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The Preachy Blog

Seven billion

Yellow bellied sapsucker small brown (unidentifed) lizard blue sea slug spider in web

10/14/2011 -- Seven billion

Roughly 3 years ago the population counter on ysmad's homepage showed "6,700,000,000", 6.7 billion people. This month, the human population on Earth will have added 300 million more of its species. An article on "" put it like that: "There are plenty of reasons to feel queasy while looking at the bacteria-like rate of growth on world population charts. The most obvious question in my mind: where are the walls of our petri dish?".

Looking at the graph on the same page it seems regardless how far the walls are away, they will be reached soon with our staggering exponential growth the last couple decades. Other life is vanishing - preachy assertion! - at a similar rate. We can not take inventory of the species around us fast enough, as they are disappearing. We catalog e.g. by "critically endangered", "endangered", "vulnerable", and start counting individuals of remaining species. In their issue 10/2008 National Geographic listed all remaining (adult) individuals of the North Atlantic right whale, on three pages. About whooping cranes I just learnt that crane "W1-06" had offspring in May, which was worth a press release. Involved conservationists are hoping to (re-)establish three self-sustaining flocks. This will allow us to consider the species one level less threatened. Three flocks of a bird species! Alarmingly meager goals we have to set ourselves for saving fellow creatures on this planet, from ourselves.

This planet was once teeming with flocks of birds, so large, they were "darkening the sky" and needed "days to pass". It is beyond imagination to what extent we reduced life in just a few hundred years (recommended read: "Sea of Slaughter"). Back then there were just a half to one billion of us; this month we'll be seven billion, in 13 years we'll be eight billion.

There are limits to growth. Let's hope at the upper end of the curve there will be enough environment left to sustain us, somewhat content with whatever remains. "The greatest challenge of the twenty-first century is to settle humanity down and accommodate 8 to 10 billion people with a decent standard of living before they wreck the planet. (...) Humanity's responsibility to the rest of life and to future generations is clear: bring with us as much of the environment and biodiversity through the bottleneck [of peak-population] as possible." (Edward O. Wilson in a foreword to "The Diversity of Life")

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