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Earth News Science

Earth Officially Home To 7 Billion Humans 473

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-work-for-the-robots dept.
New submitter arcite writes "It's official: planet Earth is now home to over seven billion ugly-bags-of-mostly-water (otherwise known as humans). We're adding ten thousand new humans every hour, or one billion every nine years. Head over to 7 Billion Actions (put together by the UN with the help of SAP) and check out the population map data. Short of adopting a strict diet of Soylent Green, what viable solutions will enable us to survive on this increasingly crowded pale blue dot? What will the role of technology be in supporting this many people?"
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Earth Officially Home To 7 Billion Humans

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  • Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bradgoodman (964302) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:04PM (#37823974) Homepage
    It feels like just yesterday we crossed the 6-Billion mark. I remember when I was younger (about 30 years ago) there being 4-billion. The number isn't just increasing, but the rate of acceleration itself is picking up in a scary way. You think of these things as being long-term, but when you can see it happening over the course of your own lifetime...
    • I just realized - those numbers actually indicate a very linear increase (though I doubt this will be true in the long-term) ;-)
      • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nadaka (224565) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:21PM (#37824234)

        No, in the long term population expansion will cease. The per capita birth rate in nearly every nation on earth is falling. In some cases (Europe, Japan and the non Hispanic parts of the US) below 2 children per woman. Human population will likely plateau around 10 billion and stay there.

        • by peragrin (659227)

          you forgot the 1 child per family china, and the majority of those families are having males. More Males mean less kids.

          In 40-50 years china's population will start to contract massively.

          compare with the Western world which is having less kids later in their lives. means that the separation between generations is increasing.

          • by javelinco (652113)

            you forgot the 1 child per family china, and the majority of those families are having males. More Males mean less kids.

            In 40-50 years china's population will start to contract massively.

            compare with the Western world which is having less kids later in their lives. means that the separation between generations is increasing.

            Not to mention the fact that resource wars and wars caused by having too many unattached men on the planet are likely to take care of some of the population...

        • With world population set to rise to 10 billion, the addition of oil and gas expected to be recovered and burned from tar sands and fracking, at the current rate of carbon burn per individual accounting for the differential rate of carbon burning and assuming that the balance of present growth trends will not widely deviate from their present geographical distribution, the planet will be to warm to support life in as little as 350 years, except for the most thermophilic bacteria.

      • by osu-neko (2604)

        I just realized - those numbers actually indicate a very linear increase (though I doubt this will be true in the long-term) ;-)

        Right. It used to be exponential, now it's more linear, and if current second-order trends continue, it will eventually halt and start to backslide. Already has in many developed nations.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by felipekk (1007591) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:20PM (#37824206) Journal

      Oblig.

      "The most important video you'll ever see"

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY [youtube.com]

    • by msauve (701917)
      Just remember, of all those 7 billion people, you're unique. Just like everyone else.
    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>but the rate of acceleration itself is picking up in a scary way.

      The UN population estimates show the earth peaking in about 40-50 years and then declining after that.

      Of course, standard disclaimers about trying to predict the future always apply.

    • but the rate of acceleration itself is picking up in a scary way

      Actually, the growth rate has been slowing for the last 50 years or so.

      Right now, we're looking at only 1.5% growth rate per year, as opposed to the 2% gorwth rate we were seeing in the 60's....

  • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:05PM (#37823982)

    what viable solutions will enable us to survive on this increasingly crowded pale blue dot?

    This is only one solution to population control that is 100% successful -- affluence. Only poor people can afford to have kids. Rich people don't need them.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Affluence means increased consumption. Increased consumption - ie, what the land can actually maintain - is the only 'real' problem, here (long term).

      You need poor people for the affluent to consume. (How do you think the West has maintained its charade? By outsourcing their poverty to the 3rd world.)

      When you figure out that the moon is a valuable mineral-rich oil grape, you can disregard my post. :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        You need poor people for the affluent to consume.

        Plus, without poor people, how are the rich going to know they're rich?

        I guarantee, if everyone but the top 1% by wealth suddenly disappeared, the first thing that would happen is that the wealth of 99% of the people who are left would very quickly start to decline.

        It's not enough to be wealthy. There have to be sufficient numbers of poor people around to remind you how well-off you are.

        I believe something happened to the human race in the past half-century.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      This is only one solution to population control that is 100% successful -- affluence. Only poor people can afford to have kids. Rich people don't need them.

