The day of eight billion
The United Nations declared 15 November 2022 as the “Day of Eight Billion”, to mark its estimate that the human population would reach eight billion people on this day.
Eight billion people on this earth. That’s a huge number by any count, and while it can stun you into certain conclusions, there’s a complex web of interacting and sometimes contradictory factors behind this statement.
Adjusting to an ageing population
The human population has grown by one billion people over the last decade, a growth rate that is unprecedented in our history. Despite this, population growth is the exception not the rule for most countries on this planet.
We will begin to see a population decline in the majority of countries, including China which is soon to be surpassed by India as the most populous country. Driven by falling birth rates and the longevity of our ageing population, more people will enter into retirement than those that enter into the workforce.
Economic impacts aside, many countries will need to re-examine, and in some cases redesign, the current systems that have been designed with a growing and youthful population in mind. This will mean our tax systems, our care and welfare systems, our health and service systems, accessibility, transport, and infrastructure will have to adjust to a larger ageing population, while also improving the quality of life and opportunities for our younger generations to thrive.
Addressing inequality and climate change
And yet, some countries will continue on their population boom. The UN’s predictions identify eight countries that will become responsible for more than half of the world’s population by 2050.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nigeria currently has a birth rate 20 times higher than that of China. With a third of people in Nigeria living in extreme poverty, the headlining concern for this population growth is food security. In fact, all eight countries expected to continue their population boom exist within regions identified as most at-risk of climate impacts such as extreme heat, rising sea-levels and extreme off-shore weather patterns. As countries develop and prosper, urbanisation draws an influx of workers from regional areas and with it expanding into arable land.
So how might we do things differently?
It’s important to credit how creative and tenacious we can be as humans, particularly when driven by a common purpose. We’ve adapted and survived pandemics, collectively reduced the emission of CFCs, decentralised currencies, created robots that combat loneliness in the elderly and developed dozens of different types of milk. The milks aside, the most reliable and hope-giving solution to the challenges we face is our ability as humans to collaborate, imagine, design and build a different future. There are so many ideas out there already, and these are just a few;
- What if the Great Seaweed Forest was our biggest tourist attraction, an underwater marine wildlife park that not only sequesters carbon but also brings back certain marine life back from extinction?
- What if local and native food systems were subsidised to become our primary access point for our everyday groceries?
- What if landfills all closed and there was no way to dispose of our waste?
- What if we went into counterurbanisation and most of our population wanted to live and work in rural or regional areas?
- What if the elderly designed our health systems and the young designed our urban landscapes?
What other ideas can you think of? Let them be as radically creative as you like.