Following our recent article, 7 Billion – We ask, do the numbers matter?, We take another look at the run up to the global population hitting 7 billion people in October– and get very excited about some of the fantastic images from our friends at National Geographic. They even provide a video by graphic designer Nigel Holmes showing just how much space 7 billion people would need to hold a party – You might just be surprised!
National Geographic maps the areas with the highest population density – sorted by Gross National Income (GNI) per country. The bright areas are the most crowded – they are also home to some of the world’s poorest communities.
7 billion is a lot of people. It is 1,500 times the number of people in Sydney (almost 2000 times the number in Melbourne), 113 times the number of people in the whole of the UK and 23 times the entire population of the United States... but only four times the number of cans of Coca Cola sold worldwide in a single day.
The population is growing at around 77 million people every year – that’s 4 people born every second. Every day, 40,000 of them are Chinese, 36,000 of them are Indian and 8,000 of them are American.
Wondering what the face of 7 billion people would look like, based on current growth? Look no further, as the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing has the answer – and it only took them 7,000 photos to make:
As I already mentioned, a space of 1500 square miles can hold all 7 billion of us. In fact, the population of Earth could happily fit into the tiny islands of Polynesia, and if we wanted to bring a small house, a couple of animals and a small space to grow some vegetables, we could all fit a in a country the size of Spain, or Germany.
..But what about food? There wouldn’t be room for the 518 million sheep, 1.3 billion pigs or 52 billion chickens we currently eat every year. But don’t panic! If current food sources were distributed fairly, the world could happily feed every single person more than 2,700 calories a day for the near future – enough for an adult male who exercises regularly.
So, where’s the catch?
Ok, I confess. There is room and food for everyone – but only if we use it properly. That doesn’t mean we should panic – it means that we must work hard now to make things more equal. If we do this, and focus on key motivators such as universal education and environmental security, we can eradicate poverty in a generation. We can eradicate poverty before the population hits 10 billion around 2050.
As a species, we not only place a serious burden on the environment, our water supplies and other life, but we shoulder the blame un-evenly.
Countries in the developed north control access to the global market that determines whether 800 million malnourished individuals eat or die – and they control the subsidies and market competition that prevents another 1.4billion people from producing and selling enough food to protect their future, their children and their family’s future.
Developed countries are less densely populated and are having less children, they have access to schooling and other forms of knowledge, have the option of travelling and tend to live in cities - where they are less vulnerable to environmental pressures and have better access to healthcare. The most developed countries only make up 28% of the world's population (see above) – while 2.6 billion people do not have access to even the most basic toilet.
This is not the case everywhere and poverty is declining. Inequality, in markets and access to basic human needs must be addressed and the rising population must inspire us to do what we can, and be excited about it – buying ethically, understanding poverty and getting involved.
Together, we can change lives. 7 billion lives.