Sunday, March 24, 2013

Billions of babies

In 1810, one billion; in 1930, two billion; in 1960, three billion, in 1980, four billion; in 1990, five billion.
In 1999, just at the end of the millennium, our numbers hit SIX billion. 
(Update) In 2011, we reached SEVEN billion.  Curious what's happening?

For our entire existence, there's been plenty of room and resources.  We were nomads, and there were never more than a few million of us on Earth at any one time.  Until recently, anyway.

Modern humans spread across Africa and began to spill out into the Middle East around 100,000 years ago.  Populations were established in Europe and Asia by 40,000 and 30,000 years ago, respectively.  We reached the southern tip of South America and settled in around 12,000 years ago.

Folks settled down a bit for tending crops and herds.  At the dawn of agriculture, about 10,000 years ago, the world's population was perhaps five million or so.  Numbers increased oh so slowly until just a few years ago.

Today, hundreds of cities and hundreds more of urban areas have more than a million inhabitants each, and populations continue to skyrocket. Take a look at the recent changes and the forecast for 2050.  Things will change, of course.  

The fascinating question is regarding where the limits might be.  Can we produce enough food?  Can we provide education and medical care?  Can we govern justly?  All the high-intensity issues are amplified by the now densely populated world.

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