Talking Points & Facts
Below you will find talking points and facts, grouped in categories. If you would like to submit other population and sustainability related facts, talking points, and logic, please contact us.
- Visualizations of Population Growth
- Reasons for Taking Action
- Population Reference Bureau's Summary, 2010
Visualizations of Population Growth
- Three days from now, as a result of today's staggering rates of population growth, earth will be home to more than 684,000 extra people. How can this be? For every person who dies during the next three days, somewhere around the world a baby will be born who will, physically speaking, replace that death. And after all of those replacement births take place, 684,000 additional births will occur. NOTE: 681,000 people would fill the FNB soccer stadium in Johannesburg to capacity over 7 times. (Femmer, What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet, 2010)
- Can you visualize 900 jumbo jets landing at your local airport today and each deplaning 250 people? If so, you will have a good grasp of daily, real-time global population growth. Indeed, human numbers increase by over 228,000 every 24 hours (Population Reference Bureau). Every minute, 150+ additional people need energy, water, food, and space to inhabit. By year’s end, that results in a 83 million person increase. Obviously, it also creates demand for a significant amount of new resources the Earth must yield.
- If today is Monday, then earth will be home to approximately 912,000 additional people by Friday. In addition to their CO2 and climate impacts and their need for food, water, jobs, health care, and sanitation, these 912,000 new arrivals require completion of additional schools and classrooms every four days – in a world with insufficient schools and classrooms right now. At this pace, how many new classrooms must we provide every four days? Assume that we can accommodate all the replacement births in existing classrooms. Answer: 36,480 new classrooms every four days (if we can house approximately 25 students in a typical classroom, then dividing 912,000 by 25 = 36,480 new classrooms every four days). Keep in mind that these must be funded, built, finished, supplied, and staffed immediately. Are we prepared to accomplish this same task and fund it with billions in taxes repeatedly over every four day period year after year in the decades just ahead? The need to repeatedly complete so many new classrooms in so short a time has corollary questions, such as: What if they are not built? And: Are they being built? (Femmer, What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet, 2010)
- The extreme and rapid expansion of human population – now counted by an additional billion people every 12 to 13 years -- is mortally taxing the Earth and its resources. The true enormity of a “billion” is important to understand when thinking about human population. For example, if a person is fined a million dollars and ordered to pay $100 dollars per day towards the total due, it would take 27.4 years to pay off the debt. If however, the fine were a billion dollars, the time required to pay off the debt would be 27,397 years. When discussing a billion of anything, one should take a moment to appreciate the titanic size involved. If you took crisp, new $1 dollar bills, a stack of $1 billion dollars would soar 63 miles high. Therefore, while it may make no meanigngful difference if you have .08 cents or .10 cents in your pocket, the difference between 8 billion people and 10 billion people is environmentally profound.
- If our numbers grow by 228,000 on an average day, then in one week, we will have added about 1,589,000 extra persons to world population. And five days after that we will add another million and then another and another, and we are on track to continue this way repeatedly into the foreseeable future. Never before in human history have we asked our governments, infrastructure, social institutions, earth's environment, and the social fabric of our civilizations to respond to and accommodate such mammoth increase numbers in such compressed periods of time. (Femmer, What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet, 2010) The 2011 Global Population Speak Out will last 28 days; during that time, humanity will expect the Earth to provide for an additional 6.4 million of us. By year's end humanity will expect the planet to provide for 83 million more us. This equals all the current citizens of the countries of Rwanda, Switzerland, Ireland, Canada, Zimbabwe, Sweden, Kuwait and the U.S. Virgin Islands combined.
Reasons for Taking Action
The extreme and rapid growth in human population – now counted by an additional billion people every 12 to 13 years -- is one fundamental force mortally taxing the Earth and its resources. Each individual person has a unique impact on the planet’s environment. Some people may be relatively less damaging than others but no living individual is without an ecological footprint. In other words, each person needs basic resources and almost all people aspire to utilize significantly more resources than are required by their basic needs. As these needs and aspirations are multiplied by a factor of 6.8 billion (and growing rapidly), day after day and year after year, the stability of the planet’s ecosphere has been, and will continue to be, severely compromised.
While it should be obvious that the Earth is a finite sphere and cannot endure infinite growth by any single species, we should also remember that Earth’s current web-of-life is the result of billions of years of complex evolution. It is irreplaceable.
The median projection of population size by the U.N. Population Division suggests that population growth rates will decline over the coming several decades, with a possible stabilization around the year 2050. But achieving this will take an enormous amount of hard work, creativity and financing – it is by no means a fiat accompli. And, even if population reformers are successful and population is stabilized between 8 and 9 billion, a scenario which becomes less likely with each passing day, the increase to human population will still be between 20% and 30%. This is a best case scenario for which we should strive with all our courage and convictions.
Still, the magnitude of this increase, coming on top of the unprecedented growth that has occurred in the last half-century, will be felt in all aspects of life. It will certainly further stress already strained ecological systems. Population growth is not the only threat facing humanity, but it will be a major contributor to the challenges that await us and the planet in the coming century.
When we are trying to make an educated judgment about the multi-generational carrying capacity of the Earth for human beings, living in reasonable peace, health and well-being we can not afford to over-estimate. We must err on the side of caution; failure to do so risks not only our own evolution, but that of the wonderful planet on which we reside.
Some 1,700 of the world's leading scientists, including the majority of Nobel laureates in the sciences, issued this appeal in November 1992. The World Scientists' Warning to Humanity was written and spearheaded by the late Henry Kendall, former chair of UCS's board of directors. Read the full text here:
"The earth is finite. Its ability to absorb wastes and destructive effluent is finite. Its ability to provide food and energy is finite. Its ability to provide for growing numbers of people is finite. And we are fast approaching many of the earth's limits. Current economic practices which damage the environment, in both developed and underdeveloped nations, cannot be continued without the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair.
"Pressures resulting from unrestrained population growth put demands on the natural world that can overwhelm any efforts to achieve a sustainable future. If we are to halt the destruction of our environment, we must accept limits to that growth. A World Bank estimate indicates that world population will not stabilize at less than 12.4 billion, while the United Nations concludes that the eventual total could reach 14 billion, a near tripling of today's 5.4 billion. But, even at this moment, one person in five lives in absolute poverty without enough to eat, and one in ten suffers serious malnutrition.
"No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospects for humanity immeasurably diminished."
Population Reference Bureau's Summary, 2010:
For the full World Population Data Sheet, click here: http://www.prb.org/pdf10/10wpds_eng.pdf