7 Billion People:The Consequences


Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s all over?

Twenty years ago, after another particularly grievous and barbaric cycle of events in the world, I was off on some inane summation concerning the perilous state of civilization in general. A friend of mine listened silently for awhile and then turned to me and said like he was teaching a man-child that would simply not acknowledge reality, “It’s all over.”

Although at the time I did not fully comprehend the indelible implications of such a statement, it has become increasingly clear over the years the complete futility that such a statement implied:

It seems no matter what actions governments or individuals undertake, no matter what governments and individuals think we should do, no matter what governments or individuals plan for the future, none of it will matter in the end. We are doomed to follow the path that biological determinism and mankind’s long suffering history and events have created for us. 

The Earth’s population will reach Seven Billion people sometime in 2011 and most likely Nine Billion or more by 2045.

Is it simply too late?  Is it really just all over? By running through the numbers today and then extrapolating out from the populations which will present themselves in the very near future, hope is not a word that comes easily to mind. For those not willing to confront the reality of more and more people, Martin Luther King Jr. would again be useful as a credible witness when he described overpopulation as a “modern plague” and not because we are not aware, but because we lack a “universal consciousness” – code for moral discipline. That was in the 1960’s! 

And here we are today with half the people in the world – not to say a significant part of our own population – living in a litany of shambles and disarray.

Are we so naive as to try to hold onto the tired old economic arguments from the wealthy minions that “trickle-down” economics and corporate led growth economies will miraculously turn chicken shit, Seven Billion people into chicken salad, Nine Billion people”? Recent decades have certainly proved those economic forecasts miserable failures. So you don’t have to be a gloom and doomer to picture what 2045 might look like.

The only thing that has kept us upright up till now is the advent of the “green revolution”, meaning farmers over the years have poured an avalanche of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides on farms, which have increased crop yields dramatically. On the other hand that which at first was seen as salvation has turned into more of an evolving disaster by polluting the waters and ecosystems that we depend on even more for our survival. Besides, how long can we really expect to get away with the fertilizer-pesticide trade-off when available tillable acreage is already maxed out and steadily losing ground to the new mega-cities and the ever-spreading suburbs?

Still, the estimate is One Billion people go hungry everyday, and that unfortunately is a very conservative number depending on what your definition of hungry is. The much more likely figure approaches two billion, and another billion living in what can generously be described as squalor. 

But agronomy only explains the reason we have been able to attempt to feed Seven Billion people. That does not explain the fundamental cause of  the population explosion. The precipitous increase in populations – in 1930 there were only Two Billion people in the world and today it has more than tripled – is due to the ongoing marriage of technology and medical science. In a very short time period of 80 years we have moved from an average life span of 59 to almost 80 for both men and women in developed countries such as the United States, and even longer life spans in some European and Asian countries. We have the ability to actually extend a substantial number of people’s lives out to 100 years old, and that is with just a minimum of preventative health meaures during a lifetime. 

In other words: lay off the food, alcohol, cigarettes, get off the couch and at least walk around the block on a regular basis. And when, and it is only a question of when, we finally find a cure for the majority of cancers there will be another explosion of people able to live well into their 90’s and 100’s! Now that is a predicament fraught with more than its share of moral ambiguity.

Have we even considered that eventuality? Have we even done one iota of planning for that eventuality? Of course not. None of us believe we are going to be the ones warehoused in some nursing home – the new phrase of choice is assisted living facility. For those of us lucky enough to not have had the experience of caring and visiting our mothers, fathers, family and friends in such facilities, here is the daily routine for your later years:

  • Sleep 12 hours at night
  • A staff person will help you dress and move you to your wheelchair
  • A staff person or two will then take you to the toilet or change your soiled Depends. If you are too heavy they will have to lift you with a “cherry picker” and wheel you to the toilet
  • A staff person will then wheel you down to one or two dining rooms for breakfast: one is for people that can still feed themselves and the other is for the more aged or disabled who cannot feed themselves – a liquid pureed diet is the norm at this point
  •  A staff person will then wheel you back up to your double room after breakfast.  For many of the patients they will be either undressed and put back to bed, or a few will rest or read if they still have their eyesight, or watch a blaring television if they can both see and hear to some degree
  • Any conversation will revolve around the “lousy food” or “lousy care” – which is mostly completely undeserved – but at that point in your life you have completely reverted back to the child centered I, and consequently, you live in a fantasy world of your own making
  • The above routine will repeat itself twice more for lunch and dinner, and then it’s time for bed
  • You will do that 365 days a year until you die
  • Anybody care to volunteer for early duty in the nearest Assisted Living Facility

This is all happening now, not sometime in the future. Does anyone truly believe that our final years will be better with Nine Billion people on the planet?

But what about the argument that the population explosion is slowing in rate of increase. In the end who knows whether that will really happen or not. It hasn’t happened yet and the years between now and 2045 offer plenty of opportunities for further blips in fertility- replacement rates. Our sociopathic obsession with sex and bringing into this world more children than most people can either care for or afford seems unending. Certainly the unrelenting corporate baby marketing cartel is always going full steam, and not likely to give in to logic and common sense anytime soon. 

Lastly, according to National Geographic, in 2030 the largest generation of adolescents in history will then be entering their childbearing years. That is less than 20 years from now. And the NG article adds a sobering conclusion to that undeniable event: IF each woman has only two children, populations will continue to increase under their own momentum for another 25 years.

That is a very important if. The combination of less than 20 years and the largest generation of adolescents is not likely to bring the desired results, especially if what we are churning out of high schools right now is any indication.

So, is it all over? What stands between us and nine billion people? Probably nothing! All we can do is hope it will be no more than nine billion and begin the process of planning for such an eventuality that will hopefully be the zenith. But that will only happen if we begin to take measures now that will guarantee that dramatically falling fertility-replacement rates are in place well before 2045.

One can only imagine what world fertility-replacement rates that are RISING at mid-century would bring with them.

Environmental degradation, overpopulation, refugees, narcotics, terrorism, world crime movements, and organized crime are worldwide problems that don’t stop at a nation’s borders.

Warren Christopher

Remember: A Billion people = 1000 Million people

1 Comment

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Carol
    Jan 22, 2012 @ 07:56:24

    Very interesting perspective. I agree 100%. I’m 63 and truly believe it’s all over. Nobody wants to die, but “life” in a nursing home is worse than death. Overpopulation will probably destroy the earth before 2100.

    Thanks for your article.

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