I just spent a few minutes on the website of the Population Institute, and according to the fast-moving, somewhat panic-inducing ticker in the upper right corner of the home page, the world population grew by some 6,000 people in that time.
What’s the problem? These stats from Julia Whitty‘s recent Mother Jones cover story:
As recently as 1965, when the world population stood at 3.3 billion, we collectively taxed only 70 percent of the Earth’s biocapacity each year. That is, we used only 7/10 of the land, water, and air the planet could regenerate or repair yearly to produce what we consumed and to absorb our greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Global Footprint Network, a California think tank, we first overdrew our accounts in 1983, when our population of nearly 4.7 billion began to consume natural resources faster than they could be replenished—a phenomenon called “ecological overshoot.” Last year, 6.8 billion of us consumed the renewable resources of 1.4 Earths.
The only known solution to ecological overshoot is to decelerate our population growth faster than it’s decelerating now and eventually reverse it—at the same time we slow and eventually reverse the rate at which we consume the planet’s resources. Success in these twin endeavors will crack our most pressing global issues: climate change, food scarcity, water supplies, immigration, health care, biodiversity loss, even war. On one front, we’ve already made unprecedented strides, reducing global fertility from an average 4.92 children per woman in 1950 to 2.56 today—an accomplishment of trial and sometimes brutally coercive error, but also a result of one woman at a time making her individual choices. The speed of this childbearing revolution, swimming hard against biological programming, rates as perhaps our greatest collective feat to date.
Check out what all we’re up against here. And this excellent companion piece about how it’s kind of the Vatican’s fault here.