The Black Death. The Second World War. The Industrial Revolution. The invention of modern medicine. Major events like these have had huge impacts on the world’s population of humans, which at the time of writing stands at 7,464,316,000 people.
Considering that our species emerged from sub-Saharan Africa no more than 200,000 years ago, this is one hell of a jump. To visualize the spread of humanity across the globe, the American Museum of Natural History has produced a stunning timelapse video to help you visualize it.
From the Mongol conquests to the arrival of Europeans in the New World, it reveals just how much of a difference major flashpoints in history had on our proliferation. With all the huge drops, sudden plateaus, or massive spikes in the global population, it’s difficult to pick a particularly shocking moment.
We’d argue that the jump from 1 to 7 billion in the last 200 years is probably the most striking, and the planet’s population has only just begun to slow down ever so slightly.
The rise of humanity. American Museum of Natural History via YouTube
Although birth rates are declining, death rates have plunged, and at the current rate, the global population is likely to peak at 11 billion by the end of the century. Just this year, it’s grown by 72.6 million, more than the total population of Thailand.
That’s a lot of people, and most of them – particularly if they live in developing countries – use a lot of resources. On average, each person has used up 1.2 billion liters of water this year already, mostly indirectly through energy production, food production, and so on. Each person has also generated 4 tonnes (4.4 tons) of carbon dioxide this year.
If we don’t find more efficient ways of generating electricity, producing food, or moving around the planet, we are in for a nasty shock by the time the 11 billionth baby is born.