According to the United Nations, the world’s population should hit 7 billion on Halloween (Oct. 31).
In an article in Science, experts are quick to warn they offer best-guess scenarios concerning future population. The further into the future you go, the “cloudier” projections become.
Given our current rate of growth, the world adds about a billion people every 12 to 13 years. That comes from adding 158 people each minute if you calculate birth versus death rates as U.N. folks like to do. This gives us 227,520 more people each day.
While the future population may be hard to project, it’s interesting to see how that growth came. It took 50,000 years of human existence to build a population of 1 billion people. We crossed the 1 billion threshold in the year 1800. From there we were at 1.6 billion by 1900.
Things starting rolling more quickly at that point. We turned that 1.6 billion number around in the next 100 years. By 2000, world population stood at 6.1 billion.
The most rapid time of population growth, again according to Science, was between 1965 and 1970. Since that time, birthrates have leveled off somewhat. We’re at a point of having more people on the planet, though we aren’t having children nearly as often.
The increase in people comes from both ends of the spectrum. First there are people having babies (no surprise). And improvements in public health are letting our seniors hang around much longer.
But, for considerations of the future, bear in mind that the long-living seniors and the prolific baby producers aren’t usually stationed in the same places. For example: Taiwan has the lowest birthrate of any nation with only .6 births per woman. Correspondingly, developed Asian nations like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan boast longer lifespans.
In the Republic of Niger, the average woman still has 7 children. It might be noted that country ranks as one of the more destitute on the planet. It is currently ranked 167 (out of 169) on the U.N.’s Human Development Index.
Fertility rates are higher in the less developed world. Lifespans are longer in the more developed world. Projections are that with the 7 billion people expected on our planet by the end of October, 5.75 billion will live in less developed nations, 1.25 billion in the developed world.
The three most populated countries will be China (1.35 billion); India (1.25 billion); and the United States (not even close with 312 million).
For the world as a whole, the birthrate has slowed since the 1950s, when the average Earth woman had 5 children. Today’s average woman has 2.5 children. The average U.S. woman has 2 children. China’s birthrate has slowed from an average of six children per woman to three children per woman.
Experts say it doesn’t take much change in world birthrates to have a dramatic impact on population in the years following. In other words, if more nations improve their public health, education and income levels, then their birthrates will fall, and we will see longterm population projections shrink.
A survey conducted by the United Nations found women in Africa still thought that upwards of five children (nine in Nigeria) was a good number to have in their family, while most of the developed world thought two would be a precious plenty.
As some alarmists may fret over the impact a multitude of extra people may exert on the planet, many experts advise to just relax, since the ability to feed everyone is already established. It seems the problem of starvation is ever grounded in issues of food transportation and distribution––nasty things like civil wars and political strife keeping people hungry, not a lack of production.
[Sidenote: Parents are advised to keep the 227,520 figure handy to whip out the next time your child views their incarnation as central to the universe. Casually remind them, “On the day you were born, some 227,519 other kids just like you arrived on this planet. Now exactly what makes you so important?”]