Population Growth: The Problem In Real Terms
By Jason G. Brent
29 December, 2011
Periodically the United Nations issues population projections for the human population. This is usually done in eight variations, with the medium projection the one most referred to and used by population experts. The most recent (2011) medium projection/prognostication/prediction/estimate (use whatever word you desire) is that the human population will exceed 9.3 billion in the year 2050. This represents an increase of 2.3 billion from October 31, 2010 when population was estimated to be 7.0 billion. July 1, 2050 is approximately 38 3/4 years or 14144 days from October 31, 2010 (38.75 years X 365 days per year =14144 days). Therefore, the daily population increase for that period of time would be 162,613 (2,300,000,00 increase divided by 14,144 days equals 162,613). Even though I believe the average should be much higher for two reasons, I will use 162,613 to be on a very conservative side. The United Nations does not provide satisfactory support for its position that the rate of human population growth will continually decrease from 2010 to 2050 and according to the UN's numbers the actual population increase will be much higher in the earlier years.
Using the conservative estimate of increase of 162,613 per day, that represents an increase of 975,678 every six days beginning November 1, 2010 and running to July 1 (midyear) 2050 (increase per day of 162,613 X 6 days equals an increase of 975,678). For ease of discussion, I will round that increase off to an increase of 1 million people every six days for the next 38 3/4 years.
Let us see what that increase means in real terms for humanity and humanity's future.
Every six days humanity will have to increase the clean, drinkable fresh water supply so that humans have water to drink and clean themselves with. For the period November 1, 2010 to November 6, 2010 we should have increased the clean, drinkable fresh water supply available to humanity in amount to satisfy the increase of 1 million people. Did we do that? For the period November 7 to November 12 should have increased water supply in amount equal to satisfy an additional 1 million people for a total increase necessary to satisfy the needs of 2 million people. During the next period, November 13 to November 18 the total increase in the clean water supply should have been sufficient to satisfy the needs of 3 million additional people. The increase in the clean,drinkable water supply would have to continue every six days for the next 38 3/4 years. The best of my knowledge, there are no concrete plans by the nations of the world to maintain that increase in the clean water supply. And if clean water is not supplied to the current 7 billion humans inhabiting the Earth plus the additional 1 million of our species that will be added every six days starting November 1, 2010 and continuing to July 1, 2050, many humans will suffer horribly and many will die horrible deaths due to lack of clean water.
While new born babies may not need new dwelling units to be built for them, on an overall basis adding 1 million people to the human population will require approximately an additional 200,000 dwelling units, if we assume that on average over all of humanity there are five people per dwelling unit. To be on the conservative side, let us assume that on the average there are six people per dwelling unit. Based on that assumption, humanity has to add 166,667 dwelling units every six days (1,000,000 people divided by 6 people per dwelling units equals a need for 166,667 dwelling unit every 6 days). And this will have to continue every six days from November 1, 2010 June 30, 2050. While we can debate the size and design of these dwelling units, it is highly unlikely that humanity has the resources to construct 166,667 dwelling units every six days until June 30, 2050. The best of my knowledge there are no concrete plans by all the nations of the world to construct that number of dwelling units every six days. And the above number does not include replacement dwelling units that will have to be constructed due to the destruction of present dwelling units.
Every six days humanity will have to construct facilities to handle the waste products, feces and urine, of an additional 1 million people. This should include piping to bring clean water to each dwelling unit and piping to bring the waste products to a waste treatment facility. This should include the construction of a waste treatment facility able to handle the human wastes of 1 million people and a place to store or dispose of such wastes. In addition to handling feces and urine, humanity will happen to find places to handle and store other types of human waste. Again, in amount to satisfy the needs of 1 million additional people every six days for 38 3/4 years. And power will be needed to bring the clean water to the units and power will be needed to take away the waste.
In addition to handling human waste, humanity should be able to provide sinks and toilets that go into each dwelling. It is highly unlikely that humanity can provide sinks and toilets in the additional amount of 166,667 every six days for the next 38 3/4 years, cumulatively. If toilets, piping and waste treatment facilities are not provided the untreated wastes will go into the rivers, lakes and other bodies of water as well as on the land. A side note--today and every day 100,000 tons of untreated feces in India is deposited on the land.. Repeat that number 100,000 tons.
Every six days the amount of food produced by humanity will have to increase to satisfy the needs of 1 million additional people--one million in six days, two million in 12 days, three million in 18 days--you get the idea. Most of the dwelling units referred to above will need some method to heat the interior, at least during some portion of the year. Resources will have to be made available to do that. The dwelling units will need light and resources will have to be made available to do that--enough to handle 166.667 dwelling units the first six days, enough to handle 333,334 dwelling units the next six days, increasing every six days from November 1, 2011 to June 30, 2050.
Hopefully you get the idea. I could continue with thousands of things that will be required every six days cumulatively to satisfy the need of the growing population. If you are concerned about the future of humankind you must answer the questions---will the earth be able to provide the resources necessary to provide even the minimum amount of resources needs for one million additional people every six days cumulatively for the period from October 1, 2011 to June 30, 2050? Will humanity be able to manufacture those resources into the products needed by the growing population and distribute them where they are needed?
Let us look at the problem another way. The average population over the period November 1, 2011 to June 30 2050 is 8.15 billion (7.0 billion in 2011 plus 9.3 billion in 2050 = 16.3 billion divided by 2 = 8.15 billion). For the reasons set forth above I think the average of 8.15 billion is very low. However, to be on the conservative side I will use that number. You may challenge the following assumptions. However, I believe that they are more than reasonable--that they are conservative. Assume that each person on the planet, (young, old and middle aged) has two shirts/blouses that last on the average five years. That means that every year 1/5 of the people will need new shirts/blouses. One fifth of 8.15 billion is 1.63 billion. And two shirts/blouses per person means that each year 3.26 billion (1.63 X 2 =3.26) shirts/blouses will have to be produced. Over the period November 2011 to June 2050 126.32 billion shirts/blouses (3.26 shirts/blouses X 38.75 years= 126.32) will have to be produced. Will the earth have a sufficient amount of resources for that demand. Think of that number--billions and not millions. Applying that same logic to pants or skirts, 126.32 billion will have to be produced over the same time period. How about shoes, underpants, bras and sox. I will not go into dishes, pots, pans and similar items. How many trucks will have to be produced to distribute the food and other items? I could go on and on. However, it should be very clear that humankind is immediately facing a problem that will be almost impossible to solve, if population grows to the estimated 9.3 billion by 2050. And if the shirts/blouses only last for two years the number for the same period becomes 315.81 billion. And I could make a very strong argument that they would last only two years--one of them would have to be worn every day, people destroy them when they work, people's weight changes, people lose them, people don't wash them properly, temperature changes with the seasons, young people grow, old people die, etc.
Jason G Brent is a former judge at East Kern Municipal Court
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