Welcome to planet number 8 billion!

Oh no – the world now has 8 billion people devouring its natural resources!

Ten years ago there were only 7 billion people. The planet is being overrun! We can’t feed all these new mouths! We are damned!

WORLD POPULATION EXCEEDS EIGHT BILLION FOR THE FIRST TIME

Not so fast. A simple calculation puts an apparent catastrophe into perspective.

What if all 8 billion people were invited to a “population conference” somewhere in the world? Suppose at this conference we gave each person their own individual 20ft by 20ft space in which they could celebrate and enjoy all of planet earth’s 8 billion inhabitants. When each person occupies their own 400 square feet (a decent sized room). , how much total area would it take to comfortably accommodate the world’s population?

A little simple math shows that an area the size of New Mexico would be quite enough.

But what about feeding and caring for all these people? Well, there has been enough food to keep up with the entire world population for at least 100 years, along with an abundance of raw materials and energy resources. So why are so many starving and a billion eking out a living without reliable electricity?

The obstacles to a comfortable life for all are likely to stem from interrelated factors ranging from overpopulation in topographically and climatologically unfavorable areas to personal choices to be wasteful and harmful to the planet and fellow residents.

Topping the list of what keeps people miserable could very well be a ruling class at odds with the needs of the populace it claims to serve. Alongside tyrants who willfully neglect disadvantaged sections of their population, there are elite politicians who have little interest in alleviating deprivation. Ineffective programs like the longstanding “war on poverty” become empty slogans in their hands. Politics often trumps everything and compassion falls by the wayside. The poor are confined to perpetual misery.

In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University predicted in his book The population bomb that world population is unsustainable at its current rate of growth. The population in the late 60’s was about 3.6 billion people. dr Ehrlich expected that the ever-increasing number of people would lead to the collapse of economic and social systems within a decade or two.

Fortunately, global collapse was averted by technological improvements, energy exploration and production, and agricultural revolutions. In fact, global poverty has decreased significantly since Ehrlich’s prediction. This success can be sustained when world leaders see their constituents not as the great unwashed but as precious souls deserving of dignity, respect and compassion.

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The aim should be to raise the standard of a full and comfortable life for all by making wise use of the resources available to all. As the old saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all ships.”

This can be achieved not only in the US, but worldwide. All 8 billion people deserve dignity, respect and compassion in the form of good nutrition and clean, reliable, abundant and cheap energy.

Anthony J. Sadar is Associate Associate Professor at Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA and co-author of Environmental Risk Communication: Principles and Practices for Industry (CRC Press, 2021).

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