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Visualizing Peak Popopulation

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Even with having existed for millions of years, the process for humans to reach 1 billion in population was long and arduous. It is only about 12,000 years ago that humans started engaging in sedentary agriculture. This allowed humans to settle and consistently produce food, rather than hunt and gather throughout.

However, it is with the Industrial Revolution that the means for exponential human population increases was created. New technology, boosts in productivity, and the use of energy allowed for a new frontier in increasing health, sanitation, and standard of living. It is also around this time – in 1804 to be exact – that the earth’s population hit 1 billion people.

Fast forward two hundred years, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution is loud and clear. Now with over 7 billion people, global population has risen so fast that by one estimate, 14% of all human beings that have ever existed are alive today.

Based on a recent UN study, by 2100, our global population is predicted to be between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people. The world will be much different than we know it today in the future.

For starters, the vast majority of growth will happen in the less developed regions of the world. As an example, Nigeria’s population will increase five-fold, from around 174 million today to almost a billion people. It will likely be the 3rd most populous country behind India and China in 2100. Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole could hold up to almost half of the world’s population in the future.

While population has exploded exponentially, unfortunately the resources on our planet are finite. The ecological term for this is “carrying capacity”, which is the maximum population that an environment and resources can sustain indefinitely.

Human carrying capacity is very complex and takes into account many factors, including nutrients, fresh water, environmental conditions, space, technology, medical care, and sanitation. The carrying capacity for humans is not static, and can be changed by adding or subtracting resources from the ecosystem.

While technology has saved the human race time after time, we have not yet found ways to address many of the problems tied to overpopulation such as consumption, changes to climate, inequality, and scarcity of resources.

There are certain realities we will have to face. Here are just some of the issues:

  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.
  • The United States uses 1 million gallons of oil every 2 minutes.
  • The marginal cost of producing oil and metals has never been higher.
  • Food prices are skyrocketing, and availability of essential nutrients (like phosphorus) needed to grow food is becoming scarcer.
  • Governments continue to create new currency and debt at unprecedented and unsustainable levels.
  • Potential collapses in biodiversity and changes in our climate.

Is our future littered with disease, famine, stunted growth, currency collapse, and a lower quality of life?

Or should we be optimistic that we can persist? Can technology and smart decisions save the day?

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

17 Comments on "Visualizing Peak Popopulation"

  1. Makati1 on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 8:32 am 

    “Visualizing Peak Population”

    I can see it today out of my window. ~15,000,000 people as far as the eye can see. But then, I live in the middle of Metro Manila. ~48,000 of us per square mile, according to Wiki. An amazing, exciting, stimulating life experience. I’m going to miss it when we move to the farm next year.

    But that will be a different “exciting and challenging” experience, watching out for 10+ foot cobras and keeping the monkeys out of the garden. No, I am not exaggerating one bit. I have the bones of a 12 foot cobra from our farm land that was killed about five years ago. The back bone is about 1 1/4 inches in diameter. The snake was about 3-4 inches in diameter. The monkeys move around so I hope it is a long time before their next visit.

    I figure that my condo tower complex houses about 3,000+ people on about 4 acres of land. That is a density of ~480,000 of us per square mile. My last home in the US was on a wooded acre and it was me and my Ex. Oh, and a few chipmunks and squirrels. Boring! lol

  2. Davy on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 9:23 am 

    The carrying capacity graph looks a bit smooth and benign for a strong contraction. This is the usual BAU extrapolating using the excel goal seek mentality. Please someone with an academic reputation but common sense and vision publish a realistic graph on what happens when a significant and rapid reduction in resources occur. This can be in conjunction with the BAU goal seek data. Put them up together to say this is BAU and this is fantasy.

  3. Kenz300 on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 9:43 am 

    Too many people and too few resources………

    Around the world you can find a food crisis, a water crisis, a declining fish stocks crisis, a Climate change crisis, an unemployment crisis, a pollution crisis and an OVER POPULATION CRISIS.

    Yet every year the world adds 80 million more people to feed, clothe, house, and provide energy for. Endless population growth is not sustainable and only leads to more poverty, suffering and despair.,

    Every problem is harder to solve with the worlds growing population. Maybe it is time to focus on the real problem….. endless population growth.

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

    If you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child. The worlds poorest people are having the most children. They have not figured out the connection between their poverty and family size.

  4. Plantagenet on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 10:36 am 

    Animal populations grow until lack of food results in a population crash. Human populations are the same

  5. noobtube on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 11:27 am 

    Now I see what is happening.

    The United States is looking to invade Africa and needs another excuse to do so.

    For the oil-producing lands of the Middle East, the United States HAD to spread Democracy, and liberty, and freedom to the oppressed Muslim populations.

    For Africa, and its oil/gold/diamond/aluminum/coltan-producing regions, the United States MUST manage OVER-population, and disease, and poverty.

    I wonder what the excuse will be for South America, and the Caribbean.

    The United States has been doing this garbage since the country was first founded and they were screaming about how the heathen Natives NEEDED Christianity, and morality, and civilization.

    Yes, Americans are THE OVER-population problem.

