World population topped 7.3 billion earlier this year.
Just to put it into perspective, when we add 1/10th of a billion in a little over a year, it’s a number equal to the combined population of our four most populous states: California, Texas, New York and Florida.
When I was born in 1945, there were less than 2.5 billion people on this planet. During my lifetime, our population has tripled. And, if I live long enough, it may even quadruple during my watch.
Let’s take a look at population growth numbers since humans emerged as a species 200,000 years ago:
- It took us 199,800 years to reach one billion in 1804.
- But only 123 years to reach two billion in 1927; then, we needed just:
- 32 years to reach 3 billion in 1959
- 15 years to reach 4 billion in 1974
- 13 years to reach 5 billion in 1987
- 12 years to reach 6 billion in 1999
- 12 years to reach 7 billion in 2011
- 4 years to reach 7.3 billion in 2015
The good news is that the number of years it takes to add one billion people appears to have stabilized at twelve or thirteen. The bad news is that, if we continue adding one billion every 13 years, we’ll reach TWELVE BILLION in 2076, when the average age of my grandchildren will be 70, which is my age today.
To celebrate my 70th this year, I skied down a mountain and across a pond; well, partway across a pond (See video below). I wonder what my grandkids will be doing when they turn 70? What kind of world are we leaving for them? I say “we” because most of the damage inflicted by humans on this planet’s fragile ecosystem has occurred during my lifetime.
To clarify, I am not just talking about population growth. That is just part of the problem. The other part is the way we live–as millions of people start to eat meat, drive cars, fly in jet airplanes, use air conditioning and live in big homes–the rate of depletion of finite natural resources keeps rising. In a recent blog, I posted some of those numbers from Emmott’s book, TEN BILLION:
- In 1960, we flew 62 billion passenger miles. In 1980, we flew 620 billion miles, and in 2012, the number was 4 trillion.
- As for automobiles. In 1960, there were 100 million on the road. In 1980, there were 300 million. Now there are one billion.
- It gets worse, we’re currently on track to produce four billion cars in the next forty years–after it took us 112 years to produce the first two billion.
- We’ll also need to produce more food in those forty years than we have produced in the past 10,000 years combined.
Time out for one minute. Enjoy!
Meanwhile, back to the harsh reality of the 21st century on planet Earth.
Doom and Gloom? NO! Sometimes, I feel like I am repeating the same message with every article or chapter that I write. But I am not a “doom and gloom” kind of guy. I am generally an optimist, but first and foremost, I am a realist.
And the REAL DEAL about all of the above is there is no way that we can support 12 billion people on this planet–without radically changing the way we live. Stephen Emmott summed it this way in his book:
Deforestation. Desertification. Species extinction. Global warming. Growing threats to food and water. These driving issues of our times are the result of one huge problem: Us.
And since he doesn’t see any urgent move in the direction of “radical” change, he has concluded that the human civilization as we know it is now in its last century. But I think there is still hope.
And that hope hinges on figuring out a way to “radically” change our food choices. By simply taking the animal out of the equation, we can easily feed the world’s 7.3 billion with 75% less land and water, while reducing energy consumption by up to 30 percent. Just think about the ecological impact of those three things.
As all of that land (formerly used for growing food animals) is returned to nature, we take a big step in the right direction when it comes to healing our fragile ecosystem. We also buy ourselves enough time to solve the more difficult challenges of overpopulation, overconsumption and over-dependence on fossil fuels. Even Stephen Emmott agrees that moving toward a plant-based diet for humans would result in a HUGE positive impact on our environment.
The beauty about changing our food choices is twofold. First, it would have a greater positive ecological impact of ALL other possible initiatives combined. Second, since any person can change their food choices overnight, this powerful initiative can happen very quickly. Other challenges, like curbing overpopulation or overconsumption, will take many decades, if not centuries to resolve.
What can you do? You can start by getting the “animal out of the equation” in your own diet. You can also become a part of this discussion. You can ask other people to look at the simple arithmetic that any 3rd grader could understand. You can challenge the “leaders” that you know about the unsustainable nature of our lifestyle. You can ask them why no one in power ANYWHERE is talking about this crucial topic. Finally, you can invite me to speak at your company, church, university or club.
For more information, take a look at a few of my earlier blogs on this topic. Let’s not let our entire “world” go the way of Easter Island (second article below). The first article is about my grandchildren’s lives–in the last half of this century.
Coming Soon, Our New Book: 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health
- 2-5-14. Solitude of the cemetery; a place for soul-searching
- 8-9-13. Were humans the “infestation” of Easter Island?
- 1-25-14. NOTHING is more Important than Sustainability!
- 10-23-13. Tearing down the single biggest roadblock to sustainability
The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.
Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
- What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
- A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
- Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander.
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes 2 or 3 minutes. eCornell is now using our survey in their plant-based nutrition course. Check it out on your smartphone at eCornell.com/4Leaf-Survey.
International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.
To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf Program and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.
Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:
That is not me. I am hostile by nature and my attitude is screw the people. I have no sympathy for all the SAD eaters, they will all get what they deserve.
The knowledge is out there so why do we have to take the condescending approach trying to affect change. No matter what approach we take nothing will change . . . nothing is forever, not even death.
I didn’t know you were writing another book – what is the title?
Hi Sal, I always look forward to your comments on my most provocative blogposts. There is a piece in our new book that may be helpful for you. Maybe if you had followed this procedure, you would still be invited to family gatherings. As for your “broccoli sermon,” here is a summary of my thoughts about proselytizing in Chapter 34:
1. Never offer unsolicited advice to anyone.
2. Don’t make negative comments about an unhealthy looking meal someone else is eating.
3. Never talk about health or diet with anyone unless they ask for your opinion.
4. When people do ask for information, try to keep your initial response to a minimum. If they want to know more, they will ask.
5. Try to keep delicate discussions one-on-one. If someone asks about your eating philosophy in front of a lot of people, try to offer a concise, courteous response–then offer to continue the conversation later over a healthy meal.
6. If someone seems genuinely interested in hearing more, encourage them to give you a call later.
Your description of the problem we as humans face in the sustainability of our species is logically perfect. But we are dealing with far too many imperfect people. In my family no one has yet made the change to a plant based diet. They are tired of listening to my preaching of the BROCCOLI SERMON. It’s gotten so bad, I’m now Persona Non Grata. I don’t get invited to the family holiday dinners.
This plant eater is now a social outcast.
I still say the only way change will ever happen is if mankind is on the verge of becoming extinct (and wouldn’t all the earth’s animals love it.)
Jim, maybe you should become the Messiah? You have the passion. No one else seems to want the job, not even the Pope.
Yes, Jim, people are still eating hamburgers, and now even the Asians. We sure are making progress (?) Reminds me of the song, God Bless America, Land of the Obese.