7 billion people. Bomb or bust?

posted at 2:15 pm on October 30, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

One of the less political and more socially oriented stories making the rounds this week is the news that the Earth’s population is on track to break the 7 billion mark. Make no mistake… that’s a lot of people. And as the numbers mount, complications can certainly ensue. CBS goes to great lengths to point this out during an interview between Russ Mitchell and demographer Joel Cohen of Rockefeller University.

Mitchell: “How fast is the world growing?”

Cohen: We are adding 75 to 80 million people a year, every year. That’s the size of Germany or the United States in four years. It’s rapid on the long scale of thousands of years and a slowing to where we were 50 years ago.”

Mitchell: “Is that a good thing?”

Cohen: “It makes it easier to solve all the problems that we have. The thing about rapid population growth is that it makes almost every other problem more difficult to solve. And if we could slow our growth rate, we have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on.” …

Mitchell: “With this many people in the world, our natural resources — how endangered are we?”

Cohen: “There are a billion people already living with essentially no renewable water supplies. That’s not a problem for the other guys only. Atlanta, Georgia has had tremendous water shortages and the studies have shown it’s not because of climatic change there, but because of rapid population growth in the Georgia region. The American West — Phoenix — they’re headed into or already in water shortage situations. But what we’re facing is nothing compared to other countries.”

So does this mean we should be taking drastic steps to “humanely limit population” as some alarmed voices are demanding? The science seems to argue against it. Even the CBS interview gives a brief nod to the same data which Steven Hayward previously pointed out. The fuse on the population bomb is already fizzling out. In fact, we probably passed the peak growth rate decades ago.

World population will not come close to doubling again in 39 years. Indeed, it may never double again. Fertility has fallen rapidly, with many developing countries at or near the replacement fertility rate of 2.1. The world’s population growth rate has been falling since its peak in the 1960s, and we may never get much above the 10.1 billion people projected for 2100.

The other thing that the raw numbers don’t take into account is the astounding impact which human technological innovation has had on our population capacity. If we were still limited to the relatively primitive infrastructure we had in the 17th century we couldn’t feed anywhere near this many folks. A big chunk of that number of people live in cities today, and those metropolitan areas wouldn’t even be possible were not for our ability to quickly and cheaply ship food and other necessities to them. If that technology were ever suddenly removed for an extended period due to some future catastrophe, we would doubtless see a rapid and horrific plunge in population globally.

We also benefit from communications in the modern era which further aides us in maintaining these numbers and continuing to innovate. No longer are we limited to one guy in a New Jersey patent office suddenly coming up with The Next Big Thing. Brilliant minds collaborate across the planet to keep up the pace of development, extending our reach. All of this comes together to put us – hopefully – in good shape to maintain ourselves even through the peak, stabilized population we are projected to reach at the end of this century. The trick is to just keep it all going from there.

Of course, by that time the Borg will probably have arrived from the Delta Quadrant and the entire question will be moot.

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I’m glad we can grow our own food…

Khun Joe on October 30, 2011 at 2:18 PM

So does this mean we should be taking drastic steps to “humanely limit population” as some alarmed voices are demanding?

Are we going down this road again?

darwin-t on October 30, 2011 at 2:19 PM

The democrat party of the US will keep our population under control through Planned Parenthood.

Key West Reader on October 30, 2011 at 2:20 PM

I’m glad we can grow our own food…

Khun Joe on October 30, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Errr. Not anymore.

Key West Reader on October 30, 2011 at 2:21 PM

The may be too much consumption.

The problem may be too few resources.

The problem may be inadequate distribution or growth.

The problem is never too many people.

Otherwise, we should entirely give up on human rights.

Robert_Paulson on October 30, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Oh, look, the sky is falling again.
 
Toilet to tap solves the water problem. Next?

rogerb on October 30, 2011 at 2:26 PM

If my math is right, then if each of the 7 billion in the world paid $2000, it would eliminate our debt.

Just a way of showing that 7 billion people isn’t all that many.

Attila (Pillage Idiot) on October 30, 2011 at 2:29 PM

It’s mostly African and some Middle-Eastern countries which are the ones with the largest birth rates:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Population_growth_rate_world_2011.svg

Can we stop sending them free money now?

eforhan on October 30, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Simple solution: Colonize the stars.

mythicknight on October 30, 2011 at 2:32 PM

Khun Joe on October 30, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Key West Reader on October 30, 2011 at 2:21 PM

You beat me to it , Key West Reader.

