7 billion

Earth

Sometime today—or maybe it’s already happened—the 7 billionth person on this planet will be born. It’s a milestone, that’s for certain, though I’m unsure whether it’s auspicious or portentous. What I do know is it’s a bit contrived. The 7 billionth person will face the same challenges as the baby born just before or just after. They are all entering a world that is trying to answer its most pressing question—how many of us can it support?

The answer depends, of course, on what sort of future those people will have. Will they live like Americans—sated and safe—or like Somalians—as uncertain about their next meal as they are about their country’s fate? That, of course, depends on resources. In truth, we won’t know the answers to any of these questions until we get there, if we’re even lucky enough to realize when we’ve arrived.

For years now, I’ve felt as though the world has been filling up around me. Part of that has been the result of changing scenery, an impression reinforced by years of moving up the density ladder from small towns to bigger cities. But that feeling is also supported by cold, hard facts. My worlds are filling up. It’s most evident in my hometown, a small city where change comes slowly if at all. Yet even there, the roads and houses and shops I knew can’t contain the now pulsing masses, grown half again as large as when I first knew them. Like a teenager, the city is coping with its new size awkwardly. Ambivalent about the future, it keeps trying to be the city I knew. But even I—with my propensity for nostalgia—know better. Every time I return, as I sit trapped a dozen deep at a stoplight, a lesson is writ large in the taillights of the car in front of me. Growth, like progress, cannot be stopped.

So as we cross this synthetic threshold, close your eyes for a second to take snapshot of the world as it is. It will never be the same. Then open them to a future that’s two people fuller.

Related posts:

If the world’s population lived in one city

Ghosts of geography

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  1. Did you see the fun BBC story that allows you to calculate your number in the universe?

    I, for example, am the 78,223,327,325th person alive since history began. Give or take, I’m guessing.

    But it’s a fun little app nonetheless.

    Great post — inspirational! :)

    1. There have been news going around here in the Philippines about the 7 billionth baby. I however doubt its accuracy. There are babies born every minute in the different places of the world so we can’t really point out whose born in that order. The point is, we’ve reached the 7 billionth mark and maybe that’s what all of us has to know.

    1. Indeed…don’t worry about these things…that is what gets us in these situations…our problems so immense that one cannot worry about it because it can destroy their motivation to continue on their current path.

  2. Why do we always need an answer. Can we not be like philosophers and just pose the question to ask other questions? Is technology not making us too dependant on finding the end to everything?

    Let us be happy in the sense of pondering the impossible and not needing the result of our demise and finding enjoyment in it.

    1. As a philosopher… well, plenty of philosophers do something like that… and yet still I don’t pretend to like it or think that that is what philosophy is about. But most philosophers do want answers, not just questions.

      1. Right on…thus Plato’s idea of Philosopher Kings…Kings that ask intelligent questions and then act as best they can after probing possible solutions in a thorough manner…perhaps employing the Socratic Dialetic to reach potential solutions.

        1. one day mother earth will clean up our mess, she his ready for the the change and i won’t be surprised if that happen in our time. Trough out time we know one thing about the humain, that is wen he rich the pic of he’s civilisation he falls big time and in the process loose a lot of lives. I think it’s happening right now

  3. There was a guy on the news arguing that more people was good for per capita gains… Yeah, more people might be good for humanity in some cases, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s worse for humanity in more cases, and never good for planet Earth

    1. Economics…which seems to be our primary focus (mistake), requires that our population keeps growing…thus tax incentives to have more children. I just read an article the other day where so European governments are giving people cash to have kids.

  4. A good post, and a little scary. The planet might be able to support 7 billion people right now but at the rate our population is increasing (doubling every 50 or so years), its resources simply won’t last (they are finite and we don’t seem to have an appreciation for the fact that we’re overuisng many of them). I despair for my children and their children … who knows what additional challenges they will face when shortages occur (water, fuel, food …)

    1. There is a good piece produced I believe from National Geographic…the film is called “Prophets of Doom”….it is very good. According to these five men who are experts in various fields…the problems have already begun…they range from over-population…to a ponzi scheme world wide financial system…to water pollution and scaricity…to fuel shortages….all these problems are linked…by our growing population…and I hate to say…by our growing less intelligent population.

