The world's population reaches seven billion
It was a scary Halloween this year – and not just because of the typical onslaught of eerie zombie costumes, creepy haunted houses, and expensive cavities. This Halloween was scary because the Population Division of the United Nations stated that 31 October 2011 marks the time when the world starts counting it’s population at seven billion.
According to the International Database of the United States Census Bureau, it took humankind until 1804 to hit the first one billion people. It then took 123 years, until 1927 to reach the second billion. The third billion was reached 33 years afterwards, in 1960. The years in between each billion people get much smaller as time passes – 14 years (1974) for the fourth billion, 13 years (1987) for the fifth billion, and then twelve years (1999) until the sixth billion. Having been in fourth grade, I remember the news articles from the time of the sixth billionth person fairly well.
And now, just another 12 short years after 1999, we’ve hit the seven billionth person.
As we all know, more crowding means more trouble – for the earth and for its inhabitants. But instead of lamenting the scary reality that this Halloween brought the world, it is more productive to discuss and act on ways to ensure that the next generation has fewer problems than the ones our current generation was given.
I do not believe that the world will be free of suffering in the next few years, when the 2015 deadline for the UN Millennium Development Goals hits. But I do believe that deadlines, as well as the recognition of this next billion people, require one to really make that extra push to reduce global poverty. I believe it is possible for there to be fewer deaths by malaria in the next generation, because we’ve already made such incredible advances. I believe it is possible that there will be fewer wars fought over religious or ethnic differences, because educating children about the humanity of “others” will positively influence their lives. And I believe that, above all, we’ll never know if peace can be a reality unless we try with all we have.
For me, when I get discouraged, I try to keep in mind a passage from my own faith, as it states in Pirke Avot 2:21 that each person “is not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Just because we may not necessarily believe that the end goal is within our grasp just yet, does not mean we are permitted to abandon the struggle. Doing our part – however small it may be – is what matters most.
Happy seven billion!