7 Billion….and Counting
Around 2,000 years ago, the world’s population was around 300 million. Around 1800, it reached a billion. The second billion was notched up in 1927. The three billion mark was swiftly reached in 1959, rose to four billion in 1974, then accelerated to five billion in 1987, six billion in 1999 and seven billion in 2011.
All 7 billion of us, and those who will follow, depend on the health of our planet.
The paramount challenge of this century is to meet the needs of 7 billion human beings now and the billions to come, while protecting the intricate balance of nature that sustains life.
Demands for water, trees, food and fossil fuels will only increase as world population grows. Human activity has altered every aspect of our planet, including its climate. Shortages of clean water and arable land are already a problem, while species loss continues. The resilience of ecosystems from fisheries to forests is threatened.
Impoverished people, who contribute the least to climate change, are likely to suffer the most from its effects – drought, floods, heat waves, tornadoes, blizzards and other extreme weather disasters – and many will seek a better future elsewhere.
Wealthier countries, meanwhile, are consuming resources at a rate that the earth cannot sustain for all humankind. Rising expectations everywhere put more pressure on the earth, and will require everyone to adopt more efficient ‘greene’ ways so that all people may have decent lives.
Our collective future depends on rapidly lowering greenhouse gas emissions while reducing excessive consumption. Greater social equity and slower population growth will help make cooperative solutions possible.
It is worth noting that the world’s richest half-billion people (7 per cent of the global population) are responsible for half the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide, a main contributor to global climate change. The poorest half create just 7 per cent of those emissions!
In a world of 7 billion people, we need to count on each other.