On 15 November 2022, the human population reached 8 billion. Biodiversity loss, climate change, pollution, deforestation, water and food shortage – these are all exacerbated by our huge and ever-increasing numbers. Our impact on the environment is a product of our consumption and our numbers.
Current world population
Until the time of Napoleon, there were less than 1 billion people on Earth at any one time. Since the Second World War, we have been adding a billion people to the global population every 12-15 years. Our population is more than double today what it was in 1970.
The latest UN Population Projections, released in July this year, show that small variations in family size could make the difference of nearly 8 billion people by 2100 (as seen below, low- vs. high-fertility scenarios).
There are a number of actions we need to take to reduce the impact of those of us already here – especially the richest of us who have the largest environmental impact – including through reducing consumption to sustainable levels, and systemic economic changes. One of the most effective steps we can take to reduce our collective environmental impact is to choose smaller family size and empower those who can’t make that choice freely to do so.
As our Director, Robin Maynard, recently put it in a letter to the Guardian:
The solutions to population are proven, affordable and available: women’s empowerment, universal quality education, accessible healthcare and fairer shares of our world’s resources. What’s lacking is the honesty to acknowledge this elephant in the room, and the commitment to act.Robin Maynard
Only Connect: Population & Planet – by Robin Maynard, Director, Population Matters
Do we really have 8 billion opportunities? – by Florence Blondel, Content and Campaigns Specialist, Population Matters