No question that in this country, certain Civil Authoroties are trying to make growing your own food against the law.

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 2:32 PM

They got two words for you, baby!

SOYLENT GREEN!!!

pilamaye on October 30, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Cohen: “There are a billion people already living with essentially no renewable water supplies.

And that’s because there’s too many of them? Or because they live under the distortions of dictatorship and/or socialism?

What a vomitous misdirection of cause and effect. What’s the Latin for this particular fallacy again?

This planet can support 7 billion people. It can support 70 billion people. It can probably (if we were willing to ruin the ecology and go full sci-fi) support 700 billion people.

What it can’t support is the ravages of central planning.

HitNRun on October 30, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Get back to me when we reach 1 trillion. Until then, find something better to do.

NotCoach on October 30, 2011 at 2:39 PM

Cohen: “It makes it easier to solve all the problems that we have. The thing about rapid population growth is that it makes almost every other problem more difficult to solve. And if WE could slow our growth rate, WE have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on.” …

Hey Joel,

JUST WHO THE (expletive) IS “WE”? ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

I don’t recall my ‘agreeing’ to turn this country over to ‘One World’ governance.

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Mitchell: “With this many people in the world, our natural resources — how endangered are we?”

Cohen: “There are a billion people already living with essentially no renewable water supplies. That’s not a problem for the other guys only. Atlanta, Georgia has had tremendous water shortages and the studies have shown it’s not because of climatic change there, but because of rapid population growth in the Georgia region. The American West — Phoenix — they’re headed into or already in water shortage situations. But what we’re facing is nothing compared to other countries.”

-
Yup… My retreat has its own clean water supply… with a brand new well…
-
As I have been saying… Buy land away from the cities… and make sure you have access to water, wildlife (food) and can grow food and get fire wood.
-
Better to prepare for the worst and be wrong, than to ignore the signs and be dead…
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Now I just have to write my will such that the kids can’t sell the place for at least a generation or two.
-

RalphyBoy on October 30, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Add a billion hard working conservative people to the population and we will have no problem in making new houses any where on this planet for the other 6 new billion coming…;) Plus for the billion not living with a renewable water source, I think rain has been around for centuries, and irrigation is a option for those who live in low rain areas not to mention a future desalination business can make up the rest of the needs…. can you imagine the jobs for that industry???

What we don’t need is another population control clown….

dec5 on October 30, 2011 at 2:45 PM

Rhodesia ‘bread basket of Africa’, until Mugabe took agriculture away from the white farmers and gave the land to his comrades, veterans of the rev…uh..[oh, well]…lution.

Skandia Recluse on October 30, 2011 at 2:51 PM

I don’t recall my ‘agreeing’ to turn this country over to ‘One World’ governance.

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Sooner or later, whether it takes a few centuries or another millenia, it’s going to probably happen – or we’ll have blown ourselves up by then and the dolphins take over.

mythicknight on October 30, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Ugh,well,they/those/them/and You people,
aren’t getting a drop,of Lake Superior…
…..wait a tic,the US owns half of it,okay
and then thats it!!
(snark)

canopfor on October 30, 2011 at 3:00 PM

I may be going out on a limb here, but I think it’s pretty obvious that before writing this column, you didn’t consult with Joe Romm.

muckdog on October 30, 2011 at 3:02 PM

The thing about rapid population growth is that it makes almost every other problem more difficult to solve. And if we could slow our growth rate, we have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on.” …

Lies!
No it doesn’t! Socialism, communism, fascism and all the other dictatorisms is the plague on the earth! Not populations growth! People are not the problem! Dictators are the problem! People who want to control other people want those people to think population growth is a problem!

Our struggle is often to grasp the obvious.

Every time I see a photo of the earth from space.. all I ever see is land mass and water. I have yet to see hordes of moving people. There is plenty of space, plenty of resources, plenty of farm land, plenty of water… what we do not have enough of is freedom and liberty which inspires ingenuity and invention! What better example of this is Obama.. who after being elected cancels NASA’s plan for a rocket to return to the moon! We sit on a speck of dust with an entire universe before us… complaining about too many people! What a freaking joke! No.. we have too many liberals!

JellyToast on October 30, 2011 at 3:05 PM

Of course, if we (the US) would stop burning 4 out of every 10 bushels of corn we grow as auto fuel, we could feed a whole bunch of those 7 billion people. Ethanol, other than in adult beverages, needs to be eliminated.

iurockhead on October 30, 2011 at 3:08 PM

How many is too many?

