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Animation: Human Population Growth Over All of History

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Imagine that for every million people on Earth, there was a single dot on a map.

In total, that would be about 7,600 dots – representing today’s global population of 7.6 billion.

But, what if we went back in time, and watched those dots accumulate over human history? When and where do the first dots appear, and when does population growth ramp up to get to the billions of people that are alive today?

The History of Population Growth

Today’s animation comes from the American Museum of Natural History, and it shows over 200,000 years of population growth and the major events along the way.

If you consider yourself on the more impatient side of things, we suggest starting at 1:50 which will zoom you to 400 AD – the time of India’s Golden Age. Alternatively, go to 3:25 to witness the Bubonic Plague’s rare negative impact on population growth, as well as the ensuing age of European exploration.

It took 200,000 years of human history to get to one billion people – and just 200 years to reach seven billion.

That’s partly how the exponential “hockey stick” growth curve works, but it is also a factor of improvements in living standards, sanitation, and medicine that came after the Industrial Revolution.

Key Population Moments

Here are a few moments that stood out to us in the video, that we think represent particularly interesting moments in human population history:

Agriculture

The impact of farming cannot be emphasized enough. For many thousands of years, the human population dwindled until we learned how to plant crops to provide a scalable and sustainable food supply for a hungry population.

Farming's impact on population growth

As you can see, after agriculture starts spreading, the human population quickly skyrockets. It is estimated to have reached roughly 170 million by the year 1 AD.

East vs. West

The Greeks and Romans were interesting cultures to us in many ways – but one thing that is sometimes missed with a Western education is the sheer size of Indian and Chinese civilizations.

Roman Empire extent

The above screenshot is from close to the territorial peak of the Roman Empire – notice its size in comparison to the Han Dynasty in China, as well as the area that is modern-day India.

Bubonic Plague

The Black Death, which started in 1347, didn’t do much to increase Europe’s population.

Bubonic Plague

In fact, this was one of the rare times that global human population growth went backwards for multiple decades.

Post-Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution brought innovations to food and medicine, and kickstarted an era that would be usher in the birth of many new technologies.

This screenshot is from close to 1900, when these innovations started to make rapid global population growth a reality.

Industrial Revolution

Over the next century, the population would more than quadruple to today’s seven billion plus people.

The Future of Population Growth

Naturally, this leads to thinking about the future of the human population.

For that, we recommend visiting these two prior animations: The 20 Most Populous Megacities in 2100 and The World’s Population by Region in 2100.

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China

Ranked: The Cities with the Most Skyscrapers in 2023

We rank the world’s leading cities with the most skyscrapers, highlighting China’s remarkable dominance in building vertically.

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Ranked: The Cities with the Most Skyscrapers in 2023

When it comes to soaring skylines and architectural marvels, no country has embraced the vertical revolution quite like China.

In this graphic, which uses data from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), we reveal the 25 cities with the most skyscrapers and supertall buildings globally.

Unsurprisingly, China’s cities dominate the list, solidifying the country’s reputation as a global powerhouse of tall buildings.

The 25 Top Cities by Skyscraper Count

Topping the charts is Hong Kong, with an impressive 657 skyscrapers, including six supertalls (buildings over 300 meters tall).

RankCityCountrySkyscrapers (>150m)Supertalls (>300m)
1Hong Kong🇨🇳 China6576
2Shenzhen🇨🇳 China51316
3New York City🇺🇸 United States42116
4Dubai🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates39528
5Guangzhou🇨🇳 China25411
6Shanghai🇨🇳 China2505
7Kuala Lumpur🇲🇾 Malaysia2115
8Chongqing🇨🇳 China2055
9Tokyo🇯🇵 Japan2000
10Wuhan🇨🇳 China1835
11Chicago🇺🇸 United States1787
12Jakarta🇮🇩 Indonesia1601
13Chengdu🇨🇳 China1500
14Bangkok🇹🇭 Thailand1333
15Shenyang🇨🇳 China1293
16Singapore🇸🇬 Singapore1280
17Nanning🇨🇳 China1226
18Mumbai🇮🇳 India1140
19Tianjin🇨🇳 China1093
20Nanjing🇨🇳 China1087
21Toronto🇨🇦 Canada1060
22Busan🇰🇷 South Korea1064
23Seoul🇰🇷 South Korea1042
24Changsha🇨🇳 China975
25Melbourne🇦🇺 Australia941

Hong Kong, along with Shenzhen (#2), and Guangzhou (#5) are part of the burgeoning megacity known as the Pearl River Delta, which is home to over 1,500 skyscrapers. This is even more impressive when considering that Shenzhen was a small fishing village until the 1970s.

New York City secures the third position on the list, boasting an impressive tally of 421 skyscrapers. Although it may have relinquished its title to Chinese cities, the city’s skyline endures as a globally renowned symbol, prominently featuring the iconic Empire State Building. Notably, while the Empire State Building enjoys widespread familiarity, it no longer ranks among the world’s 50 tallest structures.

Rounding out the top five is Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which grabs the fourth position with 395 skyscrapers, a staggering 28 of which are supertalls. This desert oasis has become synonymous with grandiose architecture and record-breaking structures, exemplified by the Burj Khalifa, which is the world’s current tallest building at 828 meters (2,715 ft).

China’s Numbers in Context

Looking at this data from another perspective, China actually has more skyscrapers on this list than the rest of the world combined.

CountryCities in Top 25SkyscrapersSupertalls
🇨🇳 China12277772
🌐 Rest of World13235067

China’s rapid urbanization, economic growth, and ambitious construction projects have fueled this impressive feat. There’s no doubt that the country’s relentless pursuit of vertical development, coupled with its booming population and thriving cities, has positioned China as the unrivaled leader in the global skyscraper race.

The Future of the Global Skyline

As the world continues to reach new heights in architectural marvels, there are even more supertall skyscrapers in the pipeline that will reshape skylines across the globe.

From the soaring Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, poised to surpass the Burj Khalifa as the world’s tallest building, to the remarkable Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur, which is set to claim the title of the world’s second-tallest structure when it opens in June 2023, these projects will captivate city dwellers for years to come.

Even as these new monumental buildings rise, China’s prominence in the world of skyscrapers—with three cities in the top five globally—is likely to remain unchallenged.

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