      I think you got it backwards, in many countries poor people can't afford to not have many kids because if they don't they're screwed as elderly. That old people can live off their retirement benefits and have a modest 1-3 children rather than 4-10 that they used to is what has slowed growth in the west the last 100 years. And if you think western and that children are a huge expense, not so much in poor countries where they're put to work early, no luxuries, inherit clothes and the biggest expense is food t

      • by msauve (701917)
        "I think you got it backwards, in many countries poor people can't afford to not have many kids because if they don't they're screwed as elderly."

        Maybe if the GP had used a few more double-negatives it would have been clearer to you. "If they don't not have many kids, they're screwed..." Huh?
    • Only poor people can afford to have kids. Rich people don't need them.

      After devoting your 20's and 30's to education and a career, it's much more difficult to get pregnant.

  • It's self-regulating.

    Or as the great 80's thrash band Nuclear Assault put it, "apathy creates despair"

  • by demonbug (309515) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:11PM (#37824074) Journal

    Obviously the solution is to transition away from the current paradigm, where every person has their own physical hardware. We must move to a new architecture, where a single body can concurrently run numerous minds, greatly increasing overall efficiency and reducing waste.

    I would come up with a clever acronym, but schizophrenia has way too many letters.

  • I believe that nations and unions are going to have a larger demand for military technology in the future. To protect resources they already have, to acquire more resources from their neighbours and to protect their borders from the influx of refugees from war zones and various lands that can't sustain them (for one reason or another).
  • Time to drag Bruce Willis back into the fray, so he can get shot at the Philly Airport, and David Morse can release the plague that will force us all to live underground...

  • With the help of people like Norman Borlaug.

    • by vlm (69642)

      With the help of people like Norman Borlaug.

      Bad news for you is he died approx 25 months ago. Probably the most important person no one has ever heard of.

      • One can only hope there will be others who stand on the shoulders of that particular giant. Feeding hungry people is good. Helping hungry people feed themselves is great, and Borlaug was great. It's a shame most Americans don't know that one of our countrymen was responsible for saving a possible billion lives.[citation] [washingtontimes.com]

        The malthusians amongst us may argue whether or not this is a good thing. Not being one of them, I heartily think it is. People not starving is good.

  • Is there some reason for saying that "today" humanity passed the 7B mark? Are the counts really that accurate?
  • Balancing out (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Progressive people: It will balance itself!
    Conservative people: It will balance itself.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:18PM (#37824182)

    Human population is projected to peak at 10 billion.

    • by Atroxodisse (307053) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:45PM (#37824550) Homepage

      http://overpopulationisamyth.com/

      Or thereabouts. By 2100 we'll be back down to 7 billion and it won't be because of a pandemic or zombies. Population growth is naturally slowing down. It may seem like 1 billion was a lot but relative to recent growth it's actually slowing down. The math is done in one of them fancy overpopulationisamyth videos.

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:20PM (#37824218) Homepage Journal

    The UN estimates of world population now indicate an increase until around 2075 (9.2 billion), and then a decrease after that.

    Birth rates in all developed nations are falling fast, many are under replacement rate already. The US population would be lower than the replacement rate right now if it weren't for immigration.

    The problem with Malthus is not the math, it's the model. Anyone can pick assumptions and make a model, and from there make predictions. Mathus erred in assuming that things would not change. An exponential curve is indistinguishable from a bell curve at the long tail beginning, so the evidence seemed to support his prediction.

    What's changing is the demographics. Once raised out of poverty, people naturally start having fewer children. There are a variety of proposed reasons for this, and the evidence is very strong.

    The prediction now is that once everyone is reasonably above the poverty line (mostly Africa, with some contribution from SE Asia) population growth will reverse.

    Interestingly enough, in 75 years time there may be the reverse problem - population *shrinkage*.

    This is not a problem. We can all relax about this particular issue, and focus on solving the other issues, on some of which population is dependent.

    • Until we get under 3-4 billion, I wouldn't worry about population shrinkage, mind you. Unless it all happens at once, then you should worry, as it probably means a zombie horde.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sexconker (1179573)

      Interestingly enough, in 75 years time there may be the reverse problem - population *shrinkage*.

      We were in the pool!

    • "The problem with Malthus is not the math, it's the model. Anyone can pick assumptions and make a model, and from there make predictions. Mathus erred in assuming that things would not change. An exponential curve is indistinguishable from a bell curve at the long tail beginning, so the evidence seemed to support his prediction."

      I read that Malthus recanted his position in a later edition, but no one pays attention to that.
      http://conservapedia.com/Robert_Malthus [conservapedia.com]
      "There were other contemporarie

    • Correct, there is no "world" overpopulation issue. For more info, see the Wikipedia page on world population growth [wikipedia.org]. A few areas of the world have a massive growth rate (mainly central Africa, plus a few countries in southwest Asia), and many of those are almost certainly overpopulated (since they cannot really support themselves).

