Seven billion and counting

There’s been a ton of coverage in the news this week about the birth of the 7 billionth baby on Earth. The Atlantic put out a beautiful and haunting photo series on the subject, and every media outlet has covered it.

There’s a weird kind of tone to much of it. Some people want to be hopeful—yay! it’s someone’s birthday—but we all know this is not exactly cause to celebrate.

To me, seeing all the newscasts together, I can’t help but think of them as the opening credits to some sort of sci-fi thriller, in which the audience learns that this particular event was the final straw before everything went to hell in a handbasket. The truth is, it’s hard to imagine how we’ll sustain life on this planet at the rate we’re going. Not only in terms of population, of course, but all the ancillary bits that go along with living with 7 billion (and counting) other souls on a planet with finite resources—food shortages, water shortages, climate change, too much waste, pollution and all the social problems that result.

Scientific American published a fascinating story exploring the maximum human population that the earth can sustain (10.1 billion according to UN demographers).

But it was seeing the World Food Program’s “News Flash” on the subject that really hit home for me.

Twenty-five per cent of the one billion hungry are children.

It’s sobering stuff with no easy solutions, though it seems clear that the model of endless growth and mass consumption can’t continue indefinitely. To read more about what this week’s birthday celebrations mean on the food front, check out the WFP’s list of must-read articles on the subject here.


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