  5. It would be awesome if you could locate the 7 billionth baby and give him or her a t-shirt that reads “I am # 7,000,000,000.”

    Really well written post, I must say. Very inspirational. Congrats on FP! Cheers.

  6. Two people per second. Wow.
    Unfortunately, a simple experiment we did in our 8th grade science class proved that growth can and will be stopped. This is a big and beautiful planet, but it’s not infinite. It already shows signs of being horribly strained by the consumption and pollution of a population that was too large a billion people ago. The more we grow, the faster we accelerate toward a planet that can’t support us anymore.

  7. the influx of people have not been sustained primarily for the lack of education and for us the need to still understand the balance of the heirarchy of self-sustaining countries and to those in the poverty level are at best left unanswered!

    very insightful and a nice read to ponder…

    1. Right on devildissh…we keep bringing more sacraficial lambs on-line without preparing the foundation for them to grow into healthy adults…just pass more and more unsolved problems onto the next generation…brilliant.

  8. Great writing; I really enjoy your style. The changes are everywhere, not just the cities and growing small towns. I live in a village where, 30 yrs ago, 3 cars might go by in the afternoon. Now it’s in the 30+. It was a farming village, cottages inhabited by the workers. It’s now a retirement village with very few folk less than 55: the school has closed and folk are worried about property prices. Changes can often be beneficial but I’m not too sure what, if any, of these changes in village life would fall into that category. However, it’s still a beautiful place to live even if it now has the feel of the burbs.

  9. Yep, the seven billionth person was born today, a baby girl in Asia if memory serves. It is food for thought. Amazingly, there are portions of our planet that aren’t even inhabited yet despite that large number, which makes me dwell on the amazing powers of an infinite God. I believe the world He created is large enough for us all, but it is up to us to be good stewards of all the blessings He’s provided. THAT’S where the problems arise.

    Your style is flowing and effortless; it’s a true joy to read. I especially loved the simile, “Like a teenager, the city is coping with its new size awkwardly.” Nicely done!

    1. The infinite god you speak of is in my opinion an uncaring god…he has a much bigger universe to create and focus on than our little planet and our relatively short existence on this beautiful pale blue dot. And religions often encourage production of more of us…not less.

  10. How accurate is this calculation if there are still regions in the world where not all the citizens can be counted?

  11. I live in iran. in the east asia countries the population growth control is so weak( like india). maybe it’s better to be controlled more. however an efficient education training can be effective for control it.

    1. We squirm at the idea of population control…people often say “look what happened in China”…well, indeed some bad things did happen…doesn’t mean the idea didn’t make total sense. We should learn from what China did and adapt to avoid some of those mistakes. When will people realize that less of us mean more opportunities for those that come fresh into this world? Imagine what we could do with less of us and more resources to bring our younglings up with the utmost care and less problems simply passed down from one generation to the next? Education of these younglings would be key…but look at our education now…far from what it could be.

  12. When I visited Arizona and went to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s house the docent told this story. Someone asked Wright why he chose to build his house so far from the city, in such a remote location. He answered, “Civilization will catch up.”

    Man, did it ever! All over the world….

    Ronnie

  13. I firmly believe that we have surpassed a sustainable human population long ago. We are now cutting into the lives of others, hoarding resources that are for all life to share. The extinction rate is astronomical. Human starvation is in the high millions, or more. Yet on we continue, too few asking the important questions of how to stop the madness. We are in a self-imposed food race with ourselves. Every time we increase food production, we increase the population. Ecological laws apply to humans too. We must find a new (or old) way to live that makes sense. This isn’t it.

  14. I’m for zero population growth. I didn’t have any children myself and I’m concerned that many American couple are having larger families these days. I realize that in developing countries couples have larger families to ensure someone will be around to take care of them when they grow old. Not all countries have social security programs. But what’s the excuse for larger families in developed countries? This obsession with cute babies is going to hurt us down the line.

  15. Nice write! I understand. drove through the city I grew up in through high school about 20 or so years later and had a hard time recognizing the intersections… also just lived in a 2000 and 4000 person town for the last two years almost and now live back in a city of almost 800,000 and know what you mean about bringing in change or “at all!”….

