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World Population Expected To Hit 7 Billion In Late October 522

Posted by timothy
from the where-do-you-get-a-nice-malthus-mask? dept.
kkleiner writes "A new report documents the prodigious rate at which the world's population is growing. It was just 1999 when we reached 6 billion. And now within the next month or two we will have surpassed 7 billion. What does the continued increase in world population mean for humanity and for the the planet?"
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World Population Expected To Hit 7 Billion In Late October

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:49PM (#37317270) Journal
    Child #7,000,000,000 gets the prize of officially being recognized as "Not actually a bundle of joy" and, on average, a harsh subsistence existence. Congratulations!
  • What does the continued increase in world population mean for humanity and for the the planet?"

    More quarrelling, more hunger, more poverty, etc.

    • Business as usual then.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      Nope. Pres'dent Parry will have a prayer meetin. All true Americunz will pray for less and we will get it.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Jesus said that all we have to do is eliminate taxes on the wealthy and on corporations, and he'll return to fix all our problems for us!

        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          We still have to start a war that kills all of the jews, and burn up all the oil so the battle has to be done with horses. So. On the way to vote for Parry let everyone know to be sure to fill up both tanks on their Ford diesel dually extend cab pick up trucks, their wifes SUVs, and their kids smokers. Here is an idea. While we are waiting for the end, lets destroy the economy so people are so co-dependent they flock to the churches.

  • ...in world population mean for humanity and for the the planet?

    It means we're all fucked.

    • ...in world population mean for humanity and for the the planet?

      It means we're all fucked.

      No, it does not. It means that some of us fucked, but basement dwellers most certainly were not fucked nor ever had the opportunity to be fucked, and thus feel fucking left out.

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      I bet /.'rs that thought they were going to die a virgin are relieved.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "It means we're all fucked."

      Who are this "we" of which you speak?

  • Mostly, it means that we are ever the more closer to facing the facts that we can't all live consuming as much resources as the "developed" parts of the world are. Sooner or later the shit will hit the fan, one way or the other.

    (Not that I claim to have a solution, or be any better myself...)

  • Psychologically, like most people, I stopped sensibly digesting the numbers when we crossed 4 billion. The best video on the subject remains Hans Rosling's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo [youtube.com] 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes (BBC)
  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:56PM (#37317384) Journal

    What does the continued increase in world population mean for humanity and for the the planet?"

    War

    • And lots of sex!

    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @02:04PM (#37318342)

      War

      Unlikely. Nearly all population growth is occurring in developing countries [sustainablescale.org]. They would handily lose any war with the industrialized countries where most of the food is grown and consumption takes place. Most industrialized countries are at or near zero growth, with some experiencing negative growth (they are shrinking in population).

      For whatever reasons, industrialization leads to lower population growth. What's needed to arrest global population growth is to provide education, engineering expertise, contraception, and economic assistance to developing nations so they can modernize their economies ASAP. Providing food, water, and medicinal aid actually exacerbates the problem. They increase survival rates in developing countries without doing anything to stem their high population growth rates, making it that much harder to modernize those countries and increasing their future reliance on foreign aid.

      In other words, as contradictory as it may seem, modernization towards self-sufficiency and economic globalization combat global population growth. Anti-globalization and reliance solely on humanitarianism allow it to continue or even exacerbate it.

      • Re:Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Johnny5000 (451029) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @05:32PM (#37320836) Homepage Journal

        Unlikely. Nearly all population growth is occurring in developing countries. They would handily lose any war with the industrialized countries where most of the food is grown and consumption takes place. Most industrialized countries are at or near zero growth, with some experiencing negative growth (they are shrinking in population).

        A few issues with that theory:
        1. Wars could break out between neighboring developing countries, it doesn't necessarily have to be about food. It might be about water, for example, which is more likely to be locally scarce if there is a high demand on it. Some countries import a lot of food- I don't know any that import water.

