World Population Awareness

Why Population Matters

March 10, 2014

Though more than two-thirds of the planet is covered with water, only a small fraction - around 0.3% - is available for human use and reuse. And no more of this renewable fresh water is available today than existed at the dawn of human civilization.   doclink
1915: 1.8 billion | 1967: 3.5 billion | 2006: 6.5 billion | 2011: 7.0 billion   (World Population) October 2006, U.S. Census Department doclink

June 2005, U.N.

World population, currently 6.5 billion, is growing by another 76 million people per year. According to the UN the world will add another 2.6 billion people by 2050. Rapid population growth has placed incredible stress on Earth's resources. Global demand for water has tripled since the 1950s, but the supply of fresh drinking water has been declining because of over-pumping and contamination. Half a billion people live in water-stressed or water-scarce countries, and by 2025 that number will grow to three billion. In the last 50 years, cropland has been reduced by 13% and pasture by 4%. doclink


Only in recent history has humankind discovered the means with which to increase the average human lifespan and reduce infant mortality rate:
sanitation practices and modern medicines. With these discoveries, we have multiplied our numbers faster than ever before, going from 1 billion to 2 billion in only 123 years, such a brief moment in human history. As is the nature of unchecked growth, the momentum accelerated and the world went from 5 billion people to 6 billion in only 12 short years. The balance of nature has been drastically upset and the environment is already paying the price. The good news is that mankind has made another discovery, this one to check birth rates: modern contraceptives. This, coupled with the desire to have fewer children, (since now so many children are living beyond infancy) has led to a decline in birth rates, starting in the 1960s. Abstinence, delaying of marriage, education, contraceptives, empowerment of women, and the funding of family planning and reproductive health the world over will alleviate the population momentum that will result from 2 billion young people entering their child-bearing years. ... k gaia


"It's not because people started breeding like rabbits.
It's that they stopped dying like flies."

... Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute The world is growing by more than 76 million people a year. At the current rate of growth, even accounting for a continual decrease in the growth rate, the world population is headed for double digits within 50 years. Every 20 minutes, the world adds another 3,500 human lives but loses one or more entire species of animal or plant life - at least 27,000 species per year. The world population has doubled in the last 40 years. It took just 12 years to leap from 5 billion to 6 billion. It took about 18 centuries for the earth to reach its first one billion inhabitants. The world is adding a city the size of Los Angeles every two weeks. Birth rates are falling worldwide but death rates are declining even faster. A tiny fraction - only 7 percent - of the world's people live in countries where population is not growing. If fertility remained at current levels, the population would reach the absurd figure of 296 billion in just 150 years. Even if it dropped to 2.5 children per woman and then stopped falling, the population would still reach 28 billion. 1.2 billion people worldwide are living on $1.00 a day or less.


At 1% Population Growth Rate, Only 1300 Years Before We Exceed One Person per Square Foot of Land

provided by Kim Berry of Sacramento, Jan 2000

a) USA = 3.5 million square miles
b) USA = 5% of world's land mass (from memory, consumption stats)
c) World = 3.5m X 20 = 70 million square miles
d) sq ft in a mile = 5280 X 5280 = 28 million square feet
e) sq ft of land on earth = (7x107) X (3X107) = 21X1014
Now we plug in to Albert Bartlett's formula:
21 x 1014 = 5.7 x 109 exp(0.01 t)
3.7 X 105 = exp(0.01 t)
13 = .01 t ("LN" button on calculator)
t = 1300 years

So, in 1300 years at a one percent growth rate, there will be one person per square foot on the earth [if we didn't starve to death first].


James Madison, 1791

"What becomes of the surplus of human life? It is either, 1st. destroyed by infanticide, as among the Chinese and Lacedemonians; or 2d. it is stifled or starved, as among other nations whose population is commensurate to its food; or 3d. it is consumed by wars and endemic diseases; or 4th. it overflows, by emigration, to places where a surplus of food is attainable." doclink

Winning the Food Race

December 1997, Population Reports - John Hopkins CCP

... doclink

Stephen Hawking and Population

Prof. Stephen Hawking (Cambridge University/U.K.) was on Larry King Live. Larry King called him the "most intelligent person in the world", which Hawking modestly discounted. King asked some very key questions, including:

    "What worries you the most?" Hawking said, "My biggest worry is population growth, and if it continues at the current rate, we will be standing shoulder to shoulder in 2600. Something has to happen, and I don't want it to be a disaster."
  • King went on to ask him what he thought about our future ability to cure diseases. Hawking said, "We are able to cure most diseases, and we can extend our lives, but it is probably more important to improve our quality of life while we are alive."
  • On global warming, Hawking stated that some may believe global warming is a natural occurrence, but, "There is no question that the amount of CO2 is now far higher than it has ever been in the past." He explained how greenhouse gases let in heat from the sun, but make it difficult for heat to escape and will eventually cause global warming. "We don't know how much the warming will be--we can adapt to a few degrees of warming, but the damage process might become unstable and run away, ending up covered in clouds with a surface temperature of 400a F. It could be too late if the damage process becomes obvious. We need action now to reduce emissions of CO2. That action must include the U.S. since you have the highest emissions per head."


