It’s World Population Day and as of today, there are over 7 billion of us sharing this planet.
How did we get here?
After rising very slowly for millennia, population figures were just starting to take off in the 1700s. A century and a half later, the world’s population had doubled to more than a billion. It took another century, between WWI and II, to double again to two billion, and the acceleration since then has also been astounding.
Before 1900s, no human had lived through a doubling of the human population, but there are people alive today who have seen it triple (source: NGM).
So, why the sudden surge?
Many things happened, simultaneously and progressively. Society has changed: more medical innovations and preventive care (including sex education, contraceptives and family planning), better transportation means and efficiency (getting medicine and medical personnel to the source of need), and a more ‘connected’ world (dissemination of knowledge and information about medical science) enabled us to stop the spread of communal and contagious diseases, advance health treatments, increase life expectancy (from 35-40 years in 1952 to 65-80 today), and make improvements in gender equality (women gaining access to education and labour force).
Here is one fun quick lecture and a cool visualization of statistical data of the changing world:
By the early 1970s, fertility rates around the world had begun dropping faster than anyone had anticipated. Since then, even though the population growth continued to grow, the population growth rate has fallen by more than 40 percent.
But where are we heading, in terms of population growth projection?
According to Hans Rosling, global health expert and a co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontièrs, we have reached peak child. The number of children is not growing any longer in the world. And the world population will stop growing at 10 billion. Here’s how: