TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Would a population boom now taking us to 9 billion people destroy the world as we know it ?

There is around 7 billion people on the planet, is that too much? with the standard of life between countries in Africa and the west varying so much would the boom in population cause a larger variation in standard of living?
how long with this population do you think we could last?
what technology could save us from our huge population?
what rate would we consume resources and deplete the fresh water we have ?
how long would we have ?
should precautions be taken now before it's too late?
could we sustain that much life on our tiny planet?
what kind of quality of life could we ensure for that many people?

Topics: population
Share:
  • thumb
    Apr 11 2012: I don't think that technology is the answer, although it certainly is a factor. I think that a change in mindset is the answer. As long as people feel they have the right, or the need, to breed out of control, the problem isn't going to go away. I see people having children when they know that they don't have the resources to raise them in a good home. You would think that religions would deal with the issue, but in fact, they seem to be on the wrong side of the debate.

    It seems that knowledge and education are working toward finding an answer. The highest breeding rates are in the poorest and least educated areas. War and genocide are prevalent in underdeveloped countries where education is lacking or controlled by militant groups. Until you deal with that issue, herd mentality will dominate many regions.
  • thumb
    Apr 11 2012: Lewis, to answer your question...

    Yes.

    Is this really the question you want to ask?
  • thumb
    Apr 10 2012: People are actually having fewer and fewer babies, but as infant mortality rates are so low the population is still growing. There are many things which make the birth rate go down...education, feminism, being well-off...I don't think there is a single country in the world where people are having more babies than say 50 years ago. Right now, I can count among my friends and family many who have resigned themselves to never having a partner or not wanting one, never mind children.
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2012: By 9 billion we will stop trying to protect the ocean sea life.
    • Apr 10 2012: Would this be in attempt to remove sea creature rights so that we can to feed the larger population?
      how long do you think we could depleting that resource until we have to abolish the rights of land animals too?
      • thumb
        Apr 10 2012: It would be too hard to stop people from getting in any old dinghy and trying to fish in and around protected zones.Last week a chinese fishing boat tried to ram a palau coastgaurd for illegal fishing.it got deadly as a chinese fisherman was shot.

        In the last twenty years marine mammals that are usually left alone for the usual catches of fish have been showing up on restaurant menu's around the planet,as we over fish one species out we just carry on to the next,the trend in menu's isn't sufficient evidence but it proves that we have to keep an eye on things.

        On the menu
        Polar bears, spinner dolphin, narwhal, pygmy beaked whale, South Asian river dolphin, Chilean dolphin, long-finned pilot whale
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2012: Hi Lewis.
    People have been starving since biblical times, & will continue to die. Not because of a lack of food, but because of man's inability to get his priorities right. We are selfish creatures. There is only one hope for the world, the man Jesus Christ.

    :-)

    PS If we've been evolving for millions of years, how come we just got round to breeding in the last few thousand ?
    • thumb
      Apr 9 2012: Hi Peter, happy Easter. I'll bite.

      I guess humans were 1-2 billion around 1900. The population has gone ballistic in the last 100 years.
      Medicine. Soap. Improved food productivity etc. Exponential up to 7 billion. A

      13,000 years ago there are estimates of about 1 million humans. Up to 15 million before the invention of agriculture. I guess hunter gatherer cultures like the native north americans or australian aborigines would support that sort of estimate.

      Compared to similar sized animalsm there are about 800 Gorillas left in the world.
      100-200,000 chimps
      There are estimates of about 660,000 plains zebras, a relatively populous species.

      My recall from uni is Homo sapiens have been around 200,000 years, the theory I was taught was we originated in africa and spread to the middle East say 100k ago. The Americas were populated.

      There is evidence of humans in East Russia about 30k ago. Don't quote me on this but I think humans moved in to the Amercias about 20k ago.

      There is evidence or Australian aboridgines 40-60k years ago.

      New Zealand may have been the last land mass to be populated by the polynesians in 600-800 years ago.

      So while we've been evolving over millions of years, modern humans have only been around a few hundred thousand years. We only spread out across the entire globe relatively recently. Hunter gatherer cultures don't support large populations. Agriculture was one of the early step change drivers.

      There are not billions of large mammals in a particular species, and probably were not even before humans impacted the environment.

      We've had ice ages and other issues to contend wit as well - disease, volcanic eruptions etc.

      The numbers seem consistent with what I expect from an evolutionary perspective.
      • thumb
        Apr 9 2012: Hi Obey.
        Hope you didn't overdo the chocolate eggs :)
        Some things we know.
        1) Recorded history only goes back a few thousand years.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_history
        2) The human population graph could easily zero out about the same time if we didn't doctor it to bump along the bottom.
        http://www.subdude-site.com/WebPages_Local/Blog/topics/environment/enviro_worldPopGrowth_charts.htm
        3) If we weren't here, next doors cats would overpopulate the world in short measure.