Population Matters

A World Too Full of People

August 30, 2010, Statesman

Politicians of western countries avoid talking about population control, but if we invest in family planning we might just save our planet.

A 60-year-old Bolivian woman, mother of eight, was born and raised in a mountain community in Bolivia. High above her home, a glacier is retreating three times as fast as predicted ten years ago. All but one of her children have already migrated to other parts of the country. Because of the dwindling water supply, she must spend hours hauling water and the fodder for her llamas and sheep is more difficult to find, with some of her llamas starving to death.

She and women like her are on the front line of the struggle against climate change. But her plight as a mother dramatizes an issue that was largely ignored at the UN summit last December and is missing from the agenda of the UN summit in Mexico (COP16), scheduled for late this year. It is the problem of human numbers. doclink

US California: Growth Management Guidelines

2001, Sierra Club California

The California/Nevada Conservation Committee of Sierra Club California as developed Urban Growth Management Policy Guidelines, is a comprehenisive plan, based on growth projections, to guide the conservation and development of the State and calling for actions at the state, regional, and local levels to limit the impacts of growth. It should determine what growth is supportable, based on environmental, fiscal and economic projections. The Guidlines call for: Urban Growth Boundaries to define the ultimate urbanization around all cities; Plans to include biodiversity inventories; Encouraging compact development within urban boundaries; Increasing the supply of low-income housing; Requiring all public services and facilities before a development project can be approved; Encourage coordinating transport and land use planning; Effective regional planning; High standards of services and design in all urban areas; And recognition that there are long-term limits to growth in California. Current projections (2001) indicate net population may double to 58.7 million by 2040 and California's fragmented and competitive planning structures will contribute to environmental and ecological deterioration resulting in air pollution, gridlocked roadways, polluted water supplies, loss of food producing lands and open space, increased numbers of endangered species, increased energy consumption, lack of affordable housing, and excessive consumption of natural resources.

This state needs a comprehensive program to address the magnitude and management of growth. This should be based on the ability to sustain biodiversity and wildlife communities, on a particular population level and a set of quality of life goals. The Guidlines call for Long-term limits to growth in California - eventually population will exceed a level sustainable by available natural systems. No programs can be successful if population increases without limit. California's growth is affected by births among its residents as well as by the attractiveness of the state to outsiders.

Each State resource or pollution-control agency should conduct an assessment of the level of future population it can sustain without further deterioration and the State should adopt an explicit population policy which is in harmony with the ecosystem upon which life depends.

The State should provide adequate funding for family planning programs.

Regional planning efforts should include similar assessments of the long-term carrying capacity of their region. doclink

Population Explosion Scrutinised as Scientists Urge Politicians to Act

July 12, 2010, The Independent

Britain's premier scientific organisation, The Optimum Population Trust, has launched a two-year study into global population levels. A growing body of scientists believe the time has come for politicians to confront the problems posed by the future increase in human numbers.

The Royal Society has established a working group of leading experts to draw up a set of recommendations on human population that could set the agenda for tackling the environmental stress caused by billions of extra people on the planet.

We really do have to look at where we are going in relation to population. If we don't do it, we may survive but we won't flourish. We will be examining the extent to which population is a significant factor in the challenge of securing global sustainable development, considering not just the scientific elements but encompassing the wider issues including culture, gender, economics and law.

The planet's population stands at 6.8 billion and although fertility rates in most countries are falling, the number of young people alive now who are destined to become parents in the future suggests that this figure could rise to 8.3 billion by 2030 and 9.2 billion by 2050.

Human numbers have shot up since the Industrial Revolution. In 1800, there were about a billion people, and by 1900 the figure was 1.7 billion. It then multiplied four-fold to six billion within a century, powered by advances in medicine and public health, cheap fossil fuels and a technical revolution in food production.

Much of the coming increase in human numbers will be in the poorest developing countries, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, where the population is set to rise by about 50% over the coming decades. Scientists estimate that food and energy production will have to increase by 50% and water availability by 30% to meet the demand caused by the extra 1.5 billion people living on Earth in the next two decades - an increase of nearly 10,000 people per hour.

Many countries have already exceeded their capacity to be self-sustainable without having to import resources. 77 out of 130 countries that have been studied can be classified as "overpopulated" based on the fact they are consuming more natural resources than they are producing. Britain's "ecological footprint" shows that it comes 17th in the table of overpopulated nations, which are dominated by the high-consuming countries of the Middle East and Europe.

If Britain had to rely on its biological resources, its sustainable population would be about 15 million rather than the present 60 million.

"Overpopulation is a much used and abuse word, but we believe the index helps to anchor it firmly in the realm of sustainability; of people living within the limits of the place they inhabit."

