Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Seven Billion People Day

Disproving once and for all the notion that statisticians do not have a sense of humor, today is not only Halloween but the day, according to the leading entities charged with tracking human population growth, that our collective numbers will exceed the seven billion mark. My preferred source for keeping track of world population is, which has been morbidly counting down to this momentous event for several weeks now. It looks like the clock will strike seven billion at precisely 1:48 P.M. EDT this afternoon.

To put what this means in perspective, here's a quote from an article written by Paul B. Farrell that appeared on the website MarketWatch back on June 28th:
Yes, you can forget “Peak Oil.” Forget global warming. Forget debt, deficits, defaults. Forget commodities, scarce resource depletion. Forget all other economic, political, military problems. Yes, forget all of them. None of them matter … if our leaders fail to deal with the world’s out-of-control population bomb. Nothing else matters. Nothing.

Still, the silence is defining. We’re trapped in this deafening “conspiracy of silence.” Neutered. Blind to this suicidal path, incapable and unwilling to face the greatest single economic challenge in history. Won’t wake up till it’s too late.

Why? Deep in our hearts we see no acceptable universal solution. So we wait … until this economic bomb stops tick-tick-ticking. Explodes in our faces. Till the wake-up call, a total economic collapse. Till then, the silence is deafening. We stay in denial. Waiting.
If you want to know why I am such an extreme pessimist you need look no further than the blurb above. Yes, optimists have been making fun of Thomas Malthus for more than two centuries, and have been deriding author Paul Ehrlich of Population Bomb fame for a couple of generations now. But the thing to keep in mind is that Malthus and Ehrlich need only be proven right once, whereas their critics have to keep being right forever and ever lest their criticism blow up in their faces as the bomb finally detonates.

The key question is how long do we have until the bomb does finally explode? No one can say for sure, obviously, and if I didn't think it was imminent--say within the next 20 years or so--I'd probably be off somewhere sipping a beer and a watching football game rather than sitting here writing for this blog.

Prepare yourself accordingly.

Bonus: since this song came out around the same time as The Population Bomb was published, I always thought it would be the perfect theme for the title sequence were they ever to make the book into a feature film.

Double Bonus: a wicked Doug Stanhope rant on overpopulation (warning: NSFW).


  1. Bill, was talking to a good friend about this today. He posed an interesting question, how long will it be until we pass 7 billion again, this time on the way down.

  2. We are vessels for DNA, which wants nothing more than to be duplicated in another individual vessel, and so on. Such has it been for a billion years. Some of us are clever enough to thwart the desires of DNA (even though DNA made sex fun), but doggone it if DNA doesn't win out in the long run.

    There's not a damn thing our "leaders" can do about the demands of DNA. Forced sterilization? Mandatory across-the-board abortions? Police in the bedroom?

    DNA will hit a wall eventually - then start over. 10 billion by 2050? Give me a break - isn't going to happen. (Although 30 years ago I said that about 7 billion!)

  3. @iwe - I'll take a wild shot an the dark and guess probably sometime in the mid-2020s. Of course, once the decline begins it is liable to accelerate quickly, I would think.

  4. Yesterday I heard a radio news program that talked about how several countries (India, Indonesia, a few others I think) had officially identified an individual baby that they claimed represented the 7 billionth person on the planet. They were celebrating the birth and taking pride that their nation had been the focal point of this momentous occasion.

    Ignoring the lunacy of claiming that an individual child is actually the 7 billionth person on the planet, I found myself shaking my head.

    These people were celebrating the occasion. It seems to me, given a moderately realistic view of the problems we face, that perhaps some other expression of the event might have been more in keeping with that reality. Perhaps, for instance, a moment of silence.