Are 7 Billion People a Problem?

 The Earth, in case you haven’t noticed, is a big mess right now. All living things, humans included, are suffering the effects of a planet stressed to the breaking point.

(At the time of Jesus, there were about 200 million people on Earth.)

Consider the problems we face:

 SPECIES LOSS. The planet is losing species faster than at any time since 65 million years ago, when the earth was believed to have been hit by an enormous asteroid. The National Wildlife Federation estimates we are losing 27,000 species a year. Dr. Richard Leakey, the famed paleontologist, believes that half of the earth’s species will vanish within one hundred years, a mass extinction that “threatens the entire complex fabric of life on Earth, including the species responsible for it: Homo sapiens.”

 (In 1000 A.D. the population of the world was about 300 million.)

 GLOBAL WARMING. For over the past 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation have caused the concentrations of heat-trapping “greenhouse gases” to increase significantly in our atmosphere to a level unequaled for more than 400,000 years. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change reports, “Polar ice is melting at record rates. Glaciers around the globe are in retreat. Storms, including hurricanes, are increasing in intensity…plant and animal species struggle to adapt to a  shifting climate.”

(By 1500, the world population was roughly 500 million.)

 POVERTY. According to a World Bank study, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. More than half of the world’s nations cannot grow or import enough food to adequately feed their population. One-third of all deaths around the world, including 25,000 children daily according to UNICEF, are from poverty-related causes.

 (By 1800, the world population reached nearly one billion.)

POLLUTION. About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, according to a Cornell research study.  With 1.2 billion people lacking clean water, waterborne infections account for 80 percent of all infectious diseases.  Air pollution from smoke and various chemicals kills 3 million people a year, according to the study.

(By 1850, the population of the world grew to about 1,200,000,000.)

WATER SHORTAGES. More than 1 billion people are currently living without clean drinking water. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies.  By 2030, nearly half of the world’s people will be living in areas of acute water shortage, according to a U.N. report.

(By 1900, the world’s population rose to about 1,600,000,000.)

LOSS OF RAINFORESTS. We are swiftly losing the one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems.  Experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.  Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson called the depletion of rain forest areas “the greatest extinction since the end of the age of dinosaurs.”

(By 1950, there were over 2,500,000,000 people in the world.)

These are just some of the serious problems fouling the environment and ruining the health of our home planet. We haven’t even touched on many other quality of life concerns: education, medical care, traffic congestion, waste disposal, crime, war, violence, and many others.

 (By 1975, world population increased to over 4,000,000,000.)

What is the cause of all these societal problems and global degradation?  What can be done to reverse the destruction and set the planet on a course of life-affirming renewal?  Some people might examine one issue at a time–global warming, water and food shortages, etc.– to look at causes and solutions. More astute thinkers might discern answers by reading between the lines. In this brief essay, you merely need to read between the parentheses to understand the major contribution to all these problems.

(This week, in 2011, world population reached about 7 billion.)

It shouldn’t be hard to grasp, but for too many it is: humans have been and will continue proliferating at a far faster pace than the Earth can handle. When the consequences of overpopulation are widely understood–and when human impact is acknowledged and resistance to population control overcome–only then can we begin reversing this dangerous course. Only then will there be a realistic hope of healing and saving the only planet we have. The longer we wait, the harsher the consequences.

 (By 2050, the population of the world is expected to be about 9,300,000,000.)


(Because of the 7 billion population milestone this week, I am posting this updated version of my article that originally appeared in The Big Picture Report on July 2, 2011.)
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One Response to Are 7 Billion People a Problem?

  1. Karen Boerboom says:

    Thank you for your editorial on population. Thanks, also, to the Ehrlichs who have been speaking out on this issue for more than a half century. So what is it that we need? Obviously, the calls for people to contain themselves has not work. Therefore, a la Star Trek, find a way to another earth-type planet in another solar system…quick! Onward the “outward movement” before it is
    too late!

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