Will there be too many humans on Earth one day?


The problem is not one of numbers, but of energy and the environment. If the 7.5 billion inhabitants of our planet all adopted the polluting Western way of life, the world’s resources would be exhausted very quickly and life as we know it would become impossible. Yet the Earth could sustain 12 billion humans with the living standards of people in India or Africa. The 6.3 billion inhabitants of the poor countries have a much smaller impact on the planet than the 1.3 billion living in rich countries.

The challenge for the future is to maintain the well-being of populations in the North while improving the living conditions of people in the South and reducing the impact of development on the planet. It is a truism to believe that humans would live better if there were fewer of them. Our ancestors in 1800, totalling no more than one billion in all, lived very harsh lives and were frequently decimated by famine. Their life expectancy was no more than 25 or 30 years. In just two centuries we have made enormous progress while multiplying our numbers by 7. Tomorrow, we could well reach 11 billion and there is space for everyone. The key issue to address will be the problem of inequality.

Source:UN, World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision. New York: United Nations.