    Americans are experts at creating problems where no problems existed before.

  6. Cloud9 on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 11:46 am 

    This from an earlier post: The obvious way to reduce consumption is to reduce population. As we approach Seneca’s Cliff and systemic failure of our just in time delivery systems what do we do with our excess population? History has some lessons. The Armenian Genocide is a classic example of what happens to a population deprived of water. In three or four days, the problem sorts itself out. The south west is at risk. The Kulak Genocide demonstrates what happens to a population that is denied the means to feed itself. In a matter of weeks the situation sorts itself out. Our mega cities are at risk. The Rwandan Genocide shows us what happens to societies that cleave along the lines of ethnicity during times of stress. In 100 days the Hutu majority was able to reduce the Rwandan population by 20% with three dollar machetes imported from China. Imagine what we can do with our millions of guns and billions of rounds of ammunition. Local minorities are at risk all over the country. Then of course, there is disease. The Black Death killed one third of Europe’s population. Contaminated water supplies, privation and collapse of infrastructure may breed a pandemic that will do a better job of reducing consumption than all the other listed possibilities. All of us are at risk.

    If there is any silver lining to any of this it is that these horrors are relatively brief in the scheme of things. History favors young adults. In the end, a warm hearth, food, family and friends are what matter most. Good luck and look to your own.

  7. Northwest Resident on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 11:54 am 

    “Now I see what is happening”.

    Says the guy on the bad acid trip wearing hate-tinted sunglasses with side-blinders attached, all the better to NOT see what is REALLY happening in order to better focus on only that distorted view which he wants to see.

  8. Davy on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 12:00 pm 

    Cloud, it is clear to me food is the liebigs law variable that will kick in at some point. Without proper functioning systematic structures of global exchange, global distribution, and food preservation along with disruption of industrial AG monocultures and energy intensive production humans will have food insecurity. Nothing is more dangerous for a species than food insecurity.

  9. noobtube on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 1:00 pm 

    Let’s be honest (which is near impossible for Americans).

    What are these population, disease, consumption articles really about?

    They are about Americans trying to invent new rationalizations and excuses to invade other lands and murder other people.

    Of what business is it what Chinese do in China or Arabs do Arabia, Indians do in India, or Kenyans do in Kenya to Americans?

    Are the Chinese worried about American population or consumption?

    Why are Americans worried about Chinese population or consumption?

    The reason is Americans are hate-filled, genocidal, mass murdering monsters who seek to destroy everyone/anyone who does not meet the American standard.

    Americans invade and murder people, in their own lands, under the guise of fighting communism (Vietnam, Korea), babies in incubators (Iraq), WMD/dictator/terrorism (Iraq/Afghanistan), dictator again (Libya), Democracy and freedom (Somalia, Syria), and terrorism (Pakistan).

    Every American is complicit when they shout slogans like support our troops, or trust the police, or be patriotic, or never forget.

    Yes, Americans have a debt to the world, that is growing by the day.

    Americans have three options… pay the debt (they can’t), disappear (renounce Americanism and everything it represents and is), or DIE.

    Americans have NO FUTURE!

  10. Hawkcreek on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 2:42 pm 

    It lost me after using the term “sedentary agriculture” in the first paragraph.
    I’ve worked on farms, and there ain’t nothing sedentary about them.

  11. trickydick on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 3:11 pm 

    Makita, just train those cobras to kill and eat the monkeys. Problem solved.

  12. redpill on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 6:36 pm 

    Seeing how “stable” Nigeria is today, I have a very hard time grasping them being able to grow their population nearly six-fold.

    And considering the environmental degradation in India, I’d have to bet the under on their even maintaining their current pop.

  13. Makati1 on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 7:01 pm 

    tricky, now that’s a thought. But I don’t think they would be too successful. Might cut down the monkey population though. Worth a try … if the monkeys come back. I know the snakes will be there.

  14. Makati1 on Sun, 30th Nov 2014 7:08 pm 

    I think the race will be on, with Disease and Starvation vying for first place in the human extinction event coming up. Place your bets now.

    As the planet warms, disease will move north into unprotected areas and countries that never had malaria, chikungunya, West Nile, Dengue and Yellow fever, Arboviral Encephalitides, etc will be unprepared. Some of these are already showing up in the US south. And many are drug resistant. Longer summers will bring them more and more north.

  15. Revi on Mon, 1st Dec 2014 8:06 am 

    I think by the middle of the century there will be problems which will keep the rate of increase down. There is still the problem of degraded carrying capacity, so I think the population won’t grow as much as forecast, but the world won’t hold as many humans as it does at present, so mine is not a rosy view of the future.

  16. Kenz300 on Mon, 1st Dec 2014 9:21 am 

    What will be the impact of Climate Change on the worlds population?

    No one knows……. but it will make life different and interesting for many………

  17. Mike999 on Mon, 1st Dec 2014 9:41 am 

    There’s the correlation.
    Human Population Growth = Climate Change.
    Expansion of polluting industry = Climate Change, driven by Explosive population growth.

    The only proven way to slow down the female reproductive cycle is Education for Girls. India must adapt or be the epicenter of disaster.

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