    Blessings and have a great week….Kevin

  16. Such a thought provoking post. Yes, the prime purpose of life as we know it is to propagate. So surely we are not to blame for our collapsing planet. To prevent population growth would be to go against every instinct in our bodies. I am quite sure that I will have children, there has never been any doubt in the matter. If it is any consolation then I feel undeniably guilty for that act, but am unable to stop it. Of course guilt won’t stop us from falling into a mass extinction will it? A global pandemic might do finely though…

    1. LOL…indeed you are corrrect…spread the seed and populate…but we do have a relatively large brain relative to other species on this planet…we walk upright..which frees our hands and opposable thumb to create our own environment to some degree…it is about time we wake up and use these assets in a more enlightened and appropriate manner.

  17. Great thoughts. A lot of people, a lot of change. I know it will change but I hope for bigger and better from bigger and better persons than us.

  18. think about this, according to scientists there have been 100billion people born, and 7 billion are alive right now. 1 eleventh of the people ever born are still alive. I find that scarey. Of course the answer is Logans Run where humans were only given a finite period. So given that is even scarier perhaps we need to treat out planet a bit better:)

  19. At a weekend retreat, I had the most fascinating conversation with a gentleman about this very subject. He, like many scientists, suggested that we need to find ways to reduce human population. I agree. With his method… not so much. He stated that for every human born, we “take out” one. Apparently this practice existed in the island nation of Tuvalu – who have since abandoned said practice, thus doubling their population since 1980 and are on the verge of running out of water. That said, the practice, as relayed by said gentleman, was if a person were to have a child, someone from that family would be sent out to sea – never seen or heard from again. I guess, there would be serious thought in having a child if it were between it and Grandpa… I support the idea of people consciously limiting themselves to having 2 children. Especially in the developed world…

    http://cleanupyourcorner2012.wordpress.com
    one hour. one day. one world.

    1. LOL…what a solution:) How about people just having one kid…then next generation follow in same manner…and so on and so on…people can still enjoy making love but one can get around that problem through various means. Of course…we would have to address our hyper focus on economic growth and re-think what economics means in the context of less is better and actually more.

  20. I feel like I’m the only one who thinks that the world’s population isn’t the real problem. The Earth is able to provide enough reosurces for us humans and all living things. The problem isn’t the poulation itself, but the fact that one side of the world is overlyconsuming the natural resources, food and fertile land of the poorer and less devolped nations. What is scary is the fact that the poor who are being exploited and derived from basic neccasities and giving birth to a new generation born into poverty.
    The problem I believe is the unequal distrubtion of wealth and resources. The poor that are beIng expolited are rising in numbers and this scares the rich elite and us comortable ( or somewhat comfortable) middle-class folks in the West. I think that’s what the real “fear” is. It can easily solved if the world did a better job taking care of one another and creating a new system that does not create a HIGE gap between the rich and the poor.

    1. I agree with you on this. If people would care for one another and stop the greediness, then we won’t have issues feeding and giving shelter to the 7th billion baby or the yet to be born babies in the future.

  21. I must agree. It somewhat bothers me how there are so many governments/ countries and scientists stating that we are running out and fast yet I am sitting in my University campus at 23:58 with probably me and about a handful of students yet the whole building is lit up. Why do we have to wait for America and China to reduce their carbon foot print e.t.c, why can’t Britain just stand up and show all the other countries how it is done. There is no-one who can sit there and say that Britain could not survive as an island alone as we did for Centuries before.

  22. “So as we cross this synthetic threshold, close your eyes for a second to take snapshot of the world as it is. It will never be the same. Then open them to a future that’s two people fuller.”
    I really Like that… Nice post and grats on being on wordpress’s freshly posted!

  23. So as we cross this synthetic threshold, close your eyes for a second to take snapshot of the world as it is. It will never be the same. Then open them to a future that’s two people fuller.

    One of the best I’ve ever read!

  24. wow, this really inspired me. I think (?) we are already 7 billion people on the earth… It gets scary, doesn’t it? What if every country, in the future, has to limit the number of children by couple (like China is currently doing)?

  25. Great posting. I would like to add…as much as things change, some things in this society/world remain the same which is rather unfortunate. Not all Americans can agree that the life of one is sated and safe but I digress.