      But most of the world is around the replacement rate or lower. In many areas, the current population will go extinct if current rates continue. Even in the U.S. [wikipedia.org], the total f

    • Will Africa ever improve? The way America keeps dumping free food on markets, driving out farmers and making the people complacent and reliant on foreign aid, I don't see it happening soon. Maybe China will finally do it with their investments into African infrastructure.

  • Bring back saber tooth tigers.
    Or we could go the high tech route. In every 7th grade on the planet put a pole that has a metal ring at the six foot level that has a million volts at 100 amps.
    Do not put a fence or railing around it but put signs in every common language for the area on the pole saying, "Warning one million volts at 100 amps if you touch it you will die."
    That or invent the Rubic's Condom and put them on every male at the age of 14.

  • by KermodeBear (738243) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:24PM (#37824282) Homepage

    Eventually we're going to end up a lot like Japan. Japan is a small place with a lot of people. Over time, we'll have small places in which to live, with fewer, more general purpose devices in the home that consume small amounts of energy. We'll eat smaller meals. In general, we'll make do with less because there's a finite supply of resources and a lot more people gobbling them all up.

    We have quite a bit of time before that happens in the USA or Russia or China - those places have a LOT of vacant land - but we'll get there eventually.

    We'll likely have to rely on growing "super foods" that are very dense with calories and nutrients. Lots of renewable energy sources. I'm betting Solar and Bio will be the big ones, with Biofuels being one of several solutions to the massive amount of human waste (poop). It is possible that more and more countries will start to enact incentives regarding breeding - either something very strict (you can have 1 or 2 kids, then you're sterilized) to something more flexible (you can have 2 kids, but any more and you lose certain benefits).

    While food and energy are a concern, so are economies. With technology allowing people to do so much with so few people, what kind of work will people be able to find? Society needs only so many farmers, factory workers, etc., and with technology replacing hundreds and thousands of people... Where will we find work? What to do when a population is so incredibly productive that, say, only 30% of the population is needed to produce and service everyone?

    Or, of course, with resources being strained with so many people, eventually People A are going to look at People B and say, "Hm, you know what, we need that fresh water supply more than they do..."

    Perhaps we'll solve our population problems on our own and we won't have to worry about extreme population support.

  • Consider that it took until 1804 for the world's population to reach 1 billion. Then, it took another 123 years to reach 2 billion in 1927. It then it took 33 years to reach 3 billion in 1960, and 14 years to reach 4 billion in 1974. Most recently, it only took 11 years to add a billion from 1999 to 2011. Something has got to give.
  • Remember, folks: Just because the function, locally, looks linear doesn't mean it's globally linear. Many, many functions (all the one's in your standard calculus text) can be locally approximated by linear functions, but globally act radically different.

  • As I suggest here, the solar system does not have enough people: :-)
    http://p2pfoundation.net/backups/p2p_research-archives/2009-August/004174.html [p2pfoundation.net]

    As Julian Simon suggests, the more people, the more creative ideas:
    http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/ [juliansimon.com]

    How else would we get the idea to grind up rock to fertilize soil?
    http://www.remineralize.org/ [remineralize.org]

    Or to make solar power cheaper than coal?
    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/05/29/ge-solar-power-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-in-5-years/ [cleantechnica.com]

    Or to invent the compu

  • Soylent Green was full of good ideas. The right to end your own life in a controlled and pain free way would free up resources and give people dignity in death. While I don't approve of directly eating the dead, it is more resource efficient than burial or cremation to process remains into some form of organic material that can be used safely in agriculture or for industrial lubricants.
  • With every major population growth story, you can guarantee there's going to be a lot of misanthropism, blaming the developing countries, so forth. Malthus is will be quoted. Then people will respond to that in anger, maintaining the false choice between insane growth and brutal population control.

    In terms of consumption, the average Canadian needs a third less of resources, the average Italian 55% less - they don't lead a lifestyle substantially less comfortable than the US citizen. The average East Ind

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Monday October 24, 2011 @05:46PM (#37824562)
    We should all eat vegetarian diets. It doesn't make sense to grow subsidized corn and then use it to sustain an animal that -- given a year or two -- will become food for us. Of course, we'd simply end up with a glut of food in the first world, along with some very angry dairy farmers because getting the food to those who need it is another issue entirely.
  • copy movies 1-2 child's max per family / women.

    Been done in many movies or is part of the back round of the stories.

