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8 Billion Souls

World population is projected to reach a new milestone — 8 billion people — tomorrow on November 15, 2022. According to United Nations Population Fund chief Natalia Kanem:

“Eight billion people, it is a momentous milestone for humanity, yet, I realize this moment might not be celebrated by all. Some express concerns that our world is overpopulated. I am here to say clearly that the sheer number of human lives is not a cause for fear.”

As usual, I beg to differ: the“sheer number of human lives” is a big issue — although far from being the only factor behind the woes of our civilization. Consumption, pollution load, technology use and inequality (among many other things) also play their roles. Since this is a major milestone in human history though, I felt the need to discuss the effect of population growth separated from these other topics, examining its upshot on our, and on future generations’ lives.

Being fully aware that this is a highly controversial topic, I suggest a simple thought experiment to somewhat distance ourselves from the emotions raised by this issue. Whenever I’m confronted with a difficult question like this (Is hitting 8 billion good or bad news? Are we headed in the right or wrong direction?) I always try to imagine two very extreme outcomes and see which one is better, and ultimately where should we — in my opinion — be headed. (Before you label the author an ‘ecofascist’ I’m not contemplating here on how to reduce living populations, but rather on long term trajectories and their sustainability.)

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