        Your scenarios above are normal for an evolutionary worldview, but by definition must be speculative.

        The only evidence we have really is in the oilfields. At some time in the past an awful lot of creatures got buried & squished in a hurry.
        In your scenario something has to have been top of the food chain for a long time. Whatever creature that was at any given time, it would breed rapidly. So in the millions of years there must have been many overpopulation events. I don't have time just now, but there are statistics on this; the number of corpses would be astronomic .

        Edit. Found something :-
        "It’s amazing what basic mathematics can show us about the age of the earth. We can calculate the years of human existence with the population doubling every 150 years (a very conservative figure) to get an estimate of what the world’s population should be after any given period of time.
        A biblical age of the earth (about 6,000 years) is consistent with the numbers yielded by such a calculation. In contrast, even a conservative evolutionary age of 50,000 years comes out to a staggering, impossibly high figure of 10 to the 99th power—greater than the number of atoms in the universe!"
        http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/features/young-earth-evidence/?utm_source=aighomepage&utm_medium=bigbanner&utm_content=Six_Evidences_of_a_Young_Earth&utm_campaign=MonthlyCampaign

        :-)
        • thumb
          Apr 9 2012: Too much chocolate.

          Yes speculative. No census data back that far. Inferred from bits of evidence.

          The 150 year average doubling of population would give unrealistic numbers of any large mammals. I can also backwards calculate the factors that would deliver a 6,000 year old world. Suggest picking 150 years is pretty speculative also, unless you have an end in mind.

          Don't forget you need to start counting again from Noahs flood. What were there 20 individuals, less than 6000 years ago. What an inbred bunch we are. Worse for the paired animals.

          150 years is conservative for the last 200 years. Its probably overly generous for the early millenia.

          Don't forget disease, famine, drought, predation, competition with other or even your own species.

          If you look at the territory and populations say of chimps, or lions, you get an idea that they don't double every 150 years

          Even your wild cats would find an equilibrium with their environment over time.
          I expect they would multiply quickly at first, then struggle to find enough food.

          The system self corrects unless you have the technology humans have developed.

          We are a major disruption to the system.

          I'm not even sure modern humans are subject to the same evolutionary pressure that our ancestors faced. Most of us get a chance to reproduce and infant mortality is pretty low.

          I doubt we will convince each other. I'm comfortable with the fit with an evolutionary perspective. I guess you are from yours.
      • thumb
        Apr 10 2012: Obey

        Actually it's about a thousand years for Nz but there is legends from one of our tribes that talk of three races that lived here in Nz.A white race,Forerunners of my people and a Asian people.There is a silly thing that science does that is normal but tends to be put aside and forgotten as time goes by.Anomalous finds that have no reason to exist.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hueyatlaco

        It's only wiki but it was a valid excavation.
        • thumb
          Apr 10 2012: Apologies Ken. I was writing from memory.
          My recall of what was taught was that Polynesians travelled all the way to south amercia and found NZ on the way back. Actually an amazing feat navigating the pacific in whatever outrigger type canoes they had.
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2012: I assume a finite world can not sustain an infinite human population.
    Whether it be food, resources, water, living space, pollution.

    The problem is our current economic models rely on the growth imperative.

    In parallel with this is growing per capita consumption.

    Also growth is exponential - accelerating.

    Also the growth is distorted to the poorer areas. Our goverment gives baby bonuses to encourage a higher rate of birth to help offset an aging population of baby boomers as well as imnigration. Stop having more than 2 kids. Problem solved.

    Technology will help to some extent. However, I expect to see growing pains gradually develop over time. Whether it be lack of infrastructure or pollution in cities. Running out of easy oil etc.

    The funny thing is if someone had said in 1900 when the population was 1 Billion, can we sustain 7 billion, many people would say no. I think we tend to over estimate slow motion disasters like this. Maybe we could double the population again.To estimate the crunch points you need someone to make assumptions, get data and crunch the numbers.

    At some point it will be self correcting if we don't manage this, and result in misery for millions.
    • Apr 9 2012: i agree completely but do you think it would be fair to ask of such a population- you can only have two kids now (it would be hard to impeach this and could probably cause a revolt /civil unrest). It would definitely even out the quality of life eventually if those very rich and very poor collaborated.
      do you think it would be wise to put a population cap on ? so we can find out how to deal with such a population and until we know how too, allow the population to build.
      • thumb
        Apr 9 2012: China put a one child policy in place although they are a one party state.
        I guess it is up to individual countries.
        I have a natural antipathy with governments restricting reproductive freedoms (although I sometimes wonder if we should pass a test before venturing into one of the most important human endeavours - parenthood)

        Perhaps education and ignoring the Catholic church might help.