        2. "They would handily lose any war with the industrialized countries..." Sure, so the developing countries won't necessarily pick a fight with the industrialized countries, but they do tend to have resources (oil, etc.) that the industrialized countries want/need, so the industrialized countries may very well pick a fight to gain access to the resources.

  • Turns out to be disingenuous then...
  • by eparker05 (1738842) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:56PM (#37317388)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon%E2%80%93Ehrlich_wager [wikipedia.org]

    Paul Ehrlich, famous for writing the population bomb, entered a wager with Julian L. Simon that used the price of some indicator comodidy metals to gauge resource scarcity as a predicted result of overpopulation. Anyways, historically speaking, Simon came out the winner when the index prices fell between 1980 and 1990.

    That being said, and my own personal admiration for the free market being laid out in the open, I do believe that there will be a decade where the proverbial Ehrlich's will come out on top. It is simple physics; the high concentration deposits of minerals will be depleted and we will all be left wondering what to do. It is certainly scary that in 13 years the population can rise by 1 billion.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      One word: recycling. Most resources are recyclable, but simply end up in trash heaps because (for now) the energy and sorting costs of recycling makes it inefficient. That will change when easily mineable deposits shrink. That combined with (hopefully) space-based mining means we should be able to continue expanding for quite some time yet. The reality is, every time someone thinks the world is getting overpopulated (and this is not new, people have been saying that for at least a hundred years) they are pr

      • by Hatta (162192)

        One word: recycling. Most resources are recyclable, but simply end up in trash heaps because (for now) the energy and sorting costs of recycling makes it inefficient. That will change when easily mineable deposits shrink.

        Energy isn't getting any cheaper.

        Now, as for oil and non-renewables: we'll have to find something else, but that is true no matter how large the population grows or doesn't.

        There is nothing else. Fossil fuels were a one time windfall for humanity. We squandered it and there's nothing we c

        • We won't stop until we finally burned every last available bit of fossil carbon. They are talking about in-situ gasification of coal now - you know, for the several thousand meter deep reservoirs that can't be mined conventionally. Yeah. Fun times ahead.
        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Energy isn't getting any cheaper.
          Does not need, to we can use less. My current fancy HDTV uses way less power than the SDTV it replaced. Same with the computer I use now vs the p4 machine I had before.

          There is nothing else. Fossil fuels were a one time windfall for humanity. We squandered it and there's nothing we can do about it.

          There are many kinds of power available to us now, they might cost a little more but by and large we will get by.

      • Most resources are recyclable, but simply end up in trash heaps because (for now) the energy and sorting costs of recycling makes it inefficient.

        Personally, I like the idea of 21st century miners working in old landfills to get metals instead of chopping off mountaintops.

        • by rangek (16645)

          Most resources are recyclable, but simply end up in trash heaps because (for now) the energy and sorting costs of recycling makes it inefficient.

          Personally, I like the idea of 21st century miners working in old landfills to get metals instead of chopping off mountaintops.

          Exactly.. Every time I throw a "recyclable" tidbit into the regular trash I like to think of some descendant in the far future having his day made when he unearths my piece of valuable trash.

      • There's an interesting article called "limits to growth".

        It recognizes that our energy consumption has grown by about 2.9% per year since the 1600's.

        Continuing that line forward and combining it with the earth's capacity to dump heat into space, the planet would be an average of 212 degrees in 400 years.

        So even if we find "unlimited free energy" (fusion?), we will have to stop increasing our energy usage at some point.

