The world population is the sum total of all living humans on Earth. As of today (June 2012) humans are estimated to number 7.021 billion by the United States Census Bureau (USCB). The USCB estimates that the world population exceeded 7 billion on the 12th of March 2012. According to a separate estimate by the United Nations Population Fund, it reached this milestone on October 31, 2011.


The problem that many recognise but few are taking seriously, is that the planet earth has only so much land for cultivation and the sea is already being overfished. When a point is reached that we cannot grow enough food for the humans being born, what will happen? The elderly will be the next to suffer after newborns. Then we will look to our neighbour's baskets. But should we allow the situation to accelerate to that point unchecked?

The world population has experienced continuous growth since the end of the Great Famine and the Black Death in 1350, when it stood at around 370 million. The highest rates of growth – global population increases above 1.8% per year – were seen briefly during the 1950s, and for a longer period during the 1960s and 1970s. The growth rate peaked at 2.2% in 1963, and had declined to 1.1% by 2011. Total annual births were highest in the late 1980s at about 138 million, and are now expected to remain essentially constant at their 2011 level of 134 million, while deaths number 56 million per year, and are expected to increase to 80 million per year by 2040. Current projections show a continued increase in population (but a steady decline in the population growth rate), with the global population expected to reach between 7.5 and 10.5 billion by 2050

In the long run, the future population growth of the world is difficult to predict. The United Nations and the US Census Bureau both give different estimates. According to the latter, the world population reached seven billion in March 2012, while the UN asserted that this occurred in late 2011.

Average global birth rates are declining slightly, but vary greatly between developed countries (where birth rates are often at or below replacement levels) and developing countries (where birth rates typically remain high). Different ethnicities also display varying birth rates. Death rates can change unexpectedly due to disease, wars and other mass catastrophes, or advances in medicine.

The UN has issued multiple projections of future world population, based on different assumptions. From 2000 to 2005, the UN consistently revised these projections downward, until the 2006 revision, issued on March 14, 2007, revised the 2050 mid-range estimate upwards by 273 million.



The scientific consensus is that the current population expansion and accompanying increase in usage of resources is linked to threats to the global ecosystem. The InterAcademy Panel Statement on Population Growth, which was ratified by 58 member national academies in 1994, called the growth in human numbers "unprecedented", and stated that many environmental problems, such as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, global warming, and pollution, were aggravated by the population expansion. At the time, the world population stood at 5.5 billion, and lower-bound scenarios predicted a peak of 7.8 billion by 2050, a number that current estimates show will be reached in the late 2020s.

Human population control

Human population control is the practice of artificially altering the rate of growth of a human population. Historically, human population control has been implemented by limiting the population's birth rate, by contraception or by government mandate, and has been undertaken as a response to factors including high or increasing levels of poverty, environmental concerns, religious reasons, and overpopulation. The use of abortion in some strategies has made human population control a controversial issue, with organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church explicitly opposing the artificial limitation of the human population.


Forecasts of scarcity


In 1798, the economist Thomas Malthus incorrectly predicted that continued population growth would exhaust the global food supply by the mid-19th century. In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich reprised this argument in The Population Bomb, predicting mass global famine in the 1970s and 1980s. The dire predictions of Ehrlich and other neo-Malthusians were vigorously challenged by a number of economists, notably Julian Lincoln Simon. Agricultural research already under way, such as the Green Revolution, led to dramatic improvements in crop yields. Food production has so far kept pace with population growth, but neo-Malthusians point out that the Green Revolution relies heavily on petroleum-based fertilizers, and that many crops have become so genetically uniform that a crop failure could potentially have global repercussions. Food prices in the early 21st century are rising sharply on a global scale, and causing serious malnutrition to spread widely.


Graph of the global human population from 10,000 BC to 2010 AD, from the US Census Bureau. The graph shows the extremely rapid growth in the world population that has taken place since the 18th century.




From 1950 to 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the world, grain production increased by over 250%. The world population has grown by about four billion since the beginning of the Green Revolution and most believe that, without the Revolution, there would be greater famine and malnutrition than the UN presently documents (approximately 850 million people suffering from chronic malnutrition in 2005). The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels, in the form of natural gas-derived fertilizers, oil-derived pesticides, and hydrocarbon-fueled irrigation.

The potential peaking of world oil production may test the critics of Malthus and Ehrlich, as oil is of crucial importance to global transportation, power generation and agriculture. In May 2008, the price of grain was pushed up severely by the increased cultivation of biofuels, the increase of world oil prices to over $140 per barrel ($880/m3), global population growth, the effects of climate change, the loss of agricultural land to residential and industrial development, and growing consumer demand in the population centres of China and India. Food riots subsequently occurred in some countries across the world. However, oil prices then fell sharply, and remaining below $100/barrel until around 2010. Resource demands are expected to ease as population growth declines, but it is unclear whether rising living standards in developing countries will once again create resource shortages.