Depends, how many of them are actively blogging?

Dr Evil on October 30, 2011 at 3:08 PM

The whole Mars thing is meant to pacify those who want to return to the moon! The moon is reachable.. that’s why the government wants us to concentrate on the unreachable.. Mars and asteroids! Or have us concentrate on the stupid.. the international space station!
It would so easy to set up facilities on the moon. The US should’ve had a permanent civilian, military and scientific presence there by the 80′s!

Make no mistake… some, I believe, are keeping us from the moon hoping that others like China and Russia get there first! It makes no sense to talk about Mars when we ignore the moon. Everything we could do on the moon would only benefit us for later going to Mars or anywhere else. But all that aside.. as for population growth… we still have plenty of space here on earth! It’s all another fraud! All these people can do is strike up one crisis after another. If it isn’t global warming, it’s population growth!

JellyToast on October 30, 2011 at 3:13 PM

Relevant video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iodJ0OOdgRg&feature=player_embedded

Well worth your time.

AbaddonsReign on October 30, 2011 at 3:25 PM

mythicknight on October 30, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Us ‘Jesus Freaks’ know it’s going to happen according to prophecy, but I reserve the right to resist it TO THE DEATH as long as I’m here to fight it.

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 3:27 PM

The whole Mars thing is meant to pacify those who want to return to the moon! The moon is reachable.. that’s why the government wants us to concentrate on the unreachable.. Mars and asteroids! Or have us concentrate on the stupid.. the international space station!
It would so easy to set up facilities on the moon. The US should’ve had a permanent civilian, military and scientific presence there by the 80′s!

JellyToast on October 30, 2011 at 3:13 PM

If life on the moon is so viable then why isn’t the free market providing colonists transport there? The government has already demonstrated the feasibility of getting there decades ago. If it’s so easy and worthwhile why isn’t anyone going?

lexhamfox on October 30, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Dave Foreman, the co-founder of Earth First, says that reducing our population down to 100 million is one of his three main goals….

“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”

http://endoftheamericandream.com/archives/from-7-billion-people-to-500-million-people-the-sick-population-control-agenda-of-the-global-elite

theCork on October 30, 2011 at 3:34 PM

and the dolphins take over.

mythicknight on October 30, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Anything dumb enough to get caught in a tuna net is in no danger of taking over anything.

CurtZHP on October 30, 2011 at 3:52 PM

“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.”

We tried this once before. It was called The Dark Ages.

Kinda sucked.

CurtZHP on October 30, 2011 at 3:53 PM

CurtZHP on October 30, 2011 at 3:52 PM

That opposable thumb thing still unfairly holds them back a bit.

Occupy the Ocean!!!! We demand thumbs!!!!

hawkdriver on October 30, 2011 at 4:01 PM

The first problems to address are these:

A substantial part of the human race is subjected to perpetual war, holding them at subsistance and preventing them from contributing intellect or working towards prosperity.

We have put economic, social, and political obstacles in the way of the people who build big projects. We did this in the name of saving the environment, but they are the same people who could help save us.

We take the short view. For example, NYC’s sewage treatment plants produce water that’s within a hair of potable quality. Instead of injecting it into aquifers, we dump it in the saltwater surrounding the city.

We put our living quarters on highly arable land instead of barren lands. There are solid historical reasons for this (political geography) but if we could do otherwise we could probably double the earth’s carrying capacity.

I’m sure others could triple the length of this list.

njcommuter on October 30, 2011 at 4:31 PM

So does this mean we should be taking drastic steps to “humanely limit population” as some alarmed voices are demanding?

If so, I propose we start with Malthusian philosophers and Harvard faculty members. I think it is fairly obvious that the whole planet is currently endangered by a glut of over-consuming, under-producing, narcissistic intellectuals.

bitsy on October 30, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Military force is how you conquer land over weeks and months. Having babies is how you conquer land over decades and centuries.

RBMN on October 30, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Occupy the Ocean!!!! We demand thumbs!!!!

hawkdriver on October 30, 2011 at 4:01 PM

And free fish !!!

bitsy on October 30, 2011 at 5:10 PM

There’s plenty of debunking of the overpopulation myth here:

Population Research Institute

Ward Cleaver on October 30, 2011 at 5:16 PM

Sterilize all professors who recommend enforced population lowering measures?