        I don't know if we have human caused global warming yet (and the temps could head down soo

    • Some of us are still waiting :-)
    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      There is a flaw in that belief. The closer a society gets to a depletion of a resource the closer a society gets to killing one another. As a result, at the point which the society gets to total depletion, the number of people in the society is reduced. I'm, of course, assuming history will repeat itself and humanity has not become incapable of engaging in war.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anyone that has ever seen a photo of the Earth from orbit knows resources and even space on the Earth are limited. This idea of constant growth is inherently insane. Space travel isn't the solution to the population problem since it would require moving nearly a billion people a decade just to keep up with the current growth rate. Space is about long term survival not growth. Most of the fisheries have already collapsed and much of the world is facing water shortages. Civilization existed for thousands of y

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This enormous wave of young people -- kids born in the 80s, 90s, 00s -- are going to topple established trends in ways we cannot imagine. This population increase of one billion people in ten years means that one in every seven people on this planet is under the age of majority. In ten years you'll start seeing change on the scale of the Arab Spring like you wouldn't believe.

  • This is why all those sob-story TV ads imploring me to donate to help children in poor countries piss me off. Not because I'm a cold-hearted bastard who doesn't want to help, but knowing that such help will make the overall situation worse.

    Add in religious-mandated foreign policies from the former Bush administration and the current Harper-led Canadian government, which in part required that any funding to humanitarian NGOs must not promote or even mention any birth control other than abstinence (never mind

    • Our industrialized society makes large families less important -- in fact kids are a monetary drain. But to non-mechanized farmers as are common in the third world, kids mean more hands working in the field, more likelihood of survival.

      Then there's death. A family here with one kid will actually see an improvement in finances if that kid were to die. That farmer family's kid dying means they might not be able to tend the crops and produce enough to eat.

      Then by old age if you and your kids haven't each produ

  • In related news (Score:5, Informative)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:01PM (#37317454) Journal
    Around 40% of the corn produced in the US goes to ethanol [columbiatribune.com].

    It's obviously not a question of whether we can support 7 billion people, since we basically are, but whether we can support the increasing growth rate. If you look at this graph, [google.com] you can see the population is projected to level off around 10billion or so. And if you look even closer, you can see it's really a question for India (and to a lesser degree, Africa): can India handle its massive population growth? If so, then the world can handle it, too. If not, then they are going to suffer a lot.
    • At the momentary agricultural production rates, yes we probably can supply 10 billion people. But can we do it sustainably? Without depleting oil, drinking water, the top soil, the fisheries? We can't do that right now.
      • by TheSync (5291)

        "At the momentary agricultural production rates, yes we probably can supply 10 billion people. But can we do it sustainably? Without depleting oil, drinking water, the top soil, the fisheries? We can't do that right now."

        There is plenty of nuclear fission power in readily available uranium (and then thorium) to power all our vehicles, to desalinate water, to move desalinated fresh water where it is needed, and to produce chemical fertilizers.

        Yes, we may have a Fukushima every now and then...but we won't sta

    • Re:In related news (Score:5, Informative)

      by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:16PM (#37317650)

      It's obviously not a question of whether we can support 7 billion people, since we basically are, but whether we can support the increasing growth rate.

      Increasing growth rate?

      Growth rate over this last billion was 1.3% per year.

      Growth rate over the immediately previous billion was 1.5% per year.

      When we went from three billion to four billion, population growth rate was 2.1% per year.

      Looks like a steadily declining growth rate to me....

      • by Arlet (29997)

        Maybe GP was talking about growth in absolute sense. Whether growth is 1% or 2% doesn't really matter all that much, since any exponential growth on a bounded earth is going to run into problems at some point in time.

      • by sckeener (137243)
        I guess I'm contributing to the decline; however I want to have kids now. I had a vasectomy years ago when I was with a partner who didn't want kids. I've since then found someone that I want to have kids with, but 2 reversals later the odds are still not good. (pretty much nil because of low mobility) I'm the only child of an only child. If I ever can have kids, I probably will only have one. If something happens to me or if I have a kid, only to lose it, no one is going to care about our family tree.
        • Don't get so hung up on genetics. It's overrated....

          Adopting and raising a child or even helping teach children will do more to transmit whatever is important to you than all of your genes combined. You can tell family stories to anyone, they might even appreciate it.

