Feature

Crowded planet: is Earth's population getting too large?

G Magazine

When will Earth reach breaking point?

Hand crushing world globe

Credit: iStockphoto

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As websites go, World Clock - created by media group Poodwaddle - is a compelling piece of work.

Click on it and a colour chart displays our planet's vital signs: human birth rates, death rates, disease levels and a host of other measurements.

The top line is the most dramatic, however. It shows that Earth is now inhabited by more than 6,700,000,000 people and that number continues to rise at a staggering rate.

Watch the site and its whirling digits. After a minute the population figure rises by 145, an increase of more than two people per second.

Click elsewhere and other startling statistics flash before the eye. In those same 60 seconds, 52,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide are pumped into the atmosphere; around 25 hectares of rainforest are lost; while encroaching deserts conquer a further 10 hectares of the Earth's surface.

Our ecological woes are piling up before our eyes - and there is no doubt among many politicians, campaigners, environmentalists and scientists as to their cause: humanity's swelling numbers.

Use of oil, land and water is rising dramatically because numbers of people are rising dramatically. And according to statisticians, this trend will continue for another 40 years until - around 2050 - the world's population will finally reach a plateau of nine billion people, an increase of more than a third on its current level.

Our world is going to be jam-packed.

A population the size of Germany's is being added to the planet each year, with the equivalent of one new city added every day.

Swelling numbers

Australia's population now stands at 21.5 million and by 2050 is expected to reach around 33 million, an increase of more than 50 per cent, and one - in percentage terms - that will far outstrip the world's average population rise.

Today there is one birth every one minute and 51 seconds in Australia compared with one death every three minutes and 48 seconds, says the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

There is also a net gain to the population of one international migrant every two minutes and 58 seconds, which adds up to an overall increase of one person every one minute and 37 seconds.

Hence that swell in numbers, which will continue on for several more decades until they reach that whopping figure of 33 million in 2050 (though less conservative estimates put forward figures as high as 42.5 million).

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