The Next Billion

In 1999 the world population passed the 6 billion mark. In the year 1900 the Earth was home to about 1.6 billion people… What’s next?

World population growth

The total had grown by 600 million in the 100 years since 1800, the year that the first billion was reached; but the change in the 19th century gave no hint of things to come. By the middle of the present century another billion had been added, in the remarkably short span of only 50 years.

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Moreover, and significantly, 80 percent of the growth had taken place in the world’s poorer, or "developing," nations. In 1995, but 45 years later, world population had risen by an additional three billion, with most of the increase, as before, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The dramatic fashion in which new numbers have been added to the world’s population since 1950 simply blows the mind.

While it took the several million years of human history to reach the first billion, and 130 years to reach the second, today each new billion is added in but 11 years. It came as something of a surprise. The fact that world population would grow by billions in but a few decades was not anticipated by demographers in the initial postwar period.

The earliest United Nations projections showed more concern with the possibility of devastating mortality striking the developing countries. As a result, U.N. projections made in 1951 predicted the 1980 population at anywhere from 3 to 3.6 billion, but the higher limit was considered optimistic and unlikely. The actual figure, as best we now know, proved to be about 4.4 billion: a large difference in a less than 30 year projection.

But the fact of the matter is, the Earth is large enough to sustain this population, but only if we make some serious changes in how we treat nature, each other and those most in need. If everyone just reached out to help one person a week, within a year, we could all self help each other to better solutions.

All it will take is to make a system that amazes us with our potential, instead of stifling us with our fear… and sharing knowledge is the best way, as Darren Short XIV shares;

Millions of people are born and die every day so it’s impossible to identify with any precision who the 7 billionth occupants was or even the date of their arrival but the BBC have put together a fun, little tool to check which number of the 7 billion + you are and have coupled it with interesting facts about population, your home country and your gender.

In the time it took to run the query, the population had grown by 1,400 so with that thinking by the time you get to the end of this article the population will have probably grown by around 15,000 people – that’s the equivalent of a full Peterborough United London Road stadium in just a couple of minutes.

Population is difficult to really put into perspective and turn into something that’s not quantifiable but more realistic and in relation to things we know. It is difficult to broaden a view beyond your closest social surroundings and think about the planet in its entirety but once you get there it can be humbling to think about how connected all the fates of all the people are through the ecological health of the planet.

The thing that is most impressive about the size of the global population is the rate at which it has grown. In 1804 the global population was 1 billion and it took another hundred years – until 1904 for it to reach 2 billion. The hundred or so years following this is when things really started to boom, the increases were so quick it was like someone had been feeding mankind after midnight. In 1959 it hit 3 billion; 1974, 4 billion; 1987, 5 billion; 1998, 6 billion and now over 7 billion.

To add to this the average lifespan in the 1800’s was 30 years, today it is nearly 70 years. This is a global figure and will deviate between countries but it’s a prominent indicator of how much life has improved for humankind during this age of rapid growth.

As interesting a subject this is to think about, it is not necessarily the cause for any great celebration. An increased population puts a stark demand on the food supply and the on the need for agricultural land to meet the increased food demand.

It isn’t just food that is a cause for concern but also a greater strain on already stretched resources such as oil and their impact on the environment. The positive to come out of it is that mankind will be forced to look into more efficient uses or to explore new fuel sources that are renewable.

Big issues aside we come back to the realistic, localised thinking and consider it’s the demands of an increased population directly on us. The population of the UK is around 62,000,000 and continues to grow.

It raises questions about the amount of space we have in the UK, we are a tiny island after all. We’ve seen that new build homes are getting smaller and that Britons are keeping a tight grip on their possessions so what is going to happen to personal storage and space?

Homes will continue to get more compact and house sharing more common and so personal storage space in the home becomes a thing of the past and more people will seek self store remotely to make sure they have enough space to live in.