For Your Consideration - Thom Barker

For Your Consideration - Thom Barker

Who will be eight billionth person

As we rapidly approach a population of eight billion living persons on the planet, it is amazing to think we only reach one billion for the first time around 200 years ago. It took more than 100 years to double from reaching two billion around 1927.

After that it exploded, adding the next billion in just 33 years to three billion in 1960 and again in just 14 years to four billion in 1974.

Since then the time elapsed for each additional billion has largely levelled off with new billionth milestones being reached every 12 to 14 years in or around 1987 (five billion), 1999 (six billion), 2012 (seven billion), Eight billion is projected for 2023-2027, nine billion between 2037 and 2046 and 10 billion by 2054-2071.

The gaps in the projected years here stem from the differences between United States Census Bureau and United Nations estimates.

I got thinking about population last week when I was researching my column on the woman in Golden, B.C. who had a meteorite land on her bed while she was sleeping. I ended up dismissing the idea that population had any appreciable impact on the probability of experiencing such an incident, but came across a fascinating little tidbit about billionth person milestones.

Since the Day of Five Billion, which was officially designated as July 11, 1987, by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), an individual baby has been symbolically chosen to represent the population milestone.

That year, the honour went to Matej Gašpar from Zagreb, Croatia because the Summer Universiade, the world’s premier biannual university sports and cultural event was held in that city in 1987.

Of course, it is impossible to pinpoint the exact person, or even the exact day (and possibly even the right year) of a population changeover, but given the increasing significance of the number of people alive at any given time on the Earth, it is certainly something worthy of consideration.

The Day of Six Billion, originally designated as Oct. 11, 1999 by the UNPF, was officially marked by the birth of Adnan Mević, a boy in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina where UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was monitoring the progress of the peace accord brought about by the Dayton Agreement signed four years earlier.

In 2011, with the imminence of the seven billionth person, Ban Ki-moon decided not to carry on the tradition of naming a symbolic person to mark the estimated date of Oct. 31. Instead, the UN Secretary-General promoted the website 7 Billion Actions, an initiative to encourage people to reflect on living on a planet with seven billion other humans and take individual incremental action that combined would add up to monumental collective results.

In the absence of a UN seventh billion person, Plan International nominated Nargis Kumar, a baby girl born in Uttar Pradesh state in India to focus attention on the practice of selective abortion of girls and India’s skewed gender ratio.

I think the concept of assigning an individual baby as the symbolic eight billionth person to draw attention to a worthy cause is interesting although I can’t imagine it being all that effective.

Nevertheless, we should be very concerned about unsustainable population growth and all the inherent issues that go along with it.