we have come so far and the fact that I can stand here today and say that the global population has reached 7 billion is real testament to the great thinkers of  past generations who have solved so many of the problems society has face. Yes, we have made some huge mistakes in the past, and prevail to do so, but enough of us have learnt from this to allow for progress to be made. If you are born into a developed country (although this is unlikely considering 97/100 babies are born in developing countries) you will have access to all the simply remarkable scientific discoveries and technological advancements that have been made and therefore we be able to experience the best that we have so far achieved. If you are fortunate enough to be granted this luxury, please don't be ignorant to the fact, like so many, that the world is full of inequality, poverty is rife and suffering is an unnerving norm for so many. Suffering extends to the environment we inhabit and there is no hiding the fact our current status has been built on unsustainable foundations whilst we continually threaten our world in an unacceptable and, possibly, unforgivable way.....

Perhaps, its good that the UN have decided not to name the 7 billionth inhabitant of Earth as I feel a lot of responsiblilty would have been placed on you. Instead I think the number and the idea itself that there are 7 billion people on planet Earth should be enough (hopefully!) to shock people into changing - if we don't change (and soon!) then the thousands of children born each day are only going to inherit problems, problems generated by our ignorance and arrogance. Unification is what is required as we all need to act together if our efforts are to have the desired effect. Of course, politcans and public figures leading the way will help but we need to want to change for ourselves and the good of mankind. Hopefully the symbolic nature of your existance should catalyses the reaction needed to bring about required change but we are, as a global community, quite unpredictable and do some strange things, our persistant abuse of the Earth's finite resources even though we are fully aware of the consequences just one example.

You symoblise perfectly the issue of over-population, an issue that needs to be addressed, especially as we seem intent on continuing the unsustainable lifestyles a significant amount of us lead. This problem is slightly trickier to solve than environmental issues, to some extent, as why should we have the right to dictate how many children a couple can have. Its one that, until recently, has not been publicised enough across the world and is an issue that will only get worse before it gets better. Whilst I understand the theory behind possible solutions to this issue I am not confident enough to offer a solution, as to most of the problems this world faces, but I live in hope that one day someone will and we will all listen. When that day will be, who knows, but if current trends continue it is likely to be the time at which it is almost too late. Sounds a little skeptical I know but that seems to be the way the world works these days..... we fail to change until our bank accounts feel the impacts!

Advice I can give you...... well I cannot really offer you much in the way of life advice apart from enjoy it, make the most of any access you can get to education (it really is the key to the future), be yourself, help others to the best of your ability and strive to make a difference. Don't live in the past but don't ignore it, learn from the mistakes some have made. Adaptablity is going to be the key in the future, we have messed with systems we are yet to fully understand and thus the consequences are unknown, so we have to be prepared to adapt to the coming changes and make comprimises with the environment we live in. Whatever you do, just don't lose hope with the human race, unpredictability can work both ways and hope is all that some have. It is easy to look at the future and give up but we have always found ways in the past, and hope in the future is the only way forward. If you want to really do something with your life when you are older, and be able to offer solutions to the problems our and future generations face, then become a scientist/politican. This world needs another great thinker, someone who is willing to take the risk of looking far outside the box and take a chance on their gut feelings. Whilst we currently have many great scientists who are making advancements towards understanding the impacts of anthropogenic forcing, we are in desperate need of someone who can understand this knowledge, convey it to the wider audience in a way that will grap their attention and demand their support. We need someone that can unite the world, which I realise sounds strange considering we all pretty much  share the same common goal and are more connected to each other than even before. I fear that, if we are not carefull, the resource war, which could be immentent, will be catastrophic and leave the world in an even worse state than before. This resource war, at present, may remain a theory held by many but I believe we will all learn to fear the idea, especially when the unnerving probability of it occuring not too far in the future becomes public knowledge - a war that could easily violently erupt within our lifetimes.

The symbol you form could start to unite the world and make us reflect, with the words 7 billion, I am sure, spoken far more than 7 billion times tomorrow. Its key we allow this milestone passing to have some form of resonance so in  years time we can identify this date as a key turning point in the history of mankind.....

......the day humanity decided to stop, think, reflect and ultimately change

Well I live in hope! Good luck in the future, I wish you all the best in life and what you decide to make of it.


Writing that I harder than I thought it would be and I have perhaps been slightly skeptical (poor kid!). What would you say to the 7 billionth inhabitant on Earth, any advice or warnings you would give them?

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