Monday, 31 October 2011

Seven Billion!



Right now there are seven billion people on the planet. That is 7,000,000,000 people, and that figure is increasing all the time. It is twelve years since the last time humans have passed the 6 billion milestone and if you look at world population it was in 1804 that we hit 1 billion people. If disease and famine stay in check. In other words, no major natural disasters or wars come to wipre us off, we are looking at another 2 billion people and probably 3 billion people by the middle of the century. Many people say this is gping to be a disaster for human kind, others say this is an opportunity. The UN believe it is going to be a challenge. But whatever, the world's population growth is slowing. We are never going to hit another billion so quickly. Even at worst case estimates, the world's population is probably going to stabilise by the middle of the century.

For me, I have been living in a period of extreme population grwoth. When I was young, I remember the number four and a half billion that was bandied around. According to the BBC, I was around the 4.4 billionth person alive on the globe. Check out the widget it is really cool to place yourself in the number.

So what now for all of us?

Is it a time to be glum?

Is it a time to be optimistic?

Is it a time to be worried?

Whatever, we as a species and as a society have to deal with seven billion people and growing (more slowly) people on the planet. It is a fallacy to state that it will be the poor countries that will cause the burdens on Earth. The amount of resources someone like me uses in Europe depletes the planet of far more richness than someone in India or Nigeria. And remember, for many countries where there are food shortages, very rarely is it to do with weather related disturbances. This year's famine in the Horn of Africa is specifically linked to the conflict as well as the drought. And while India suffers from malnutrition, it is also a net food exporter. Bad governance and mismanagement are to blame for many of the worlds problems, not the simple statistic of overpopulation.

The conflicts that will rise up in the future are access to potable water and energy use. We have already seen in the Middle East over the last decade the results of both resources being under pressure. The answer to both is simple yet complex, but intricately linked. Cheap renewable energy is going to have to be used. That and a real development of Hydrogen production to wean humanity off oil. This will directly link into the second process - desalinisation. The Earth is covered in water, just a lot of it is salty. We are not short of water, just short of getting it cheaply. Once these problems can be solved, the rest of the solutions will fall into place.

We have to adapt, we have to change. Yes, the world is going to get more crowded, the competition for resources and life will get thicker. But this is also an incredibly lucky time to be alive. More people means more minds, more ideas and more ways that humanity will grow both spiritually and mentally. And yes, while there are increased risks and conflicts, the opportunities are also limitless. Look how innovative the last twenty or thirty years have been. We have steam rolled the industrial age down and are now in the information age. This is all due to the inventiveness of individuals, that we would not have had if our population was smaller. The amount of minds leads to a diversity of thoughts and processes and will ultimately enrich humanity. We are going through a unique period of inventiveness and humanity will not move so far forward again. It is time for us as a people to stop worrying and to start using, the numbers around us. Because one day, the population of Earht is going to drop back. And by that time, we will all be in a very different place.

So to the world's seven billion, rejoice, embrace and go forth! It is time to look at the possibilities. And hey, to the new-borns of today, good luck! We are all going to need it!