Richard C. Duncan claims the that the world population will decline to about 2 billion around 2050. David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, estimates that the sustainable agricultural carrying capacity for the United States is about 200 million people; its population as of 2011 is over 310 million. In 2009, the UK government's chief scientific advisor, Professor John Beddington, warned that growing populations, falling energy reserves and food shortages would create a "perfect storm" by 2030. Beddington claimed that food reserves were at a fifty-year low, and that the world would require 50% more energy, food and water by 2030. According to a 2009 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world will have to produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people.

The observed figures for 2007 showed an actual increase in absolute numbers of undernourished people in the world, with 923 million undernourished in 2007, versus 832 million in 1995. The 2009 FAO estimates showed an even more dramatic increase, to 1.02 billion.



UN 2008 estimates and medium variant projections (in millions)



Year World Asia Africa Europe Latin America Northern America Oceania
2000 6,115 3,698 (60.5%) 819 (13.4%) 727 (11.9%) 521 (8.5%) 319 (5.2%) 31 (0.5%)
2005 6,512 3,937 (60.5%) 921 (14.1%) 729 (11.2%) 557 (8.6%) 335 (5.1%) 34 (0.5%)
2010 6,909 4,167 (60.3%) 1,033 (15.0%) 733 (10.6%) 589 (8.5%) 352 (5.1%) 36 (0.5%)
2015 7,302 4,391 (60.1%) 1,153 (15.8%) 734 (10.1%) 618 (8.5%) 368 (5.0%) 38 (0.5%)
2020 7,675 4,596 (59.9%) 1,276 (16.6%) 733 (9.6%) 646 (8.4%) 383 (5.0%) 40 (0.5%)
2025 8,012 4,773 (59.6%) 1,400 (17.5%) 729 (9.1%) 670 (8.4%) 398 (5.0%) 43 (0.5%)
2030 8,309 4,917 (59.2%) 1,524 (18.3%) 723 (8.7%) 690 (8.3%) 410 (4.9%) 45 (0.5%)
2035 8,571 5,032 (58.7%) 1,647 (19.2%) 716 (8.4%) 706 (8.2%) 421 (4.9%) 46 (0.5%)
2040 8,801 5,125 (58.2%) 1,770 (20.1%) 708 (8.0%) 718 (8.2%) 431 (4.9%) 48 (0.5%)
2045 8,996 5,193 (57.7%) 1,887 (21.0%) 700 (7.8%) 726 (8.1%) 440 (4.9%) 50 (0.6%)
2050 9,150 5,231 (57.2%) 1,998 (21.8%) 691 (7.6%) 729 (8.0%) 448 (4.9%) 51 (0.6%)



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Albert Einstein:


"Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

An absence of war, based on force and military threat is not peace. It is a constant battle of wits to outsmart the enemy, which presumes the worst.


Though we agree with Albert in the main, 'understanding' will not suffice when it comes to global issues such as water and food shortages, which is inevitable as the population continues to rise and our new neighbours naturally want to enjoy life as we do. And why shouldn't they, and why would we not want to secure that right for them? They are after all our relations.


This is where Albert's 'understanding' bit kicks in. We know what everyone around the world aspires to and we know that the Earth cannot supply food and energy to meet the needs of an ever expanding population. Understanding that, we must take steps to ensure that supply never outstrips demand. If the world population ever reaches a point where we cannot feed, water and heat ourselves - then we're in real trouble. But birth control is a draconian solution which is inhumane. Thus, education is the key and perhaps contraception if your religion allows.


Our economies are based on oil at the moment. That too is a recipe for disaster. Once the oil starts to run out, not only will that lead to increased international tensions (put simply war), but it will also mean economic chaos on a grand scale. Mortgages will go unpaid as workers cannot get to work. House repossessions will follow and eventually bank repossessions will mean a glut of houses that they cannot sell, because nobody will be able to get to work to earn the sums needed to furnish the average world mortgage. When that happens the markets will collapse and this time the governments who bailed out the last lot in the US and Europe, will have to think again - probably amid riots and other civil disobedience.


Thus we must act now on all fronts. Chance favours the prepared mind. We'd go further. Human survival depends on the ordinary man understanding the implications of continuing as we are, against voting for politicians who also understand what is likely to happen if we continue to milk mother earth for monetary gain.


We are all entitled to enjoy our time on earth, but we are also the keepers of the keys because of our unique ability to think intelligently. All we are suggesting to world leaders is that they start to think intelligently. We would suggest that that means planning ahead. To start with we need a giant family planning exercise to know at what point we'll run out of food. How much land is available for agriculture without lopping down more oxygen producing trees?  How much energy we can generate realistically when it matters most.





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