Other than today being Halloween, it is also the day that the U.N. has designated as “7 billionth” person day. Read this past blog post for some of the details behind counting the population and why the 7 billionth person might not arrive until next year or much later. I understand the pressure put upon the U.N. for predicting (based on models) when the 7 billionth person will be born, but mainstream media sources are taking it too far, saying that it will be exactly today and that the person will be born in India. The fact is no one knows for sure how many people are on the planet and who will be the 7 billionth person or even where that person will be born. The date, the number, and the place, are a crap-shoot, essentially made up. To satisfy political and media pressure, someone (the U.N.) had to put a date on it.
Even though we don’t know the exact time or even if the world will ever reach 7 billion (a very remote possibility), we do know that 7 billion is a lot. It is a big number for a mammal on the earth. We basically dominate the planet. Here is a good article that puts some of it into perspective. I think there are enough people on the planet. If the population growth rate continues to decline and the population is lower in a couple of decades, I would be just fine with that. If the population continues to grow, hopefully we will be innovative enough to find ways to support a larger population and maintain a high quality of life.
One thing I have written about is how the American style of life (build, build build, expand, expand, expand), is probably not sustainable in the present day, much less the future. The Concrete Life, is a good blog post to review these thoughts. In the Concrete Life I brought to life the idea that we can no longer afford to support urban sprawl. Just this weekend I found someone one else who has written about this topic and presented it in a more graphical format. Check it out here. It might bring the financial aspects of sprawl into more focus. Interestingly, this presentation focuses on Minnesota (like I did) and shows how new infrastructure projects will cost much more than the tax-base can support.
Not only can the American build, build, build, economy not be supported by current GDP, it can also lead to pollution problems. Luckily, here in the U.S. we got through our major pollution problems back in the late 1800s through the middle of the 1900s. Almost every metric of pollution in the air, water, and soil has gotten better over the last couple of decades. The types of pollution we deal with nowadays – light, noise, sprawl – is much less toxic than in the past. This is not the case in India and China. These countries are growing more wealthy and unfortunately seem to be following the American path. I would never deny anyone (Chinese or otherwise) their dream house, dream life, dream property/land, or business, I just hope they learn from our mistakes and don’t end up with millions of acres of unsustainable sprawl. It doesn’t look good right now. India and China have some of the worst air and water pollution in the world right now, including some of the worst mercury pollution. In just the last couple of days the U.S. embassy in Beijing declared the air hazardous for human health. The smog was so thick it caused flight cancellations and highways to be shut down.
Have a happy Halloween! Meteorologist Justin Loew
This post was written by jloew on October 31, 2011