Society and Culture

The Population Explosion How Big a Problem is it?

In the mist of each human life I believe there are key turning points which go on to determine, not only personal success achieved, but as well the quality of life for each individual and that individual’s family; and that it is how this quality of life affects ones community which determines, in a large part, how successful communities are in fact built.

Applying this same individual reckoning to nations I would suggest our planet has come to a critical cross-road, a key turning point, if you will, whereby the future quality of life upon our planet is in question. Individual nations now have the opportunity to address or ignore the issues of population control. If nations choose to address this urgent human issue then I have little doubt quality of life in the future will be positively impacted. On the other hand, if nations continue to ignore population statistics, they will do so at their own peril.

Our planet is in fact entering an era of unprecedented population growth and will, in less than century, be faced with human numbers which will be impossible to sustain. Our planet’s atmosphere is already in serious question, global warming is harming food production, fresh water supplies are rapidly disappearing and our planet’s mineral resources are slowing being depleted.

I am sure to many people this all sounds like science fiction but to those people, who understand the numbers, exponential population growth is an epic human problem in the making.

Population Numbers

Year – Human Population in Billions

* 2011 – 7.000000000
* 2020 – 8.146791776
* 2030 – 9.642644274
* 2040 – 11.41315393
* 2050 – 13.50875123
* 2060 – 15.98912631
* 2070 – 18.92492916
* 2080 – 22.39978200
* 2090 – 26.51266113
* 2100 – 31.38071612

The above numbers are computed using an average population growth rate of 1.7 percent per year. This has been the average historical population growth rate on our planet since population record keeping began. As can be expected human population increases vary by year. For example, in 1962 the world population rose by 2.2 percent per annum while in 2009 the estimated growth rate was below 1.5 percent per annum.

The point I am making is, no matter what benchmark you care to use, human population growth is explosive, particularly in the Third World where population estimates are inexact but normally in excess of the industrialized world. Human population estimates in the Third World can range well over 2 percent per annum in the coming years.

So what do these population numbers mean? Surely they mean different things to different people because these population numbers can be interpreted in so many ways. If you want to argue accuracy, for example, nobody can produce a perfect set of population numbers; all that can be done is project what history has shown us and go from there. The only thing for sure, as I already said, human population growth is explosive.

In attempting to take the broadest view possible of overpopulation it is worth looking at such things as carbon footprints, food consumption and water usage on an individual basis. In this way we have some means to measure the impact human population has on our planet.

Carbon Footprint

For definition purposes the “carbon footprint” is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or person. In terms of human beings the “carbon footprint” can be considered as the measure of carbon dioxide created by one individual over the period of a lifetime; and this measure, particularly in the Western World, can reach into thousands of tons of carbon pollution per individual.

Here is a list of the top 5 CO2 (carbon dioxide) producers on our planet. The emission figures are in millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted into our planet’s atmosphere in 2008.

1. China – 6534
2. United States – 5833
3. Russia – 1729
4. India – 1495
5. Japan – 1214

As you might guess the United States leads the world in per capita CO2 emissions (19.18 metric tons) for this one year span. Given these CO2 (carbon dioxide) figures continue to rise as world population numbers increase one has to wonder if, somewhere in our future, there is indeed a saturation point? That is a point where we have done irrevocable damage to our planet’s atmosphere.

Many scientists, for many years, have suggested this is a likely possibility and I have yet to hear of any of these scientist changing their mind.

Water Conservation

In many ways the depletion of fresh water supplies around our planet are beginning to become as problematic as are CO2 emission. I kid you not, water cost and water usage around our world are entering an era of unprecedented and escalating change.

China is already losing once fertile crop and pasture land at the rate of 20,000 acres per year. This desertification is being created because China’s water tables are being depleted by over usage and the same is true in the United States. Although America has yet to experience desertification matching that of China, you can be sure desertification of crop land will become a major American problem in decades to come.

The best example of water usage problems in America can be seen in the Ogallala Aquifer, which covers 174,000 square miles, over eight states, in the American Midwest. By best estimates this aquifer, which took many centuries to fill, will be nearly unusable in less than two decades. This means millions of acres of fertile crop land and hundreds of American cities will be left without water.

