Monday 5 December 2016

We must open our minds if we are to feed seven billion mouths

Michael Hanlon

Published 01/11/2011 | 05:00

Six of the some half a million babies born around the world yesterday that pushed the global population to the milestone of seven billion
Six of the some half a million babies born around the world yesterday that pushed the global population to the milestone of seven billion

Happy birthday, baby seven billion, Danica May Camacho. Born on Sunday night in Manila, you won't know about your demographic celebrity -- which is likely to be short-lived, as was that of Adnan Nevic, the equally arbitrary baby six billion, born just 12 years ago in Bosnia. And some time in the late 2020s, baby eight billion will arrive.

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Since 1880, the world population has doubled and doubled again, and this has changed the face of the planet. We (hopefully) won't see a further doubling, but even the best-case projections see the human tide topping out at around nine to 10 billion in the 2060s.

I am an optimist; I think we will cope, just -- but it won't be easy. I know that to stand a chance of keeping an extra two or three billion people fed, watered and sheltered in the decades ahead without completely ruining our planet, we are going to have to abandon our bizarre, decadent aversion to 'risky' new technologies. The alternative? An awful lot of dead black and brown people.

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