Earth Hour

Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Billion and counting

Today marks a milestone in Earth's history.  Today the 7 billionth human being is born somewhere in our blue planet.  According to the United Nations, if he or she happens to be born in Japan, France, the United States or other wealthy nation, that baby will live up 100 years.

How big is 7 billion? According to the National Geographic, don't other counting it out because even if you if you spend just a second for each number, it will still take two centuries to reach that number.  If you take 7 billion steps, it will take you around the globe 133 times!  It's that big.  You may wonder how 7 billion people will fit in this tiny sphere.  Well, someone did try to determine how and by their estimates, if all 7 billion of us stand shoulder to shoulder, we will all fit in the city of Los Angeles.

Here are other interesting tidbits about us 7 billion earthlings:

  • 13% of us speak Mandarin as their first language, 5% Spanish and 5% English;
  • 19% are Chinese, 17% are Indian and only 4% are American;
  • 33% are Christian, 21% Muslim and 13% Hindu;
  • 51% of Earth's 7 billion live in Urban areas;
  • 82% of us are literates.

We should remember of course that the world population will not stop at 7 billion.  Health improvements resulted in longer life spans, improved survival of mother and child.  Also despite declining fertility rates, about 80 million people are added to the world population every year, roughly equivalent to the entire population of Germany.  If this trend continues, there will be 10 billion people on earth by the end of this century.

Aside from this, the UN has estimated that there are some 3.7 million people that are in their reproductive years.  So expect our population to further grow in the next few decades.  Much of the growth will be in Asia but Africa is fast catching up.  Fertility in the continent is double than that in Asia, so much so that its population will triple by the end of this century.  For example, Germany and Ethiopia has the same population of about 80 million.  But due to differences in fertility rate, Germany which has a fertility rate of 1.4 child per woman will see its population will go down to  75 million.  Ethiopia on the other hand with its 4.6 fertility rate will almost double its population to 145 million.

The task of providing for this 7 billion souls lies in the hands of governments around the world of course.  Part of their work should also be to educate their people on reproductive health and provide the facilities and services for the same.  They need to study and take in to consideration how to make life sustainable for all of us.  The decisions and policies that they will make today will determine the future of 7 billion people.

By the way, by time you finish reading this blog, you will be one of the more than 7 billion people in this rock we call home.

"We are 7 billion people with 7 billion possibilities"
Babatunde Osotimehin
Executive Director, UNFPA

Credits: Data and images used come from reports of the United Nations Population Fund, National Geographic,


  1. Very informative article. Thanks for sharing.

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