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Get Ready for Overpopulation

  Get ready for an overpopulated world. We’re now at seven billion and counting.

Thanks to science and medicine, millions fewer infants die in the first year of life, and people from every country live much longer than at any time in history. This is good news, but it also suggests a socio-economic-environmental juggernaut is gathering speed and it is one that will affect every industry and labor markets across North America. 

The most credible source for projections about impending overpopulation has been the United Nations. Just in 2010, its World Population Prospects Report foresaw world population reaching 9.1 billion by 2050 and 10.1 billion by 2100, 2-3 billion people added to the 7 billion who inhabit the planet today. But, updates now suggest the midrange projections are far too low. In the fall of 2011, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) issued a warning that was reported in The Economist:

“Although the world population is not growing as fast as it was in the mid 1960s, because developed countries like Britain have a lower birth rate, the number of people in 58 countries, including India, continues to grow. However if birth rates in developing countries continue to grow, the total could reach 10.6 billion by 2050 and 15 billion by 2100.

‘Much of this increase is expected to come from the high fertility countries, which comprise 39 in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America,’ reported the UN.”

Previously the UN had kept to the conservative estimate that the population will grow to more than 10 billion by 2100. Now, public acknowledgement of the possibility of 15 billion by 2100 also suggests a world with 12 billion people by 2050, 71% more people than today.

That will mean, we will have to find room, and food, and water for populations almost equal to two more China’s and two more India’s.

People and governments have grown somewhat sanguine about population growth given that f demographers have, until recently, suggested only gradual growth for the next 40 years, but then a reversal toward fewer people as the next century approaches. Until the latest UNFPA comments, the peak population theory was the one most in favor in the popular media.

The predictions for a declining global population have been predicated on the belief that economic prosperity will spread around the globe. The follow-on assumption was that with higher incomes and better lifestyles, people also become better educated, decide to practice birth control, and thus have fewer children. There is evidence that this happens. Simply look at the experiences of developed nations where fertility rates have dropped over the past 60 years to a point where couples, on average, have less than two children. A fertility rate below 2.1 sees populations shrink.

But, there is mounting evidence that different dynamics are at work in countries where populations are still growing rapidly and in these instances A + B won’t necessarily = C, i.e. nowhere is it written that prosperity equates with fewer babies.

Historical precedent certainly suggests dramatic population growth will continue over the next 88 years, for all the reasons that will be discussed: lifespans will continue to lengthen, more infants will survive, several killer diseases are being mitigated, and advancing genetics research promises to further forestall the rampages of aging and disease.

The direction of change for global population—barring some global calamity—is on a steady, and steep upward trajectory. An examination of how our species has multiplied in just 200 years is enlightening.

Population Explosion for 200 Years

It took from the beginning of time until the year 1800 for the first one billion humans to inhabit the earth.  

  • then, 2 billion by 1927 (127 additional years)
  • 3 billion by 1960 (33 additional years)
  • 4 billion by 1975 (15 years)
  • 5 billion by 1989 (14 years)
  • 6 billion by 1999 (10 years)
  • 7 billion by 2011 (12 years)

The Raw Numbers: How Many are Born, How Many Die? 

The numbers from numerous credible sources vary slightly, but, on average, there is agreement that about 130 million babies are born each year. Also each year, about 57million people die, so the net population increase is about 73 million, an extra 1 billion people every 13.7 years. But, we know people are living longer and that other factors are also at play that may reduce the number of deaths—that’s key. 

Infant Mortality Rates Plummet 

The infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of children who die per thousand in the first year of life. In 1950, even in advanced countries such as the U.S., Canada, and the U.K, the IMR ranged from 30-38 infant deaths per thousand, whereas it now stands at 5-7 in those countries. Much more dramatic, however, are the changes in the developing word. Fewer children dying means more adults to grow old.


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