World population set to double by 2100. Concerned? You should be.

This month the world population is set to hit the astronomical and unprecedented figure of 7 billion people. To mark the occasion, the UN Population Fund (Unfpa) is set to release a shocking report which predicts that by the end of the century the world population will have increased to a staggering 15 billion people (assuming that there is neither another world war, nor flu pandemic) For context, that figure is over double our current 7 billion threshold – a milestone that will only itself be realised this month and has taken several millennia to reach, and 5 billion more than previous estimates of 10 billion by the year 2100.

But what do these figures mean to us?

It seems that with every decade we are introduced to numbers which were previously intangible and unimaginable to us, yet which are now sown into the fabric of our everyday lives. Before the liberal implementation of the free market orthodoxy in the eighties, personal millionaires were few and far between. Now just two decades down the line, millionaires are in abundance. They come in all shapes and sizes, from footballers and entrepreneurs, to bankers and hedge fund managers. Anyone can be a millionaire. It is easier than ever. So much so, that nowadays, being a millionaire has lost its veneer; it doesn’t hold the same wow factor as well as say, a billionaire. Facebook favourite Mark Zuckerberg for instance, has an estimated net worth of $17.5 billion according to the Forbes Rich List. And he’s only 27!

We are constantly bombarded with these outrageous figures, which are meaningless to us in practical terms, and vulgar in their implications. For instance, America’s gross national debt now tallies in at a cool $15 trillion. That’s 15 trillion dollars! – A ludicrous and inconceivable figure, too gross to fully comprehend except when viewed in type, and a hell of a lot of debt to have on your shoulder.

The point of this rather longwinded excursion is that most, and I stress that with no intentional arrogance or righteousness – but most do not realise JUST how damaging the doubling of the world population would be were it to become a reality. The media have been slow to jump on this story  this week, however it has made it to press, yet has been met with little fanfare or vocal response, especially from my usually media savvy peers, which is worrying.

For hundreds of millions of years our Earth has been a vessel where nature and creature have shared a synergistic, co-habitual relationship.  Darwinian principles have ensured the longevity of certain species and eco-systems at the cost of others. But there was always balance. Then along came Homo sapiens.

Now, to stress – I’m no hippy. I’m not even particularly liberal. But collectively, shouldn’t we be a lot more concerned with the world around us? Some of us like to think we are. But are we? Am I? I don’t know. Probably not. But I should be. We should be. Our planet, the only one we know of that supports life, which sits uniquely in the appropriately named, ‘Goldilocks Zone,’ (because it’s just right for life) around our Sun, and contains liquid water and a breathable oxygen rich atmosphere, is in jeopardy. And we are both the gatekeepers and the virus, plaguing our fragile home. Without all the above attributes we would not exist. We’d be like an electrical appliance without a plug. Obsolete.

We are already hyper aware of the damage ‘we’ as a species are inflicting. The mass media constantly bombards us with ominous, prophetic warnings. Sometimes sensationalist in the extreme, yet regardless the message is there. It is clear as crystal and doesn’t just come from doom mongers on obscure internet forums, (although they have plenty to say as well) but from respected, reputable scientists who rely on empirical evidence. And the message is clear – we are taking too much from our environment and not giving enough back. We are unsustainable.  We are choking our atmosphere with gases and chemicals which are toxic to us. Actually that’s too speciesist. It is toxic to our fellow Earthlings too. We rape every square inch of our environment for resources, we multiply, we breed en masse and medical science improvements ensure that we all live longer, to the detriment of our planet.

People are quick to blame the big corporations for environmental damage, but isn’t the truth a little closer to home? We live in a capitalist society where profit is survival. We could boycott these corporations, yet apart from a select few individuals, we remain largely indifferent, ignorant. We pro-create, we buy, we consume and we want. We want without regard. Everyone else does, so why shouldn’t we. Why shouldn’t I? I’m a hypocrite because I want to live long, have a family and enjoy life’s “infinite” luxuries too. And maybe that’s the problem.

This isn’t intended as lecture, so I apologise if it sounds like one, but if we’ve already fucked things up as much as we evidently have, what hope is there if there’s double the amount of us? It’s a sombre thought. And with peak oil and global warming just over the horizon, as well as international economic woes, the power shift from the West to the East, emerging industrial states and swathes of unemployment domestically – the future really does look bleak.

Maybe we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. Maybe. But I hope not.

Written by: Nick Thompson

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