This is a world population graph compiled by the United Nations. It is the most depressing graph I’ve ever seen –aside from the one that shows the number of bone lesions I have. That one is a bit more personal in terms of impact, but still, the one I show here is pretty depressing. The black portion of the graph represents estimates of the population based on incomplete census information and educated guesses. It turns blue where we have actual counts to back up the basis for the graph. Where it bursts into three colors is where it gets depressing. While it might appear that the colors represent good, medium and bad, the red line just climbs at the rate the population is growing now. The green line represents the population growth assuming we suffer a pandemic similar to the Black Plague and the yellow represents the fall off of growth due to lack of resources.
Of course, the yellow line also assumes that all of the water and arable land is available for human use. It doesn’t take into consideration the pollution of water or the loss of arable land due to pollution, climate change and the various ways we have found to make growing things unlikely if not impossible. We know right off the bat that the numbers used in the graph for that yellow line are suspect because we already know that we don’t have the agriculture and fisheries we did just ten years ago. So no matter what, the population is going to start to decrease its growth, and the decrease isn’t going to be pleasant. It’s for sure it’ll be crowded.
In truth, I don’t really believe in this graph. I tend to believe that we will continue to alter the variables upon which the graph is based. Another way to say that is that I think this graph is pretty optimistic and the realities are going to cull the human herd more rapidly than even the green line predicts. I’d like to think that I’m perhaps a bit more objective in my predictive estimate because, after all, I don’t –as they say– have a dog in the hunt. I will be gone before the year 2020 rolls around thanks to Agent Orange, one of the pollutants that’s been raising the number of cancer diagnosis’ so radically. Then again, maybe I’m just a pessimist.
But no one seems to be arguing that cities like Las Vegas and even Los Angeles are in serious jeopardy of running out of potable water, or that we have reached the tipping point at which we cannot stop the climate changes imparted by carbon dioxide levels. There is no question that we have depleted our fisheries and that ocean currents are slowing and creating more catastrophic weather events. If that wasn’t bad enough, more and more of the world seems intent on finding reasons not to get along and thinks their differences in opinion are worth killing over.
In the end I guess it doesn’t matter whether I’m an optimist or pessimist, the graph is still bad news.