World population 7 billion today (or next April)

UPDATE: There are officially now 7 billion people on the planet. You can see them all here – This is, of course, just a best guess, and I demand a recount!

The United Nations estimates that the world population will reach 7 billion (that’s 7,000,000,000 even in the UK where the old definition of a billion (as a million squared) was abandoned under US pressure years ago) . The UN data is based on best estimates but obviously cannot be 100% accurate. Your neighbour’s newborn hasn’t been registered yet, neither has the death of the old guy down the road, multiply at least once or twice per neighbourhood and I suspect that we could not possibly know the world population to at least  +/- 10 million or so. Setting aside the fact that we don’t have an ongoing world census…

Nevertheless, the “official” data suggest that, at the time of writing, we have just under 10 hours (at 08h00 GMT, 2011-10-31) before we click past the 7 billion mark. The US census suggests we won’t actually reach 7 billion until April 2012, which gives an error margin of 10 million, as I suggested, if there are approximately 70000 more people on the planet each day.

Why is the number relevant? Well, it puts into stark relief the potential impact humanity can have on the world. In 1999, there were “just” 6 billion people. The world population has doubled since the year I was born. (In pseudofact, I was the 3,500,000,000th person alive on the day of my birth). It’s just a number, but it’s a big number and emphasises once again that we can no longer think of the planet in terms of the first, second, and third world. There really is just one world, with limited resources, oceans and atmosphere all interconnected and a single species (that has amounted to almost 100 billion people since our species emerged) that seems to hold the key to the survival of countless others.

World Population Clock

3 thoughts on “World population 7 billion today (or next April)”

  1. Population 7 Billion: It’s Time to Talk is a project of the Global Population Speak Out (GPSO), the Population Institute, and other partnering organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Post-Carbon Institute, and the Population Media Center. Earlier GPSOs have spanned the globe, with active participants in six continents and more than 50 countries. Hundreds of noted experts, scholars, and academicians, along with environmental and reproductive health advocates have spoken out publicly about population in prior years. This year, for the fourth GPSO, we are focusing on the 7 Billion number. Why? Because as each person discovers how 7 Billion people on the planet affects their life, we hope they will share it in a global effort to better our world. Our program will be active through April 2012!

  2. From Wikipedia:

    In the long run, the future population growth of the world is difficult to predict. Average global birth rates are declining slightly, but vary greatly between developed countries (where birth rates are often at or below replacement levels) and developing countries (where birth rates typically remain high). Different ethnicities also display varying birth rates. Death rates can change unexpectedly due to disease, wars and other mass catastrophes, or advances in medicine. According to some scenarios, disasters triggered by the growing population’s demand for scarce resources will eventually lead to a sudden population crash, or even a Malthusian catastrophe, where overpopulation would compromise global food security, leading to mass starvation.

    There is also the possibility of devastating asteroid collision, nuclear war, or an emerging pathogen that rips through us like a dose of salts. And, of course, there is the potential for a sudden devastating chane in climate for whatever reason (tipping points passed quicker than expected or a supervolcano eruption).

    Humanity has been around for not that long speaking evolutionarily speaking. Blink of an eye, really. I don’t think the rest of the planet will miss us when we’re gone.

  3. Hey,
    Nice post, Population on this scale is sometime incimprehendable. It is also sometimes silly to think that a natural or man made disaster wont have a potentially damaging biological affect on a great chunk of any given populaiton someimte into the future. China is expanding so rapidly, sometimes you wonder if everyone will ever catch up or if it will cave in? Would love to see predicted demographic for population in another couple of centuries.

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