    I, too, wonder how much life this planet can sustain and is any of the damage done irreversible. I wonder if the way of life will come full circle as everything else seems to and will people restore some sense of simple and natural living by using only what they need, sharing the rest, recylcling what they can, and growing more of their food. I wonder if these new beings entered into this world will grow up to love all and value all people and do their part in working towards daily unification.

    I always ponder. :)

  26. Yup, here we are – at our 7-billionth mark. It’s crazy! I never thought we’d reach a number as large as 7 billion. When I was born, that is 20 years ago, the population was at roughly around 5 billion. In two decades, the world increased by 2 billion, which means that by the time I turn 22, the world’s population might be at roughly 9 billion. Just wow! Sometimes, I wonder if our world will ever explode from too much people. I guess, we’re seeing the start of that “explosion” now with economic crises and uprisings all over. Somebody needs to find an alternative planet soon or we all might end up as cannibals if the Earth comes to its ultimate limit. And I don’t want that. No one does, I guess.

    Great post by the way! I enjoyed reading through it. Thank you for reminding me to cherish today because tomorrow might never be like it at all.

  27. There’s still plenty of room in the world for more people – and by the time there isn’t, we will have moved to other spheres, repeating the process until humans fill the entire universe. That’s how awesome we are. I have had coffee.

  28. There’s just something I don’t agree: about being safe in the USA. IS there realy any safe place left in this world? I don’t think so. Some are better than others in that issue, yes, but for how long? There’s so many problems in this world… Thinking about these things might be stressing, hard, or even boring to some people, but is that reason enough to NOT think about then? We have to.
    I liked your post, made me think a bit.

  29. When I was in Jr. college my instructor told us the projected date that their will be so many people on earth we will cover every inch of land standing up. A scary thought. Do you happen to know what that date is…?

  30. Don’t worry everyone, it’s not nearly as bad as you think! I just checked and the world’s population is actually only seven thousand million. Not even a whole billion in old money.

  31. The 7th billion person has been born yesterday(I think) here in the Philippines. The baby was given a lot support from govt and other private companies (college scholarship, business franchise, some monetary support, etc…) for being the 7th billion to be born in this world.

  32. I like your turn of phrase: “Then open them to a future that’s two people fuller.”
    You have a point, but there’s an implied disappointment with the growth of the world in your voice. A sadness about what’s passing. Expressive metaphors of adolescence; we live in an adolescent world perhaps.

    Very poetic style of writing you have.
    Nicely written post. :)

    1. Indeed…but we should do more than talk. All one needs to do is open their eyes and observe what is before them everyday when they make their commute to work and commute back home…it really is a no brainer. The author of this terrific post has placed the issue before us with gentle care…when the _ _ _ _ hits the fan…it won’t be so gentle.

  33. i’m afraid, groth isn’t always a progress. but the world has a big chance for making a progress, if there are people able to stop for a while to “take a snapshot”. :)

  34. Very well written post, deserving of FP; congrats! The idea really made me think and slightly worry what will be. It is silly of course because it will all occur as it is meant to be and we can only sit back and watch in wonder. I read this on the news and although quite amazing, the growth is going to change everything that we once knew.

  35. Love your take on this issue. I share your sentiment that the world seems to be closing around you. There are actually times I feel claustrophobic looking at the sheer mass… and the contribution to the large population is one of the few things I am really not proud of about my country

  36. What opportunities would the 7 billionth child would get 30 years from now. The resources are fastly vanishing, jobs are quickly fading,money is hard to earn by and earth itself is quickly shrinking.

    Wonder what would be the future of the future generation !!

  37. What opportunities would the 7 billionth child would get 30 years from now. The resources are fastly vanishing, jobs are quickly fading,money is hard to earn by and earth itself is quickly shrinking.

    Wonder what would be the future of the future generation

  38. It’s all about sustainability isn’t it? Interesting post that outlines a lot of the fears westerners enjoy over resources and space. Odd coming from a hemisphere which has consistently pressed the big is best mentality? The national geographic wrote some great articles about this event at the start of the year, an emirate city outside abu dhabi has been built to tru and truly exorcise our impact; where’s the headlines about this? Thanks adam

    1. I think it is so much more than merely “sustainability”. It is about quality of life and progress of the human species towards something more than we see around us today…but perhaps I am alone in this wish.