          Thought experiment: If we lived in an age before paternity was easily determined and your wife got pregnant from another man but you and your wife raised the child as your own, would anything be different other than the relative copies of di

    • Re:In related news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:26PM (#37317770) Homepage

      It's obviously not a question of whether we can support 7 billion people, since we basically are

      Sustainable? That's the big question, if we start running out of various non-renewable resources - oil just being one of them - can we? Deforestation, topsoil erosion, overfishing, lots of resources can maximize production for a short while but afterwards they go into sharp decline. And if you start running into famine conditions, don't think anyone is willing to die to let nature recover. Don't be surprised if this is the cause of war in the late 21st century...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:01PM (#37317468)

    Unfortunately the areas that are experiencing the highest population growth are not first world countries. They are the countries which are unable to sustain their population, and depend on government (usually not available), or international hand-outs to survive.

    If we want to solve this problem, we must cut aid to areas which cannot sustain itself. I realize that's harsh, but creating a life does not entitle it to live. There's a reason we fight to survive, and getting hand-outs (for the long term, not just some short-term disaster) due to unsustainable population areas means we're just making it worse.

    Cut off the aid, and let the population re-balance itself on what can be sustained by these 3rd world areas. This will lower demand on resources as well, and allow the world to grow at a more moderate pace.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @02:38PM (#37318758)

      The idea that other people are competitors is not Politically Correct, even though competition is the norm in Nature.

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @04:39PM (#37320254) Homepage

      due to unsustainable population areas means we're just making it worse

      I'm not going to tread those waters, but I'm come close to it without offending anyone. I would agree that our hand-outs are and have been making things worse around the world. In the name of God (American's are mostly Christian), we feel it's our duty to feed the needy and hungry. Personally, I agree. But the fact it, it also perpetuates dictators and corrupt regimes in the process. If it wasn't for global economy crashing, there wouldn't have been an Arab Spring and the domino of revolutions that followed. It was an event that was destined to happen, but our "aid" kept prolonging the inevitable. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all that.

    • by MrBigInThePants (624986) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @04:46PM (#37320324)

      Or perhaps we could regrow our hair, take off our jack boots, laser off our swastika tats and invest in population control?

      I mean considering the amount of resources the average 1st worlder uses compared to said 3rd worlders here are some other equally harsh ideas:

      - Stop eating so much meat/processed food and eat the raw ingredients instead since it is so much more efficient?
      - Stop just wasting resources and completely retarded things that add no value to the world apart from cheap thrills and/or convenience for the lazy?
      - Every first worlder to pay a "repair the world" tax which is managed internationally by the UN and goes towards fixing the world's global problems long term. (Member states of the "security council" are banned from having any influence over said fund at all, ever)
      - Level all major cities and have the 1st worlders live like 3rd worlders?
      - Drop nukes on all major cities causing an apocalyptic future that long term will be far more energy efficient for the world as a whole?

      I assume of course that all these suggestions are far more abhorrent to most 1st worlders than letting children die of starvation by the million, right? Because after all they are little more than animals that should really just be culled like you would do with any other animal population that is out of control.

      I realize what I am saying is harsh, but creating life in the 1st world does not entitle it to carrying on being a greedy, world destroying pig suggesting that the poorest nations in the world be left to die long, slow and painful deaths to enable us to carry on with business as usual for a few more decades.

  • Alarmism (Score:3, Informative)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew@gmai l . com> on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:05PM (#37317510) Homepage Journal

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Population_Bomb [wikipedia.org]

    Back in 1968, this book was published talking about how there was going to mass starvation across the globe and everyone would die because the globe couldn't handle the population of the 1970s. Obviously, there is always hunger around the globe and that shouldn't be discounted, but the UN report notes that the percentage of the world's population who qualify as "undernourished" has fallen by more than half, from 33 percent to about 16 percent, since Ehrlich published The Population Bomb. That was when the population was around 3.5 billion, or half of what we're about to hit.

