Population Overload - Editorial

Things are getting a bit crowded around here.

By “here,” we don’t just mean Cape Cod, where the summer stop-and-go traffic season has officially begun. We mean out there—in the real world: off-Cape, across the state, the region, the entire country; the world, even. It’s getting crowded.

Seven billion, 173 million. That was the population of the world as of 10:55 AM on June 19, according to the United States Census Bureau’s real-time population clock at www.census.gov/popclock.

The clock on the website looks like an old time odometer on a car, with a segmented, rolling cylinder keeping track of the growing number of people across the planet. On Wednesday, the numbers were spinning quickly.

The rate of population growth is dizzying, when you think about it.

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There are about three babies born every second worldwide, according to the census bureau’s website. This works out to 180 babies born every minute; 10,800 babies every hour. At this rate, it would take just two hours to birth enough babies to match this town’s current population.

Conversely, there are about 1.5 deaths every second (90 every minute; 5,400 every hour). That means that births outpace deaths by 2 to 1.

And as population number rise, so too does the rate of growth. More people, more babies.

In 1800, the world’s population stood at roughly 1 billion people. It took 150 years to more than double the population to 2.5 billion in 1950. But just 40 years to about double again to 5.2 billion in 1990.

We got the bee of world population growth in our bonnet recently while reading a book by author Dan Brown of “The Da Vinci Code” fame. The book was titled “Inferno” and was about a genius scientist/madman obsessed with Dante’s Inferno and intent on stemming world overpopulation by releasing a plague.

Setting the plague idea aside for a moment, the book drove home the reality of humankind’s proclivity to procreate. If population growth continues on its current upward spiraling path, it begs the question of how much longer can our tiny planet continue to provide for us? How soon until we reach the tipping point?

We would rather not think too long about the possibility of a mass extinction event like Dan Brown’s fictional plague or a global nature disaster intervening to set the population clock back.

Perhaps the answer to our predicament lies out in space; perhaps colonies on the moon. As “out there” as it seems, that’s a far less dismal scenario than a mass die-off.

Perhaps this editorial will give readers some food for thought next time they are stuck in a traffic trying to get from Point A to Point B some Sunday afternoon this summer on the Cape.

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