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In the NY Times: How 10 Billion Can Survive


The New York Times "Room for Debate" series brings together a half-dozen or so experts to offer diverse opinions on the news. I was asked to contribute to the conversation about the new UN report claiming a global population of 10 billion people by 2100, and my piece is now up.

Population projections 90 years out – even 40 years out – are risky. There are big challenges to human civilization already under way this century, such as climate disruption and food sustainability, and more on the horizon. If any of them hit as hard as we fear, or if our responses are insufficient, there’s little likelihood that Earth’s population would get to 10 billion people. In a way, getting there would be a sign of successful navigation of this century’s problems.

It goes on from there.

I'm particularly pleased with the point made in the last sentence of that paragraph -- it's a reframing of the issue that I haven't seen elsewhere. But it's true: given the scale of the challenges we'll face this century, if we do end up with a planet of 10 billion people in 2100, it can only be because we've successfully managed the cascading crises. Ten billion in 2100 is a positive sign, not a negative one.


Considering that the global population is almost at 7 billion right now, and that just 12 years ago we were at about 6 billion, it's possible that by 2100 that we will far exceed 10 billion. But if we can control it and keep it even then I also think that's a happy dilemma. I once read this really cooky book called The Only Planet Of Choice, which had a woman "channeling aliens". It was interesting to say that least, and this being from another planet said that the world could hold up to 20 billion. I wonder how accurate that is?

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