What would you tell the human species about the fact this month there will be seven billion of us, and just twelve years ago there were only six? According to this CNN guest column by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in 1999 the human population was six billion and this month it will go to seven. How long will it take to get to eight billion? One projection says it will be 2025, so that is just fourteen years to get to the next billion, but it could also be 2030, which would be nineteen years. Nine billion could be reached by 2045-2050.
Oddly, many news stories about environmental and social problems omit a very important contributor: overpopulation and the still-increasing number of humans. Many human-animal conflict stories focus on the violence or fear aspects, but don’t focus very much on the fact large-scale human population growth is what is driving transfer of once natural habitats into development projects such as road construction, farmland, shopping centers and residences. To put it simply, where will all the additional people go if the human population continues to grow?
The answer is: on land that supported natural ecosystems existing as habitats for wild animals and plants. The ongoing loss of natural species is being driven by destruction of habitat, over-development, climate change, greed and lack of awareness. As more and more natural landscapes are lost, isn’t there a self-perpetuating effect where people who grow up without nature around them don’t care if more is converted to parking lots and shopping malls?
The human population in 1350 may have been just 370 million. If we as a species had then developed the foresight to practice some restraint in family planning, and kept the human population low so today there were only 3 billion of us, would there have been far fewer extinctions of others species that also live on this planet?
Dr. Sachs put it this way, “The world’s agricultural systems are already dangerously overstretched. Rainforests are being cut down to make way for new farms; groundwater used for irrigation is being depleted; greenhouse gases emitted from agricultural activities are a major factor in global climate change; fertilizers are poisoning estuaries; and countless species are threatened with extinction as we grab their land and water and destroy their habitats.” (Source: CNN.com)
Image Credit: Ahron de Leeuw