Peak Population: What it Means for Global Resources (Part 1)

Peak Population: What it Means for Global Resources (Part 1)

Peak Population: What it Means for Global Resources (Part 1)

Presented by: Gainesville Coins

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?

Visual Capitalist continues to look at Peak Population in Parts 2 and 3 of this series in early 2015. Subscribe below to make sure you get it.



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  • Alexander Ač

    Yes, Limits to Growth of Club of Rome described everything (except climate change) 40 years ago. They were ignored, just like climatologists today.

  • B Wilds

    In a sane world sustainability would be a much higher priority. Sustainability means planning our future in a way that we do not set ourselvesup to crash and burn at some future date. Long-term planning has not been something politicians excel at or are even good at. Our system is geared at getting politicians reelected and fulfilling the most pressing needs of today.

    Things like profit, greed, and quenching our unrelinquishing desire for growth are placed in front of longer term issues and needs. Mapping out a logical and sustainable long-term plan requires delving into some rather hefty philosophical questions like what brings real happiness. (This is not an endorsement of the carbon tax as much as a call for better planning and less waste) More on this important topic in the article below.

  • Jojojojojojo…

    Someone ought to give this to Bono (and other eliminate-poverty-wanna-be-celebrities) who don’t fully realize that the more people who escape poverty, the more stress it puts on our resources. The stress should be to go back to basics through self-reliance (grow your own food) and sustainability instead of giving “aid” to these poor nations.

    • Abbie H

      Many of the places that are given aid, require it largely because or erosion caused by climate change. You can’t grow food in the Sahara, and the Sahara is growing.

  • DelmarJackson

    Most western countries have slowed their growth in population. It is immigration that is fueling their growth. Unfortunately, billionaire open border globalists profit from immigration and then pass on all the social, economic and environmental costs to our communities.
    How many know that open border zealot David Gelbaum gave the Sierra Club 100 million dollars on the condition they never mention the effects of immigration on our environment ever again.
    Want less greengouse gases and carbon emmissions? then stop importing millins of people from low carbon footprint countries to high carbon footprint countries in the west.

  • ron17571

    Looks like a commercial for Agenda 21. There are always a group that wants to control others.
    Usually some egg head who thinks his class of people are better. The Nazis and planned parenthood are good examples. The Cloward-Piven thinking being carried out will cause much violence and changes along with a reduction in population you desire. Climate change is another method to scare people into being controlled and new taxs placed on them. Its pretty evil getting people all worked up and then they start demanding these actions.
    Tyrants sieze power in various ways.

  • frishy

    The questioned asked above: “Is our future littered with disease, famine, stunted growth, currency collapse, and a lower quality of life?”

    No, human extinction altogether is what’s in our immediate future, since our technology evolves (and destroys) faster than our cultural evolution.

    There are too many societal forces to stop our overpopulation from eating everything on the planet.

    We are dead folk walking, and don’t even know it (yet).

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