If you think hard about this single aquifer, which feeds so many American people, you have to wonder where the American political mind is coming from. Consider this-I see only two ways to replace this vital water supply. The first way is to produce a miracle whereby the American Midwest is saturated with enough rain to replace the centuries it took to fill the Ogallala Aquifer in the first place.

The second way is to build new and costly infrastructure which pipes water from either the Columbia Basin in the Northwest and/or the Great Lakes in the Northeast. Granted building such infrastructure may sound a bit extreme but in reality, that is unless you believe a miracle is forthcoming, there is no other way to support the people and economic viability of America’s Midwest.

I could make the same point about the American Southwest where water usage is becoming just as critical. Many cities such as Los Angles, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson could face extreme water shortages within the next few decades. Likewise Southwestern agriculture and industrial plants will be facing the same water shortage problems.

The short and long for water conservation in America is, as aquifers and rivers go dry, water will have to transported, sometimes thousands of miles, in a network of pipes. This new and expensive water infrastructure will not be optional. It will be required to support the economic health and vitality of our American Nation.

Food Consumption

Unfortunately we humans require a list of basic resources to survive and, in essence, it is these basic resources which this brief article is about. We humans require, in no particular order, oxygen, water, food and a little heat to insure our survival; and with the exception of heat, which comes primarily from the Sun, we have jeopardized, by over population, all of these basic resources we depend on most.

One outstanding fact I know about food is that it takes a walloping 1000 tons of water to raise only one ton of grain. I am not sure how much water it takes to raise a bushel of beans or potatoes but it is probably a lot. When I read this fact I nearly did a back flip because my mind instantly did a few a few calculations and concluded the cost of raising grain will become too costly in decades to come; that is, when the Ogallala Aquifer runs dry the party is over, not only for America’s Breadbasket, but for the rest of America as well.

“This article is becoming over-the-hill,” you say. “We have to have grain to make the bread we eat,” and you are right. What I did not say was how many America’s would be eating bread at $25 per loaf or Big Macs at $15 each; and I forgot to mention the cost of dairy products like milk, cheese, ice cream and a host of other dairy related entrees we all enjoy on a regular basis.

What I am really driving at is the costs of commodities, namely agricultural products, are on the threshold of a real price explosion. When you consider higher food demand (increased population), the cost of piping water (yet to be acknowledged) and the rising cost of energy (an absolute certainty), it can only mean one thing and that thing is much higher food prices.

Granted we all have a few years before the impact of food prices become really serious but rest assured the future cost of water and energy will insure a good portion of your income will be required to buy even the most basic of family food requirements.


The design and cost of providing basic infrastructure for a planet with over 30 billion inhabitants will be immense in the 21 Century. In fact our planet is presently ill prepared to take on such a gigantic task but then we are talking about another day.

Today the condition of America’s infrastructure is a mess. Not long ago I was traveling down some secondary roads in California and made the comment to my wife we were traveling on little more than what amounted to “cow trails”. I am not sure but I would guess there were 25 to 40 good size potholes per mile. I cannot blame the State of California for their poor system of secondary roads, or any other state for that matter, as I realize all of the states of our United States are strapped for cash.

This means, to me, the repair of secondary roads are way down on a long list of other financial priorities states are now forced to deal with. So where is all of this money going to come from to repair American Infrastructure? Is our Federal Government willing, or even able, to give away billions again, like they gave to Wall Street Bankers to save the day? It seems as though states are really now on their own, except for the Interstate Highway Systems and maybe airports, to find the necessary money for infrastructure repair.

If what I said here is anywhere near the truth then America is in for a long, drawn-out siege. That is until America can find the innovation to adjust to a new world, economic order and our banking system can find the integrity to support such new innovation, rather than run with all the profit, then we American’s will have to wait. If America’s economic recovery takes a decade or more, then so be it and if recovery happens within a decade or less, then we Americans can consider ourselves extremely lucky.

Jim Osborne is a retired programmer and Veteran living in New Mexico. Jim’s interest include writing, computers, investing and billiards.

Jim’s favorite quote is by Jon Stewart…

Living in the limelight, the universal dream for those who wish to seem. Those who wish to be must put aside the alienation, get on with the fascination, the real relation, the underlying theme — RUSH, “Limelight; And now, here it is, your moment of Zen.

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