  39. I read an article the other day that the UN predicts that if population trends and global consumption continue like they are, by the year 2030 we will need the equivalent of two Earths to support the human populace. That is a scary thing to think about…

    1. I do…where a condom, take a pill, have no more than one or two kids…preferably one…shrink the population…rebuild our cities (provides jobs) such that they make sense…bring our smaller numbers closer together…look a European city designs for possible template…high use of public transport, bikes…or our feet…get rid of suburban sprawl…I could go on and on…but it would make too much sense.

  40. This is something that I have been considering myself. How many of us can the earth sustain? You will get different answers depending on who you ask (as your post seems to suggest in reckoning also which life this 7 billionth person will live). The number of sustainable people have already been by-passed if we were all to live like Americans. Yet we still have a long way to go if we were to live a life less comforted; if we could make room for one another. My perspective is definitely one that promotes equality of humans and sharing of resources, but the world (and general public, myself included) can’t seem to make that a practice.
    Perhaps this was only a rant, but the staggering numbers of people in the world does bring to mind how many can our earth hold, and how ‘good’ of a life will any of us lead then? What should be done?

    -Fox

  41. A conundrum. Our ability to reproduce and survive (no other natural predators) combined with our silly emphasis on economic growth and our unique talent of passing debt and other unsolved problems on to future generations will lead to only one result…generations of payback. Perhaps these generations will learn something from their pain and anguish and adapt, evolve, regain a sense of where we are and what we may become with a little vision.

  42. This is so terrifying. I’m 17 years old and I know that I will never have my own children because it just isn’t the right thing to do anymore. This overpopulation is really scary, let us all hope that more adoptions are made and less children are conceived. This century is going to be a hard one, but with some effort we can get through.

  43. The population of man on earth is not man’s to control, though he’d like to be in control of it and everything else. God is in control of how many souls occupy the earth; but, to the “God-complexers” the growing numbers of human beings around them is alarming…people are taking up too much space, they’re destroying the environment, there’s not enough energy or goods, there’s not enough clean air to breathe, etc. God knows what He is doing…If you believe in God. Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

    1. LOL…if we keep thinking like that…and we continue on our current course…I look forward and welcome the day that this caring god hurls a rogue 100 mile long and 50 mile wide space rock on a direct course to Earth. If only he could spare the Orca, the Dolphin, the Hawk, and all of his other beautiful creations…unfortunately…god…be it a him or her or it…is pretty god damn powerful, chaotic, creative, destructive…and most important of all…indiscriminate.

  44. It’s scary to think how fast the world is filling up. Earth isn’t getting any bigger, but our population is ballooning. I can only hope that my children’s children will not live in want.

    What makes me angry is that right now, there are a lot of people who give birth to kids they can’t or won’t even take care of. Isn’t that the most selfish thing ever? Yet people who don’t want kids AND actually don’t have them are seen as selfish people. I would rather be childless than bring kids to this world and not take care of them.

  45. The 7 billionth baby was born in the Philippines! Danica May Camacho is her name. Though other countries like India and Sri Lanka followed suit claiming they had the 7 billionth baby..

    On another note, I hope this would be a reminder for us all that we are continually increasing but our resources do not. We cannot fully control bringing people into this world but we can definitely control how we use and value the nature that provides resources for us.

  46. OK, I just had the most awesome powerpoint presentation sent to me and I know your followers will love it. Problem is, I don’t know how to add a powerpoint presentation to my blog. I guess I could e-mail it to you and you could add it for your followers. Can anyone send me to the page link that shows me how to add a powerpoint presentation to my blog? If so I will post it tonight for all to see if not I will e-mail it to you.

  47. “Growth, like progress, cannot be stopped.”

    Actually, both can and will stop. See your own example of the Black Death. The plague could only spread where people were in close proximity. Likewise, the geopolitical conflicts of today – from global jihad to deforestation to acid rain – are a consequence of overpopulation. Human reproduction could be considered as the primary cause of anthropogenic climate change. We will hit a wall eventually. We are already hitting a wall in fact, every time a suicide bomber takes to the street. There is simply not enough to go around, and having more babies does not mean that we have more resources to feed them.

  48. This has the feel of a possible Deja vu. What with the remnants of past civilizations un accounted for. Those that we even know about. Greenland used to be green!