It’s a start.

profitsbeard on October 30, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Logan’s Run. There is no Sanctuary.

vcferlita on October 30, 2011 at 5:29 PM

If so, I propose we start with Malthusian philosophers and Harvard faculty members. I think it is fairly obvious that the whole planet is currently endangered by a glut of over-consuming, under-producing, narcissistic intellectuals.
bitsy on October 30, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Sterilize all professors who recommend enforced population lowering measures?
It’s a start.
profitsbeard on October 30, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Hear, hear!
I say we put both of those ideas up for a national referendum.

listens2glenn on October 30, 2011 at 5:35 PM

Of course, by that time the Borg will probably have arrived from the Delta Quadrant and the entire question will be moot.

By that time I should be dead, and god help them develope phasers that modulate.

And being from Michigan..ahem….Lions 31 Denver 3 so far, you ever been on I-75 driving north of Midland….not much of anything. Go up to da UP. Nothing for hundreds of miles.

We got all the water. If your tired of not enough clean water, move to da UP, eh.

When they try to start diverting water, is when we have the next civil war.

Scoreboard44 on October 30, 2011 at 6:04 PM

And if WE could slow our growth rate, WE have an easier job in dealing with all the other things like education, health, employment, housing, food, the environment and so on.” …

It’s interesting how they scream there are so many people and yet we allow any one who wants to come across the southern border enter the U.S.
If we are so many get a hold of our borders and let legal immigrants come in. But we must abort because we are over populated.

Then they scream we don’t have enough to do all the farm jobs etc.
If we allow it the dems will work themselves out of existence – by not producing or abortions.

Bambi on October 30, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Doesn’t it kind of put into perspective $7 billion that obama has wasted!

Bambi on October 30, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Won’t it be great when the current generation of farmers retires?

Why we have been training all the Transgender/Ethnic/Wymans studies people who know all about hygrometry, fertilization, differential crop yield, modern GPS-based farming to replace them.

Say, those 1 billion people who live on non-renewables?

They are all Leftists.

Otherwise when the time for paring down the population comes around they’ll find that Soylent Green is Environmentalists… Ethnic Studies savants… Transgenderistas… you know, the non-producer part of the world. AKA the drag on the global economy.

ajacksonian on October 30, 2011 at 6:48 PM

As long as they stay “over there” and live in grass huts and don’t want too much stuff, we’ll be OK./

Dr. ZhivBlago on October 30, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Those that think there are too many people can leave and those that think not can stay.

CW on October 30, 2011 at 8:08 PM

I’m glad we can grow our own food…

Khun Joe

In fact, if we could get the price right, we could grow many, many multiples of the amount of food we grow now.

Knott Buyinit on October 30, 2011 at 8:56 PM

In fact, if we could get the price right, we could grow many, many multiples of the amount of food we grow now.

Knott Buyinit on October 30, 2011 at 8:56 PM

Or just, you know, have the USDA stop paying people not to farm.

That might help.

And stop paying them to grow corn for ethanol.

Actually, we would be better off without the USDA. Period.

ajacksonian on October 30, 2011 at 9:21 PM

and the dolphins take over.

mythicknight on October 30, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Anything dumb enough to get caught in a tuna net is in no danger of taking over anything.

CurtZHP on October 30, 2011 at 3:52 PM

most dolphins are too smart to want to take.

The leftist dolphins that want to take over keep getting caught in the tuna nets.

Slowburn on October 30, 2011 at 11:02 PM

Soylent Green should be Hippies.

rayra on October 31, 2011 at 12:05 AM

Soylent Red should be Marxists.

rayra on October 31, 2011 at 12:25 AM

7 billion people.

A shacking statistic.

Dr. Charles G. Waugh on October 31, 2011 at 3:50 AM

I have no idea how many people our planet can have living on it. I know my time is limited, as every other person living on it will some day die. If the human life span is increased dramatically, we will in my opinion be in a mess. On the other hand, I do think that some type of pandemic/virus will appear and rear its ugly head. We have the mistaken thought that we have viral infections under control with our current knowledge of medicine …………. we don’t.

SC.Charlie on October 31, 2011 at 10:12 AM

Those that think there are too many people can leave and those that think not can stay.

CW on October 30, 2011 at 8:08 PM

Yeah, isn’t it odd that they always seem to think OTHER people should die so THEY can have their utopia.

If these population bomb types would start offing themselves, I might take them a little more seriously. Until then, they’re just more algores.

runawayyyy on October 31, 2011 at 3:06 PM