It’s safe to say that we know rapid human population growth is an issue today. However, has it always been this way? Not necessarily. In fact, population growth actually used to be quite slow. Our increase in numbers is a phenomenon that occurred (and rapidly increased) over several periods of time throughout history.
Keep in mind that we as a species are pretty young compared to everything else that has inhabited this planet before us; even still, we’ve managed to use our brief time here on this earth to quite literally multiply our figures very quickly. We’ve actually spent more of our history being concerned with how we’re going to increase the population rather than stop the growth. War deaths, plagues, short lifespans, and infant mortality rates used to dominate the planet and hinder our growth as a species.
Beginning in 2012, over 80 million are added to the world each year. After 2013, the human population became around 7 billion people. Today, around 7.3 billion people inhabit earth. As for the future? The UN estimates that our global population will round out to be around 11.2 billion by the year 2100.
As said before, things weren’t always this way. During the what is known as the pre-agricultural period (aka, anything occurring around 10,000 years ago or prior to that), human growth was very slow. People relied on the development of tools and other new inventions, as well as migration to other regions of the world, in order to survive, and it took a great effort just to double the population (this alone even took thousands of years). At the resolution of this period, it was estimated that the population fell somewhere between 5-10 million people.
Following this, the agricultural period came underway (this was the period around 10,000-1,000 years ago). This was a time in which human development arguably began to skyrocket. Basically, we started doing a bunch of stuff to make lives easier for ourselves. Efficiency became a real word during this time (I actually have no idea when this word was invented, but you know what I mean) as humans began to take part in a major system of developments throughout the world. Animals become domesticated, and labor became easier with the development of new farming techniques (ex. irrigation, plowing, etc.). Because of this new way of life, it was easier for humans to build their population than before. At the end of this time, the population was around 500 million people (a larger and much more rapid increase than before).
However, it wasn’t until the industrial period brought about the Industrial Revolution that the population really began to skyrocket as we know today. At first, technological advances played a somewhat minimal role in this new growth. Later on, beginning in the 1800s, rapid agricultural advances and changes allowed for people to survive longer because of an increase of food and other resources. Technology further grew, and soon advances in the workplace as well as advances by means of medicine began to increase the human lifespan. The need for sanitation in the workplace and other areas became more acknowledged. During this period alone, the population grew from around 500 million to the 7.3 billion we have today.
The fear now is that we, as a species, have begun to outgrow our resources. With growing numbers, we require more and more stuff to sustain ourselves. The amount of humans on this earth is positively correlated with the amount of resources that we use up, and each of these factors are rapidly increasing. We are now concerned with carrying capacity, a concept used to describe the maximum amount of a species that the environment can handle given the amount of food, water, and other resources that he environment possess. Have we begun to exceed that number? Perhaps so.