In case anyone was wondering, there are a lot of people on our little planet, and the number is growing rapidly!
The US Census Bureau and the United Nations collect and make available some quite interesting data. The UN database in particular allows users to run various analysis to create charts and to download data for offline processing. Taking advantage of these resources, I collected some data and created a few charts. Let’s take a look at population growth from 10,000BC through 1500AD.
Not terribly interesting, I have to agree. But now let’s take a look at growth including what has happened since 1500AD.
A little more interested now?
This information has, of course, caused a lot of people to wonder about the future of population growth. The people who study these sorts of things have noticed that there are factors that affect population growth. One of the most significant factors they track and attempt to predict is Total Fertility Rate (TFR) – the total number of children born per woman throughout her life.
Using TFR and other factors, they have tried to make projections about population growth for the future. Here is the UN’s latest result:
If we believe just the UN Medium projections, that’s still a lot of people!
Where are they?
Another interesting question is, “Where are all these new people coming from?” To answer that we need to go back to the TFR figure and look at it geographically. An average TFR=2.1 is approximately the fertility rate required to maintain a population. (Note the TFR color code at top of the image ranging from 1.1 to 7.1.)
We can see that TFR is highest in the developing world – regions the UN officially refers to as “less developed.” In fact the UN estimates that 95% of recent and future population growth has occurred and will occur in less developed areas, while only 5% is occurring in more developed regions.
What do they want?
To understand some of the impact of population, we can ask, “What do these people want?” Well, if history serves as any guide, they want to be “more developed.” In short, they want (and indeed strive for – as much as we in the developed world do) to have a standard of living that is like the developed world.
And this is where it gets scary!
They want out of poverty (and other things).
About one-half of the world’s current population (and the vast majority of the new people coming in future) live in poverty. About 1 billion do not even have access to clean water. About one-fifth are under-nourished. About 1 billion are actually hungry. Of the 50% that do not live in poverty – the vast majority of these, of course, have standards of living below that of more developed regions.
In order for people of less developed regions to increase their standard of living, they will need stuff…LOTS of stuff.
Steel, copper, roads, cars, buildings, lights, glass, heating, cooling, water, and a lot more food (keeping in mind that a hamburger patty has a feed conversion ratio of about 5:1 – meaning it requires about 5x its weight in feed to produce).
Underpinning all this new demand is, of course, energy. Steel equals energy, copper equals energy, roads equal energy, cars equal energy…you get the point.
Thus it is critically important that we address the foundational element of safe and sustainable energy as urgently as possible.
Don’t you think?
CEO | Rain8 Group LLC
US Census Bureau http://www.census.gov/
The United Nations http://www.un.org/esa/population/
Population Reference Bureau http://www.prb.org/