Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Seven Billion!

I’ve never enjoyed being in the midst of crowds. Sometimes sitting in a baseball stadium full of people rooting for my team is okay. Otherwise, I prefer being where one or two or, at most, a few hundred are gathered.

I’m in trouble.

The January 2011 National Geographic reports that this is the year the earth’s population reaches 7 billion.

According to the Population Reference Bureau and the United Nations, world population has gone from 200 million in AD1 to 1 billion in 1800 to 3 billion in 1960 to 7 billion in 2011. World population will reach 8 billion by 2024 and 9 billion by 2045.


Fully modern humans—the ancestors of every person alive today—evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago. We left Africa in shifts and by 60,000 years ago, H. sapiens had dispersed to nearly all corners of the planet. By 10,500 years ago, people had domesticated other animals and developed agriculture. Reliable food sources supported enormous human colonies, providing some individuals with the time to dream, imagine, and build civilizations.

And have more kids.

And now there are 7 billion of us.

What have we done so far – in addition to creating reality shows and Ipods?

We’ve reduced the variety of grains we eat. Now its mostly wheat, rice and corn.

We caused (directly or indirectly) the mass extinction of species.

We’re warming the planet, perhaps dangerously.

We have created pollution, caused climate change, ocean acidification, thrust aerosols into the air, depleted the ozone, disrupted nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, and swallowed freshwater resources and open land.

We’re in trouble.

We need to acknowledge what we have done and work to ameliorate our impact. We need to reduce our consumption of resources and defend those that remain.

And above all, we need to work together, as a species.

We are, after all, rooting for the same team.

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