Happy Birthday! According to people who follow such things, you were born on Halloween Day and your arrival officially tipped the world population scales north of the 7 billion person mark for the first time in history.
Why, it was only back in 1960 that we were throwing parties and welcoming No. 3 billion to the big blue marble. Back then, it took roughly a full century for the population to grow by a billion, but we only passed the 6 billion marker back in the year 2000. According to projections we will welcome No. 8 billion in 2027, No. 9 billion in 2045, and Master or Miss 10 billion will punch the time clock in 2050.
While the Bible clearly states that it was God's intent for us to "go forth and multiply," one has to wonder if even he had an idea of just how successful we would be in carrying out that edict.
Your arrival is more than a mile marker on an afternoon's sojourn. It's more like a blinking neon sign illuminating the night sky with but one omnipotent word: warning!
The feeling is that the Earth was not constructed to hold this many of its greediest inhabitants. The strange thing is that we can feel that here, in modern-day America, which is a virtual ghost town compared to the out-of-control population booms that have taken place in other parts of the globe.
China and India both have over 1 billion residents, and despite aggressive governmental incentives to curb family sizes, they are in a footrace to be the first to 2 billion. In fact, there are now a dirty dozen cities that have populations over 10 million people. Of the things they have in common, the fact that none of them are in North America cannot be overlooked.
The top North American city as ranked by population is Mexico City, with nearly 9 million people. New York City is next, with just over 8 million. It's then a precipitous fall all the way down to Los Angeles, with a meager 3.8 million. China, on the other hand, boasts the world's most populated city, Shanghai, with nearly 18 million people.
According to the good people at 192021.org, a site where they are tracking 19 cities with a population of 20 million in the 21st century, back in 1800 only 3 percent of the world's population lived in cities. Most people lived and died without ever laying eyes on anything that could be called urban.
Today, more than half of Earth's inhabitants live in a city, and by 2050, nearly two-thirds of all people will live in a metropolis. That isn't by choice, but is the new necessity, as we struggle to find ways to house people, many of them living in poverty.
As the first member of the 7 billion club, it will fall on the shoulders of your generation to figure out how we will cope with so many mouths to feed. Maybe more important than food will be the basic need of water: How will we ensure that in less than four decades from now we have clean drinking water to sustain 10 billion people?
What of fossil fuels? We've only been burning oil and refined gasoline for a little over a century now, and already the end game is in sight. The toxic emissions from our cars and from our aerosol cans have eroded our ozone layer to the point where many think that catastrophe is on the horizon.
Others are banking on it. They feel that nature will restore balance with a flamboyant and bold move. Some think it will be a meteor that crashes into earth and kills off billions. Others think that a new cancer or superbug will cull people and protect the planet's resources. It's bleak, to be sure, but so is the thought of 10 billion people fighting over food, water and resources that can only sustain three-quarters of them.
A recent CBC column played with the math of 7 billion people, and concluded that as a whole we breathe in 80.6 trillion liters of air daily. We also consume approximately 15.4 trillion calories of food daily. The CBC concluded that it would take 28 billion Big Macs to feed the world for just one day. Of course, the drive-through lines would be a nightmare.
They also surmised that it would take a person 222 years to say hello to everyone on the planet, and that if everyone were to clasp hands we would stretch around the globe at the equator a staggering 175 times.
But hey, No. 7 billion, you've also got to worry about the unseemly parts of humanity and the problems that having so many of us here at one time cause good old Mother Earth. The CBC says that the daily flatulence emitted by the combined populace is enough offensive odor to fill Toronto's domed Rogers Centre four and a half times. Oh, and we pee enough in one year to approximate the amount of peak water that flows over Niagara Falls for two-and-a-half uninterrupted hours.
It's not all bad news, No. 7 billion. Many scientists believe that by being compacted into new super-cities, humanity actually will contribute to the planet's long-term survival. They believe that people will be far more likely to participate in community farming and public transportation, and will opt to walk or bike to school and work in far greater numbers.
They also believe that super-cities will breed better science, as think tanks will emerge comprised of like-minded scientists, intent on saving humanity from its own excess.
Many people also believe that people finally will give up the notion that abstinence is a solution to unmarried sex, and that nations will devote a much higher percentage of their resources to getting reliable birth control to their citizens.
Welcome, No. 7 billion. It has taken all of eternity for you to arrive, and you will lead the world into areas previously unknown. Don't rest on your laurels, though, because Nos. 8, 9 and 10 billion aren't far behind, and if we don't have room for them, they just may need to stay at your place.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Nov. 15, 2011|