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8 Billion and Counting: The World Population and the Environment

December 28, 2022

Prior to 1800, the population around the globe changed and grew at a relatively slow rate. The world population from 10,000 BC to 1700 only grew at a rate of about .04% annually. This growth rate remained consistent until after the 1800s. Starting at this time, however, a drastic jump can be seen on an international scale, with an increase from an estimated one billion people in 1800 to the 8 billion people who now inhabit the earth. 

The world population is now eight times what it was 222 years ago. In fact, it is estimated that 6.5% of all people born in the history of humanity are alive today. Such a drastic change is astonishing and can be credited to a variety of factors. Everything from scientific breakthroughs and improved medical practices to enhanced understanding surrounding hygiene, diet, and exercise have allowed the world to expand its population like never before. 

However, a unique characteristic of 1800 stands out as one of the primary factors responsible for the advances that gave us the advantages needed to grow as quickly as we did. The industrial revolution, which started in the late 1700s in Great Britain, marks a critical period for economic and technological advancement. Catapulted by the rise in coal production, the Industrial Revolution brought about a shift in the political and social tendencies of Great Britain. 

As a powerful energy source, coal facilitated the production of goods, products, and transportation through machines. The rise of the steam engine and large-scale factories, for example, enabled a new economy. Subsequently, the economic power in the region was distributed more evenly, strengthening the middle class. In facilitating the way we produce products, transport goods, and people, and grow food, people around the globe were able to improve their lives. The results of modern energy included the ability for more people to survive the world’s challenging ecosystems. Consequently, paving the path towards a faster-growing population. 

However, it’s important to note that economic prosperity leads to increased energy consumption. Likewise, rising population rates also lead to higher energy demand. In effect, this creates a system in which a booming economy and increasingly dense populations can often lead to the overconsumption of resources and environmental harm. With global warming, pollution, and dwindling essential resources like water, communities everywhere risk experiencing events like natural disasters, disease outbreaks, and food shortages like never before. 

So, what does an 8 billion population and counting mean for the future of energy? Increased population and shifting lifestyles mean more trade, cars, flights, food, and housing necessities. However, decreased greenhouse gas emissions are needed to reduce the impact of climate change, which poses a significant danger to communities worldwide. 

In a world with so many people and a yearly growing population, the need for innovative solutions, energy education, and sustainability practices are higher than ever before. The simple act of recycling and being mindful of the products you purchase, ensuring they are made responsibly, can make a huge difference. Even better, taking on an energy-related career, whether it be a four-year degree or a trade certification, can put you in a position to propel positive change from the inside. 

For more information on energy, energy careers, and fun energy saving activities, visit Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers of Texas. And don’t forget to follow the Smart Energy Education Facebook page for updates on all our projects, scholarship opportunities, blog posts and more!

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