By William J. Furney
Today, Tuesday, November 15, 2022, marks a gargantuan milestone in human history: there are now 8 billion people on planet Earth, the most of our peculiar species ever on this spinning rock and coming at a time when the world’s resources and enviroment are raped like never before and the entire, delicate ecosystem is jeopardised because of our addiction to oil and meat.
Earth’s record human population prediction for the near-end of this year is a calculation by the United Nations, with our numbers expected to keep on rising: 8.5 billion humans by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and a whopping planetary burden of 10.4 billion souls by the time 2100 arrives.
Better healthcare and new drugs to treat diseases and conditions are expanding longevity, says the world body: life expectancy was 72.8 years around the world in 2019, up nearly nine years since 1990. It’s common to live way beyond that, and my father is an example: he passed away last year aged 88, having been kept alive in his last decade by surgeries, procedures and a cocktail of medications for an array of illnesses. His father died in his late 70s.
So it’s not so much a global population explosion but more that we’re hanging around a lot longer than our ancestors. It’s not exactly down to exercise a good and healthy diet either, as rates of obesity and related diseases are soaring around the world — largely due to sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits. The point is that whatever’s wrong with you, from being badly overweight to developing cancer, picking up covid or anything else in the myriad arsenal of health-attackers, we have the drugs to treat it and keep you going.
Perhaps surprisingly, much of the predicted longevity is not occurring in the developed Western world, where much of medical advance takes place and where standards of healthcare are typically higher, but in developing nations like Nigeria, Pakistan and impoverished and war-ravaged Ethiopia, says the UN.
They join five other developing countries — Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, India, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania — where over half the forecasted global longevity is and will happen in the years to come. And India is projected to overtake China next year as the most populated country on Earth, with more than 1.4 people and 1.5 billion by the end of this decade.
“Sustained high fertility and rapid population growth present challenges to the achievement of sustainable development. The necessity of educating growing numbers of children and young people, for example, draws resources away from efforts to improve the quality of education,” the UN said in a note to its population forecast.
Apart from feeding the growing army of people on Earth, there’s also the urgent matter of what we’re going to the planet and if we are, in fact, rendering it uninhabitable. Is it sustainable, for instance, to exist on a diet rich in meat and dairy, industries that are among the worst greenhouse gas emitters and also
This year’s UN climate change conference, taking place in Egypt, is, unsurprisingly, another giant waste of time. Apart from generating enormous volumes of hot air, the only thing the more than three-week-long jamboree is contributing is tons more carbon to the atmosphere, with all the private jets flying in from around the globe so important people can talk about very little at all.
None of these Conference of the Parties (COPs) — 27 and counting; next year in Dubai — have achieved anything other than luxury trips, and being wined and dined, for those attending. Much like the irrelevant UN, designed to keep the peace and stop war from breaking out but doesn’t.
So would you be surprised if a sponsor of this year’s climate change bash was one of the world’s biggest polluters? That’s sugar-water-maker and plastic-user extraordinaire Coca-Cola. Someone, after all, has to foot the bill of the drawn-out fiesta, even amid record plastic pollution, sky-high temperatures and catastrophic storms.
“We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said at the environmental shindig. “Our planet is fast approaching tipping points that will make climate chaos irreversible.”
What’s the point of a long life if few among us will take personal responsibility for the health of our planet, and as we finally check out, we leave it trashed? A poll carried out just before last year’s climate change meeting, in Glasgow, showed that most people wanted their leaders to do something about our rapidly warming planet but they were unwilling to make any sacrifices themselves.
If we can’t make small changes ourselves — simple steps like cutting out harmful meat and diary and transitioning to an environmentally friendly plant-based diet, cycling or walking instead of driving to the shops, using less electricity, eliminating plastic and much more — then there really is no hope for us. The world is not someone else’s problem; it’s each of ours.