The Population Boom
At the dawn of agriculture in 8000 BC, a mere 5 million homo sapiens roamed the vast, open lands of the Earth. Over the next 8,000 years, the number steadily grew to 200 million but it was not until the year 1800 that the world population reached 1 billion and set in motion the industrial revolution, substantially altering the rate of expansion. The second billion emerged 130 years later, in 1930. The third in another 30 years, the fourth in 15 and the fifth in 13 years in 1987. Today, the world population stands at 7.9 billion people and is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050.
A massive population expansion comes at a significant environmental cost. The limited resources of the planet need to host 7.9 billion people with ever growing demands and tackle the waste they generate. Having crossed the tipping points for carrying capacity of the Earth, the current population consumes renewable resources of 1.7 Earths and if the trends continue, by 2050 we will require resources equivalent to 3 Earths. According to the Australian Academy of Science, the impact of so many humans on the environment takes two major forms:
Consumption of resources such as land, food, water, air, fossil fuels and minerals.
Waste products as a result of consumption such as air and water pollutants, toxic materials and greenhouse gases.
Humans today extract and use about 60 billion tons of raw materials a year, 50% more natural resources than only 30 years ago. Global freshwater withdrawals have tripled over the last 50 years. Demand for freshwater is increasing by 64 billion cubic meters a year. Additionally, humans generate around 381 million tons of plastic waste, 50 million tons of electrical waste, 7.2 million tons of food waste and emit over 40 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually.
To describe the impact of so many people on the planet, scientists have coined a new term- the Anthropocene epoch. Unlike previous geological epochs, where various geological and climate processes defined the time periods, the Anthropecene period is named for the dominant influence human activities have on the environment.
Human activities have accelerated the species extinction rate 100-1000 times the normal background rate of extinction. During the glacial and interglacial cycles of the past million years, natural processes varied CO2 by approximately 100 ppm (from 180 ppm to 280 ppm). As of 2021, net emissions of CO2 have increased atmospheric concentration from 280 ppm to 415 ppm, thus disturbing the natural climate and ecosystem services.
A massive population exerts massive pressure on the planet’s natural systems and is an issue that cannot be ignored. We can all do our bit to reduce our own environmental footprint and the combined impact of billions of other footprints will add up towards a sustainable world.
Governments around the world have begun recognizing the seriousness of the situation and are taking steps to reduce the environmental impacts of increasing populations, consumption and pollution through pollution reduction targets for air, soil and water pollutants. However, international policies need to be supported by workable solutions at the individual, local and regional levels as well.
Halo.eco provides everyone (individual or business) a means to leave a positive impact on our environment. Through our Halo metric, money raised is directed towards funding projects that offset carbon, prevent ocean plastic, plant trees and support sustainable communities. Better management of resources can enable everyone to become an active part of a sustainable world that can address population growth.
curious. (2017, November 7). Population and environment: a global challenge. https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/population-environment
Resources & consumption. (2021, June 16). Population Matters. https://populationmatters.org/resources-consumption
The World Counts. (2020). World Waste Facts. https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/planet-earth/state-of-the-planet/world-waste-facts/story