  • In the future we'll be able to watch 3D HD news reports of people starving while we sit with a plate of food that's only going to make us fatter.
  • tiller of fate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by epine (68316) on Monday October 24, 2011 @06:02PM (#37824798)

    In the earth's long biological history, my take is that whenever an organism stumbled upon a giant resource, the organism either exploited the resource or was soon replaced by one that could. Humans have done with oil what any other species on the planet would do if they managed to stick their long snout into an underground ocean of glucose.

    Unlike most any other species, we've invested perhaps 10% of this windfall wisely: primarily in the form of information technology and reading the genetic code. The energy intensity of those technologies is constantly falling (the intensity of progressing those technologies is another story).

    Also unprecedented in biological history: we're discussing the consequences of our giant slurp well before the consequence arrives in dire form (excepting the extirpation of megafauna biodiversity, which started long before we found oil, and has subsequently accelerated).

    In fact, I'm pretty sure we're the first species on the planet to conduct a census to determine if our numbers were getting out of hand.

    If god lobs another rock at the planet--like a late-popping popcorn kernel--I'm sure we'll give Deep Impact the old college try, notwithstanding that this would be our biggest intrusion on the cosmic plan ever and not lose too much sleep over the philosophical implications. Yet here we are doing what every successful species does (expand into the available niche) and wringing our hands as if our current circumstance is some grand exception to the history of life on earth.

    Since the way of things seems to be cycles of boom and bust, if we succeed in pulling off the soft landing following our trillion barrel feast, we will all deserve a nice pat on the back for turning a trick not yet achieved by life on this planet. Many people seem to think the task at hand is to address a deviant transgression; I think the deviancy lies in our future efforts to mitigate the consequence of behaving exactly as mother nature made us. The biological tiller of fate has been swinging wildly for many billions of years. Only now do we propose grabbing onto it and taking the helm.

  • War, pestilence, famine. The classics never get old.

    The people who say we should "consume less" seem to discount people's pesky habit of eating and how we're gleaning the land and oceans bare.

    Intelligent population control? He, he. That's a good one.

  • 1.5 children per person, maximum. Thank you. The doctor will see you now.

  • It has happened in the past over thousands of years, and it will happen again and again.

    Lesser Countries will never agree to stop doing anything to restrict population growth, as they want to be "bigger countries".

    Hence, we run out of something and ...

  • We can enjoy renewal at the carousel.

    Of course, it may not be needed since we are all killing ourselves with fast food, soda, and alcohol.

  • Earth could easily support 40 Billion people and still have a stable and working eco-system. Earth wouldn't even be very crowded. It was here on slashdot where someone proved that todays entire population would easyly fit into Texas, and even then Texas wouldn't be particularly crowded.

    Waste, bad education and crappy management are what put the world in the sorry state it is in now. Bad distribution of food, bizarely huge amounts of resources wasted in aggriculture, huge damages done with pesticides and cle

    • The problem is obesity.

      I don't mean dietary obesity, but financial and resource obesity.

      What do you call someone who consumes far more food than their body needs? A fat fuck.

      What do you call someone who hoards far more resources than they need to take care of themselves for the foreseeable future? A success!

      Why do people look at the Buffets, Gates and Forbes of the world differently than they do the massively overweight guy who's stuffing his face with the fourth Whopper of the day?

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Monday October 24, 2011 @08:50PM (#37826524) Journal

    what viable solutions will enable us to survive on this increasingly crowded pale blue dot?

    Get off this rock.

  • by staalmannen (1705340) on Tuesday October 25, 2011 @12:20AM (#37827892)
    Hans Rosling got some really interesting statistics on population growth ( http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth.html [ted.com] ) and a number of other issues related to this on TED ( http://www.ted.com/speakers/hans_rosling.html [ted.com] ). His basic message is that the world has turned a lot better and that the average child/woman already is decreased to sustainable levels in most countries that previously were poor and suffered from overpopulation. In fact, the division "developed" versus "developing" countries and the accompanying fear of overpopulation is a heritage from how it looked in the 70:s. Personally, I just marvel at the possibillities. Never before have as many people been able to realize their potential as today. If we assume that the birth of a great genious (an Einstein, Mozart...) is of a certain low probability, and that on top of that that this genious would be born under such circumstances that it would survive and have the means to realize its potential, we can assume that we actually have more of those in our current society than ever before. As a side note.... this is also why I find the whole religious "stuff that are old must be true" a very strange point of view - by virtue of better education and more accumulated experience (exteligence), I think that we are more qualified to design a moral system today than some bronze-age herders somewhere in the middle east.

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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