Sunday, October 30, 2011

Seven Billion and Counting

Congratulations, you make up 0.000000143% of the world's population. The United Nations has designated October 31st, 2011 as '7 Billion Day.' Some time during this past month, the seven billionth person was born on the planet. It is astounding to consider that 12 short years ago, we were counting six billion. We only reached our first billion milestone in 1805, but since then we have seen exponential growth.

The Population Reference Bureau has put together a map of The World at 7 Billion, characterizing life expectancy, poverty, and health. National Geographic produced another interactive map illustrating these seven billion people. But ultimately we are painting a pretty grim picture of the stresses seven billion human beings place on the planet. One of the biggest concerns related to population is how to feed the world. More people means more mouths to feed, which requires methods to grow and distribute enough food. With extreme weather events, political and economic turmoil, and high food prices, this has been a hot topic this year! While the general consensus seems to be that Malthusian predictions of Earth's carrying capacity were a bit low and didn't account for technological advances of modern agriculture, it is also clear that we need to seriously rework production and consumption patterns. No small task.

So tomorrow take a moment to think about the billions on this planet - the similarities and disparities between us, the challenges such a large cohort presents, and how you can make your one/seven billionth of the pie count. Oh don't worry, you are still unique and special.

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