Demographers, keeping track of the changing numbers of human populations, both globally and country-wise, have said that the present count having reached 7.5 billion (750 crore) in April this year is estimated to increase to 11.2 billion (112 crore) in the year 2100. The annual rate of rise in the global population, peaking to 2.06 per cent between 1965-70, then declining to 1.18 percent between 2010-15, is projected to decline to 0.13 per cent by the year 2100. Further, the total number of annual births is expected to remain constant at 135 million while annual deaths which currently numbers 56 million are expected to increase to 80 million by 2040. The point to be noted is that more human beings will colonise the planet year after year prompting one to raise the issue of How many people can fit on earth?
In the backdrop of life expectancy during the Middle Ages put at 10-12 years, humans needed a reproduction rate of 80 births per 1,000 people per year in order to survive, a figure that looks very high by today’s standards, namely 23 births per 1,000 people per year. Also, half the number of people globally are of 30.1 years age (males: 29.4 years and females 30.9 years). Add to this scenario, life expectancy being in the range of 70-75 years currently, the question Can the earth support the growing population (with increased longevity)? looms large and answers need to be sought, now and hereafter.
Human beings have experienced a rather chequered journey over the last 50,000 years factored by the famed principle of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Given the fixed total space of the planet and the steadily shrinking living space per human being year on year, as in the case of the world’s two most populous countries, namely China and India, the connect between the human population and the life-supporting resources, both renewable and non-renewable, is currently getting fragile at an unprecedented pace. The optimists may remain unperturbed with their conviction about human ingenuity to bail out from hopeless situations. The pessimists, being seen as doomsday advocates may not visualise happy days ahead for all life forms on earth.
While one need not yet despair in the matter of losing out in foreseeable future, one is obliged to imagine that redemption from that fear is on the way through discoveries and inventions such as fire, wheel, electricity, fossil fuels, digital technologies and so on that have come in handy for human beings to go on without giving up. Battles have been won over centuries, but heightened efforts are needed not to lose wars ahead.