The number 7 billion is getting a lot of attention this year, with the world’s population estimated to hit that milestone sometime this week. Of course, for the makers of Spam 7 billion is old news; the 7 billionth can of Spam was sold back in 2007.There is the usual hand wringing from the usual suspects, but Via Meadia welcomes the 7 billionth taxpayer to our happy planet. The Malthusians, who believe population growth means nothing but more mouths to feed, greatly underestimate the potential of humans to adapt. As The Economist notes:
The earth could certainly not support 10 billion hunter-gatherers, who used much more land per head than modern farm-fed people do. But it does not have to. The earth might well not be able to support 10 billion people if they had exactly the same impact per person as 7 billion do today. But that does not necessarily spell Malthusian doom, because the impact humans have on the earth and on each other can change.
Actually, today’s population would be having mass famines if it were not for Norman Borlaug’s Green Revolution—which increased food production—in the 1960s. I can remember back in those days that overpopulation occupied the political space currently filled by the global warming movement, with foundations and governments all over the world holding conferences and publishing papers on the inevitable population crisis just ahead.The Green Revolution was just the beginning. Today, crops can be genetically enhanced to resist diseases and land previously thought barren made arable. Tomorrow, we might be able to grow Wagyu beef in a vat. With fertility rates falling almost everywhere in the world, overpopulation is unlikely to do us in.Underpopulation is something else. Infertility is already increasing drastically and everywhere, but it threatens the future of some places more than others. Countries like Russia, Italy, Germany and even China could face bleak futures unless they decide to make some more babies.Let’s hope they do; Baby Seven Billion needs friends.