    So I'm skeptical of alarmism.

    • Re:Alarmism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:17PM (#37317658)
      Ehrlich didn't forsee the massive productivity increase in the agricultural sector in the seventies - however, this increase had an unintended consequence. We now use 9 kJ of oil to produce 1 kJ of food. And guess what - well, don't just guess, just have a look at the oil prices and the production rates of the major fields. We are not starting to drill off-shore in the deep arctic ocean because easily available oil is aplenty.
      • That wasn't his prediction though. He predicted that we wouldn't be able to keep up with food demand, and that we'd all starve to death. The exact opposite happened and a lower percentage of the population is undernourished, even though the population has doubled since his predictions. And he predicted almost immediate problems that didn't come to pass.

        It wasn't like he was a single voice that no one payed attention to. That book was widely praised and cited.

        • And you realize that for the reasons cited, we only kicked the can down the road for a few decades, without actually coming up with a solution?
          • by 0123456 (636235)

            And you realize that for the reasons cited, we only kicked the can down the road for a few decades, without actually coming up with a solution?

            That's exactly what we've been doing for the last 10,000 years, and it's mostly worked fine.

            Attempts to impose a 'Final Solution' have generally been disastrous.

    • Neo-malthusianism is like a millennarian cult. It doesn't matter that their doomsdays are proved wrong over and over and over again, they keep harboring this near-religious belief that civilization is going to self-destruct in a matter of years. When it keeps proving not to be true, they ignore the fact that nothing happened and invent a new prophetic date and new prophetic threshold when everything is supposed to collapse. It gets so old, and it seems like the majority ascribe to it in some way or another,
  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:05PM (#37317512)

    More people means more capacity to produce. Love them or hate them Japan, russia and china are showing the world how to manage (or how to not manage) demographic shifts. Places with money are taking steps to reduce massive overpopulation, places without it are still growing.

    For decades we all assumed chinas vast population was their great weakness, not enough resources for everyone etc etc etc. As it turns out the most valuable resource is people, with energy (not electrical energy, more personal ability to work energy) and education, because everything else can be created from those two things. Not enough coal, uranium, oil etc? No problem, we'll invent something else. Too many people? No problem, we'll figure out how to make birth control.

    Yes, it means more people, especially in africa, will probably starve to death. That's another problem we can solve if we bother to.

    The biggest problem we face isn't 7 billion people, it's politicians who are unwilling or unable to make tough choices about how to deal with whatever specific challenges that creates in the long ru. I don't think anyone is really fond of chinas 1 child policy (or moreover its implementation), but the alternative is the mess that is india, where children are legally obliged to support parents, and there's no incentive, to have less children. Education and food production can catch up, or keep up, with the people we have, if we create reasonable incentives to limit family sizes and solve problems. And if governments aren't willing or able to make choices like that the people in those states are beyond anyones ability to meaningfully help in the long run anyway, so we'll try, and fail.

    • by bussdriver (620565) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:30PM (#37317820)

      Humans are complex social creatures. When we over populate some people will not notice or care while others will suffer. Going even further, we will create methods by which more people can feel at ease and even some of the suffering people can create an incorrect context to feel better about it. We can lower statistical thresholds on just how bad poverty is... among other things.

      We still have an influential amount of people who refuse to admit and another who refuse to adapt to the climate crisis we are in-- which is CAUSED by over population... sure, blame technology for it-- if there were fewer people wasting and polluting the climate could handle it better.

      If you think a quality of life on par with the EU is a good goal, then you've already picked something impossible because the planet can only sustain about 2 billion people at those living standards; and possibly over the longer term the climate may not handle that either (but likely it would be slow enough we could adapt?)

