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Page added on October 30, 2012

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Turning point in history determined by human consumption


I am the 80,564,737,269th person to have lived since history began. Consider that. I’ve been alive for 7,628 days, and slept for almost 7 years. I spent 745 hours in the classroom so far, with another semester and graduate school to go. I am among a United States population of over 311 million. Almost 5.5 billion people were alive on Earth when I was born, and, at the time of this writing, it had increased 1.6 billion people.

In 1800, the world’s population was one billion. By 1930, it was 2 billion, 1974, 4 billion and last year around October 31st, the United Nations declared the world population had reached 7 billion people. This growth is not only historic and unprecedented, it’s possibly dangerous, especially if we continue at this rate. The U.N. predicts three ways the rest of the century could go: 10 billion, 16 billion, or a slight decline to 6 billion.

Before we investigate where we could be, let’s look at where we are, one year after the 7 billionth human was born.

The average human today, according to National Geographic is male, right-handed, and makes less than $12,000 a year. He has a cellphone, but not a bank account. He is around 28, and is Han Chinese.

We speak over 7,000 languages and live in more than 192 countries, have an average of 2.5 children and, in the United States, live an average of 78.5 years.

About every second, five people are born and two people die, contributing to a growth rate of nearly 260,000 people a day. In 2008, for the first time ever, more of us lived in cities than in rural areas. There are 21 cities with populations over 10 million. The entire population, standing shoulder-to-shoulder would only fill the city of Los Angeles, and if given a bit more space, all of us could live in France.

Humans are an impressive species. We sent over 200,000 text messages a second in 2010, could buy a McDonald’s hamburger from over 100 countries  in 1997 and each watched 1,812 hours of television a year in 2009. But we are a statistically unequal species. The richest countries consume double those resources used by the rest of the world. In fact, the U.N. estimates that if our current trends continue, by 2030, we will need the resources of two Earths to support our consumption. This consumption can be broken down into three major categories:

Energy consumption

Of the world’s energy, 5 percent of us consume 23 percent of that.  While the shift from oil and natural gas to more sustainable alternatives such as wind and solar energy is coming, it is slow to take hold. In 2009, for example, the per capita use of oil in the U.S. was 7051 kg; the world average that same year, only 1790 kg. To maintain such high levels of consumption, not only in the U.S. but in other high usage countries, we need to reduce our dependence on nonrenewable resources, and instead focus our efforts on renewable sources.

Food and water

Roughly 14 percent of the world doesn’t have clean drinking water. The average American household of four consumes 400 gallons of water per day. These already tight resources are under growing pressure from the expanding global population and climate change.

Tied in with the issue of clean water is that of malnutrition in much of the world, including here in the United States, where 1 in 6 people go hungry. The world produces enough food to feed the ever-growing population; it creates more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, yet still a billion people went hungry in 2010.


Our ever-increasing population has further strained the environment, stemming consistently from our expulsion of CO2. China, with its gigantic population, has had a 171 percent increase in emission since 2000, and releases more CO2 than the United States and Canada combined. India, another enormous population, is the third largest emitter of CO2. The United States, which has a large human population, but more importantly has a large automobile population, is taking steps in the right direction. Though we failed to sign the Kyoto protocol, we have decreased our CO2 emissions for the last two years in a row.


This is a moral crisis. How we expand our population, allocate our resources, spread our information and take care of each other and the planet will determine if we can sustain our rate of growth — and if we even need to. The population rate is still rising, unceasing, and looks to continue that way well into the next decades — possibly even the next century.

You are of one of over 7 billion people sharing the earth today. As we celebrate a year with a population over 7 billion, it is important to remember the impact that you have as one of those 7 billion. The small choices you make today have a colossal impact on the trajectory of the world, on not only you and your progeny, but on Buddhist monks in Tibet, museum curators in Germany and fishermen in Indonesia.

Daily Illin

3 Comments on "Turning point in history determined by human consumption"

  1. sunweb on Tue, 30th Oct 2012 3:10 pm 

    fascinating. is the reduction in CO2 emissions because of the economic downturn? less energy being used for most purposes including driving.

  2. Jerry McManus on Tue, 30th Oct 2012 6:15 pm 

    “The small choices you make today have ZERO impact on the trajectory of the world”

    There. Fixed it.

  3. Kenz300 on Wed, 31st Oct 2012 1:40 pm 

    Quote — ” The population rate is still rising, unceasing, and looks to continue that way well into the next decades — possibly even the next century.”


    It seem that the people with the least, those with barely enough food, water, energy or jobs are the ones having the most children.

    Access to family planning services needs to be available to all that want it.

    The great religions of the world seem to care more about having babies than providing for the people after they are born and the poverty, suffering and despair of millions.

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