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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Seven Billion and climbing ...

Ever wondered about the manner in which the population has grown in recent years? I know I have and it began when I did a demographic survey for my employer in the early 1980s. So, with the BBC having a neat little calculator, I thought I'd see what it said about the world population on the day I was born.

Turns out that I was somewhere around the 2,442,591,916th person to be born on this earth. In that year, the world population was just 2,300,000,000 (2.3 billion) which I assume means that deaths sort of balanced the births somewhere down the line. What is really interesting is the 1950 was the beginning of a runaway increase in the population - mainly in the "Developing" nations. The 1953 population hit 2.6 billion, in 1960 it had jumped to 3.1 billion and the year I finished school it hit 3.26 billion. By 1980 it was 4.4 billion and in 1990 5.3 billion and at the millennium it stood at 6.1 billion.

One country which interests me greatly and provides an excellent example of what I mean is South Africa. In 1987 the population was around 34 million, it now stands at 50,295,089 with 123 births, 85 deaths and 16 immigrants daily. The population is expanding at a rate of more than 1% per annum. The big question is, of course, can the country feed, water and employ all these people? In all honesty, no. And the same goes for many more countries around the globe.

What caused this massive explosion? According to one of the people I consulted back in the 1980s it was the availability of modern medicine which raised the life expectancy of all population groups and lowered the infant mortality figures. One small advance in medicine and it has caused a population explosion. Interesting stuff indeed.

But there is another small point to this which is perhaps going unnoticed by most of us. In 1900 Europe accounted for 21% of the world population. In 2000 it was just below 10% and in 2030 will be just 6% of the world population. Not only does this have a huge impact on our influence in the world, but it impacts directly on our economic power as well. Helpfully the site also gives a calculator for the population of your country. So a quick look tells me that the UK currently has 62,161,592 people with 85 births, 66 deaths and 23 immigrants every day ... Which tells me that there is a nett growth there and that, as many of the births are to immigrants, the population in Britain is undergoing a large growth and a profound change.

Definitely something to ponder carefully...


  1. It seems like a serious reason for concern...but what could be the solution? Lemmings' example is far from a possible model, which leaves Malthus or other similar concepts? After all, it's a brave New World being developed...

  2. I rather suspect that a major conflict will eventually take place over resources and access to them, not just oil, but many other things are also in shortening supply, such as food, clean water and essential materials for the sustenance of many things that make modern living, indeed modern medicine, possible...