      JOBS: the big deal is jobs. there may be enough food to go around even today and we can ignore the fact it'll not keep up with population growth; because we don't have economically viable means to distribute the food / resources to WORKING peoples of the world who deserve equal right of access. We don't have enough gainful employment for the world; we have far far less meaningful jobs because we must create consumerism in order to prop up pointless jobs; this increases the resource consumption at a higher rate than population growth in order to maintain continual economic growth (which isn't sustainable either.) After we remove the cheap exploited labor and replace it with robotics there will be even more people unable to find work and we will have to invent even more meaningless jobs... something which seems unsustainable as well.

  • Bloody Catholics having bloody children they can't bloody afford to bloody feed...

  • Soylent Green

  • though made mention of in the article; i think it would be generally instructive to visualize where on the planet are the populations rising significantly. it's overly optimistic, i'm sure, but it might help to drive some international efforts to promote basic birth control measures.
  • With all the rules, interdictions, health care and all, we are directly tampering with "natural selection", so more people, who would otherwise die, continue to live after diseases or accidents that should have left them dead. Of course, we improve our life expectancy with the more and more sophitiscated health care that we provide, but we artificially increase our life expectancy, and our birthrate with the survival of more and more premature born babies. I am not saying this is bad, but this is certainly
  • That Dominion 'igions and other religious shibboleths are alive, well and still spreading their dogmas.

  • perhaps when God told us to go forth and populate the Earth.... he had made the (mistaken) assumption we'd know when to stop.

  • by assertation (1255714) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:37PM (#37317920)

    Current Population:
    http://tinyurl.com/currentpopulation [tinyurl.com]
    6.9 billion people

    World fertility rate for population replacement:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sub-replacement_fertility [wikipedia.org]
    2.33 children per woman

    From:
    http://tinyurl.com/futurepopulation [tinyurl.com]

    According to the United Nations, the global population could be as high as 11 billion in 2050 or as low as 8 billion, if the right programs are put in place now.

    Population growth stretches natural resources to their limits. Deforestation, food and water shortages, and climate change are all intensified by the addition of nearly 80 million people a year to the world's population.

  • Free car! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tharsman (1364603) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @01:38PM (#37317936)

    Does the 7 billionth baby gets a free car?

  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @02:47PM (#37318886)

    Japan and Europe haven't figured out some great secret of population control. It's simply that the more wealthy a nation becomes the less it's citizens reproduce. China is one of the few nations in the world that actually enforced population control. It helped keep population in check, but then so did starvation, war and inept government policies over the last century. The interesting thing in China is that increased affluence is also leading to a decline in childbirth. And coupled with the irrational value they place in boys over girls has lead to a situation where China has far more men than women. But beyond that, the Chinese government has already become concerned with the prospect of population decline, that future generations would be able to sustain the nation, it's social programs and public works projects.

    And the real problem there has always been that everyone has been crammed into cities while the rest of the country is considerable more sparse. Even with the population they have there numerous apartment developments that sit vacant and cities built around factories that have become ghost towns when those factories closed.

    Japan has already been suffering from the consequences of population decline for a long time and it's going to get worse. It's such a big concern that they're offering money to couples who have children. Every developed nation in Asia ranks near the bottom for birthrates. Most of Europe isn't far behind. If non-immigrant birthrates were counted in the US I'm quite certain they'd be pretty low too. Of course Europe, but especially the US still has a strong immigrant population that reproduces more readily. In the long run, that may prove to be a very good thing.

    It's also been shown that the developed world produces more than enough food to feed the world's entire population. The problem isn't a lack of food, it's corruption in third world nations. It's no secret that much of what we donate to Africa never makes it into the hands of the people who need it.

    As for other resources, well, fossil fuels are a concern. But there are numerous methods for generating electricity that are not dependent on fossil fuels and use largely renewable resources. And electricity is probably the most important resource we have.

    I recently read Ringworld and found it quaint that the big concern was unchecked population growth. I think it's been sufficiently proven that population will never grow incessantly. There are far too many forces in play here influencing growth. I'm convinced that we're at a point where a blanket implementation birth control is unnecessary. What is important are things like the economy and the careful management of resources.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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