World Population Growth Charts

MORE Than Exponential

(2009 Jan blog post)

(More world-maps and reference-data links MAY be added.)

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It seems that the vast majority of people on this earth are blissfully unaware of how fast the human population on our blue marble (Earth) has been exploding --- since the 'Black Plague'. See the two graphs below.

That little dip, around 1400, when the plague occurred, was a huge thing at the time. But, in terms of population impact, from the point of view of someone looking back from the current vantage point, about 600 years later, the plague did not slow down human population growth much at all. See the "we are here" graph below.

If you took some algebra in high school, you may remember that if we plot data points that represent exponential growth on a 'logarithmic y scale', the 'log plot' curve should look like a straight line.

However if you plot human population growth in a 'log plot', you will see that human population is still growing above a straight line that you would draw through data points from about 1000 B.C. to about 1000 A.D. See the log-plot graph below. In words, human population on Earth is growing much faster than exponentially, from year 0 to year 2010.

So when you see the phrase "human population is growing exponentially", you can see, from the log plot above, that that is a gross understatement. And a statement like "human population is exploding" does not adequately convey how fast the growth is. Most people probably have a rather subdued image in their minds of what "exploding" means in the case of human population growth.

If logarithms do not have much meaning to you, see the comments on the graph below. Note that it took about 123 years for the world human population to go from 1 billion to 2 billion --- from about 1804 to about 1927. But nowadays, in the 1950 to 2050 timeframe, we are adding about a billion people every dozen years --- that is, about 10 times faster than only a couple of hundred years ago.


Even if you take a strict biblical view --- that man did not exist on earth before about 5500 B.C. --- the growth picture is the same. You can click on the chart below to see an enlarged version, on which you can see various biblical events and personages labelled along the graph --- including Adam, the Flood, Moses, and Jesus. (The pre-Flood population figures are probably quite controversial.)

Since census data became available for many countries of the world only in the 1900's, you might wonder where the population data for these graphs came from.

There have been quite a few people through the last several hundred years who have put together estimates of world population for previous centuries. You can use Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population) as a starting point for information.

And a specific reference, from the U.S. Census Bureau can be seen here (www.census.gov/ipc/www/worldhis.html). It cites about seven different sources (Biraben, Durand, Haub, McEvedy, Thomlinson, United Nations, and U.S. Census Bureau) for data points between 10,000 B.C. and 1950.

Most humans do not seem to be aware of the implications of this accelerating human population growth --- namely,

  • more wars -- over resources such as food, water, fuel, minerals --- in addition to the current religious and territorial wars

  • wiping out other forms of animal life --- not only species that man does not directly need for survival (tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos, crocodiles, etc. --- bye, bye --- good thing we have pictures and movies of them on the internet), but also food-fuel-lubricant species such as fish, shellfish, whales, etc.

  • wiping out plants --- forests and brushland that we need for oxygen as well as for fuel and paper and chemicals and pharmaceuticals

  • more disease -- not only because of sewage disposal issues, but also closer proximity and more contact

  • atmospheric pollution --- air and temperature

  • water pollution --- including ocean pollution

  • disappearing farm land

  • and many more things degenerating or disappearing, things that man needs and/or values.

The map below indicates the countries where most of the growth is occurring. Note that most of the fast growth is in Africa and the Middle East --- the explosive zones, one might say.

Growth is relatively low in the U.S., Europe, Russia --- and Greenland.

A 2 to 3 percent annual growth rate does not sound like much --- but it is going to lead to enormous strains on the resources and quality of life on our "blue marble".

Compounded annually, a 3 percent growth rate is about 1.03 to the 10th over 10 years, which is a 34 percent increase --- a factor of 1.34 increase over 10 years.

And, compounded annually a 3 percent growth rate is about 1.03 to the 50th over 50 years, which is a 338 percent increase in the population --- a factor of 4.38 increase over 50 years.

The map below shows the most populous countries in darker shades of blue. The U.S., Russia, and Brazil seem to have similar population levels --- about a quarter of a billion people each. China and India, the only two countries to have a population greater than 1 billion, together possess more than a third of the world's population.

Heaven help my children. May they and their fellow world-dwellers find a way to cope with this situation and keep our blue pearl blue.

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Posted 2009 Jan 05.
Changed to allow for better printing 2009 Aug 23.
Changed page format slightly 2013 Apr 26.


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