The "ecological footprint" was developed more than 15 years ago. It is a measure of the demand placed on the biosphere by human activity, calculating the amount of biologically productive land and water area required to produce all the resources that an individual, population or activity consumes, and also to absorb the waste they generate, given prevailing technology and resource management. The "footprint" is measured in global hectares, or average world productivity, allowing one area or population to be compared with another. doclink

The Weight of Numbers

January 2003

Population control was a big part of the environmental agenda when Earth Day was established in 1970. The Population Bomb, by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, was a bestseller. The executive director of the Sierra Club at that time, David Brower, said "You don't have a conservation policy unless you have a population policy." President Nixon's Commission on Population Growth and the American Future declared that the U.S. would be unlikely to meet its environmental goals unless its population was stabilized. However, since 1970, over 70 million people have been added to the U.S., an unprecedented increase.

Nearly half the population lives along our coasts where ecosystems are most fragile. Air and water pollution, traffic congestion, habitat destruction and loss of farmland are the consequences. "Sprawl" is treated as if it were separate and divorced from the weight of the extra humanity.

Immigration discussions in environmental groups such as the Sierra Club often lead to divisive internal squabbles. Immigrants seek admittance to the U.S. because of fear of political persecution, war, famine and deteriorating environmental conditions in their home countries, as well as for economic reasons. It would seem that strategic use of American development aid, coupled with family planning support, can help reduce these emigration pressures. Even minor adjustments to immigration levels could have major impact on our environmental stewardship. When we should be protecting our farms and dedicating new open space, we're paving paradise and putting up a parking lot. doclink

Karen Gaia says: The words 'population control' suggests that we must 'control' something, but all of the U.S. reduction in fertility since the 1960s when the fertility rate was around 4 chidrem per woman, was due to voluntary family planning. We need to take the words 'population control' out of population stabilization.

The Gendered Face of Climate Change

November 20, 2009,

A new report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that women, who make up a large share of the agricultural work force, are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, but are also key players in mitigating its effects on humanity.

Women also manage households and care for family members, which restricts their mobility, so they often lack the social capital necessary to deal effectively with climate change.

On the other hand, woman often desire to reduce the number of children they might have, which would, in turn, reduce population growth, contributing to a reduction of greenhouse gas-emissions in the future.

The UNFPA report comes a few weeks before the Copenhagen climate talks and follows just a short time after the release of the World Economic Forum's gender gap index, which ranks India at 114 out of 134 countries, on the basis of economic participation, political participation, education and health. doclink

Burkina Faso: Population Growth Outstrips Economic Gains

January 21, 2009, IRIN News (UN)

Population growth plus a weakened economy in Burkina Faso have sparked calls for a new population control policy.

The population is growing at 3.1% a year, or more than 400,000 people, after factoring in deaths, which have declined over the past decade which requires immediate action. Burkina Faso's population nearly tripled over 30 years to more than 14 million people, cancelling out benefits from the country's 2008 5% economic growth. doclink

Population and Environment Go Hand in Hand, Forum Concludes

June 10, 2005, Redlands Daiy Facts

From a conference at Redlands University in California, with speakers from the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and the Center for Environmental Studies -- Human population has a direct effect on environmental sustainability. If you look at the health of the planet's ecosystem, you find that humans have done more damage in the last 50 years than in the entirety of human existence, said the director of the Center for Environmental Studies. These things unfold over millennia, which is why politicians and the media don't pay attention. It is encouraging that people are realizing that having more children will limit their economic freedom. If we leave our future generations an impoverished planet, we're in for a lot of trouble. Less than 1% of the world's water is potable, and it is a challenge to walk 8 kilometers to obtain water for a family. Only .14% of the U.S. Federal Budget went to foreign aid. Only $425 million of the $1 billion we've pledged for the UNFPA has been contributed. A lack of family planning in the world was a crime against humanity. Environment and population control go hand-in-hand." doclink

Trinidad and Tobago: Very Bad News for a Nice Place

May 09, 2005, Trinidad & Tobago Express

Trinidad and Tobago experienced a loss of natural vegetation equal to 0.8% a year over five years .Only 32.9% of natural vegetation remains. The Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) revealed a very nice place without the climatic or geological extremes of other nations. The downside is a small island with a population density of 266 people per sq km. The only reason for the environmental stresses "is us" and we have the capability to reverse these impacts. It was "urgent" that we "adopt specific measures" to deal with these challenges. EVI forms part of an effort by the UN to produce a global EVI spanning 235 countries that highlights the vulnerability of a country's environment in the future based on events from the recent past. Trinidad and Tobago ranked as the country with the eighth-least likely chance of halting "major environmental deterioration over the next several decades": 3,441 forest fires occurred between 1987 and 1992, destroying 46,942 ha ( about 114,538 acres ) of forest cover, but only 167 ha were reforested in that period. Tobago faced serious problems, but emerged a better place to live than Trinidad from an environmental standpoint. Tourism-driven Tobago falls badly with degradation/rate of habitat loss; loss of natural vegetation; water resources; and coastal settlements (stress on coastal ecosystems). The island scores "sixes" for its low percentage area of marine reserves; its hazardous municipal waste and human population density. The only good news was the performance in Trinidad of the Beetham Wastewater Treatment Plant that now treated all the raw sewage that once flowed from Port of Spain and suburbs east and west but it should be pumped by pipeline to Point Lisas for cooling industrial processes. doclink