Visualizing Peak Popopulation

Tyler Durden's picture

Even with having existed for millions of years, the process for humans to reach 1 billion in population was long and arduous. It is only about 12,000 years ago that humans started engaging in sedentary agriculture. This allowed humans to settle and consistently produce food, rather than hunt and gather throughout.

However, it is with the Industrial Revolution that the means for exponential human population increases was created. New technology, boosts in productivity, and the use of energy allowed for a new frontier in increasing health, sanitation, and standard of living. It is also around this time – in 1804 to be exact – that the earth’s population hit 1 billion people.

Fast forward two hundred years, and the impact of the Industrial Revolution is loud and clear. Now with over 7 billion people, global population has risen so fast that by one estimate, 14% of all human beings that have ever existed are alive today.

Based on a recent UN study, by 2100, our global population is predicted to be between 9.6 and 12.3 billion people. The world will be much different than we know it today in the future.

For starters, the vast majority of growth will happen in the less developed regions of the world. As an example, Nigeria’s population will increase five-fold, from around 174 million today to almost a billion people. It will likely be the 3rd most populous country behind India and China in 2100. Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole could hold up to almost half of the world’s population in the future.

While population has exploded exponentially, unfortunately the resources on our planet are finite. The ecological term for this is “carrying capacity”, which is the maximum population that an environment and resources can sustain indefinitely.

Human carrying capacity is very complex and takes into account many factors, including nutrients, fresh water, environmental conditions, space, technology, medical care, and sanitation. The carrying capacity for humans is not static, and can be changed by adding or subtracting resources from the ecosystem.

While technology has saved the human race time after time, we have not yet found ways to address many of the problems tied to overpopulation such as consumption, changes to climate, inequality, and scarcity of resources.

There are certain realities we will have to face. Here are just some of the issues:

  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.
  • The United States uses 1 million gallons of oil every 2 minutes.
  • The marginal cost of producing oil and metals has never been higher.
  • Food prices are skyrocketing, and availability of essential nutrients (like phosphorus) needed to grow food is becoming scarcer.
  • Governments continue to create new currency and debt at unprecedented and unsustainable levels.
  • Potential collapses in biodiversity and changes in our climate.

Is our future littered with disease, famine, stunted growth, currency collapse, and a lower quality of life?

Or should we be optimistic that we can persist? Can technology and smart decisions save the day?

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

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Seasmoke's picture

Hello Nigeria, we have a problem. 

Publicus's picture

The four horsemen will take care of the population problem.

BrosephStiglitz's picture

Yeah.. The four horsemen, or bleeding-hearts who want to subsidize the elderly to live longer and choke the productivity pyramid scheme at the bottom.

Global fertility rates are approaching an inflection point now.  My guess is, the overshoot has already happened.

I am now 27.  Given financial stress, lack of opportunity, and unhealthy living promoted by a handful of industries, plus the threat of future upheavals (before I had the good sense to wake up to the perils of living in a consumer-driven society), I will be happy to even afford one child and see 50.

DeadFred's picture

Idiots with ruers extrapolating out far into the future. LOL as if the same old same old will last that long.

toady's picture

I thought that was going to be about the popo...

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

This article is a ration of sh*t by a bunch of authoritarian libtards. The only places populations are growing are a few countries in Africa and Asia. Populations are DECLINING across the majority of the globe.

0b1knob's picture

Visualizing peak POPOPULATION????

Try visualizing a spell chechecker.

Headbanger's picture

The Alien Reaper Ships are about to arrive to harvest some fresh human meat for their  deli Wednesday special menu

So FATTEN UP for the feast!

On you!

jeff montanye's picture

what's driving the shrinking fertility rates are the educational and economic improvement of women.  although slow to reach critical mass in much of africa, the process is begun and it tends to be self-perpetuating.

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs report (2004) projects the world population to peak at 9.22 billion in 2075. After reaching this maximum the world population is projected to decline slightly and then resume increasing slowly, to reach a level of 8.97 billion by 2300, about the same as the projected 2050 figure.

again imo there is little chance that the latter part of the u.n. report will come to pass.  women have decided to have no and fewer children and i don't see much that should change their minds.  it seems that the other influences on population are likely to be on the downside (the horsemen, disease, economic depression, monetary collapse, improved temporary and permanent birth control).

SgtSchultz's picture

Didn't Malthus make this same argument in 1798?

Lost My Shorts's picture

Malthus is like the bears at Zerohedge.  Made the right call, just early.

McCormick No. 9's picture

This is just a load of worthless Agenda 21 propaganda. The planet's populatio  is already at its peak, and headed downhill. But try telling that to the global warming/ overpopulation myth-makers. This article is TOTAL BULLSHIT.

Eeyores Enigma's picture

Cue the infinite planet folks!

"There is no resource problem that a good 3D printer can't handle." DICKS!

Dick Buttkiss's picture

Any futurist who isn't factoring in the likely arrival of the Technological Singularity isn't seeing the elephant in the living room and therefore isn't worth reading:

That said, and for what it's worth, I don't see humanity in its present form (call it homo economicus) surviving the insanity of its ways and believe, on the contrary, that unless the Singularity results in the arrival of genuine abundance — i.e., unless our species evolves into homo abundus and does so in a way that reduces our ecological footprint to the vanishing point — humanity will have reached an evolutionary dead end and, like the Neanderthals before us, will trail off into extinction.

More precisely, I would say that unless humanity's worst enemy — — is rendered extinct via the arrival of genuine abundance, said enemy will either destroy humanity outright or send it back to the Stone Age.

Which is to say that without the Singularity, I have no hope for humanity, while with it, I'm with Kurzweil in seeing endless possibilities:

StychoKiller's picture

"The surface of a planet is NOT the correct place for an expanding, technological civilization." -- R.A. Wilson

Dick Buttkiss's picture

Agreed. And the sooner we escape from it, the better it will be for both ourselves and the planet, the question being whether the forces that would chain us to it — governments and those who actually control them — can be sufficiently sidelined for the Singularity to become a reality. This to me is why Bitcoin is so important, as it stands to end-run the status (statist) quo and thereby empower a global community of cooperating individuals to provide the goods, services, and ideas we need to get to the next level.

Kayman's picture

Population Growth Through Natural Increase, 1775–2000

Kayman's picture

Sorry... I tried to copy a chart.  The world birth rate has been declining for decades. Over population is a myth.  

But for those that continue to propogate the bullshit- let's try an experiment. Let the top .01% of our overlords commit seppuku in the name of humanity.  I could go for that and I would buy the gutting knives.

Big_X's picture

Visualizing Peak Malthus

KnuckleDragger-X's picture

Not yet but we can see it from here....

zerozulu's picture

over population is not the problem, over population of uneducated population is the problem.

BrosephStiglitz's picture

But what do you expect when you can make a living out of popping little shitbirds out like it ain't no thing?

Harbanger's picture

Anyone can come live in the Hood if they wants  You can still do the white rapper shtik while it lasts.

BrosephStiglitz's picture

Was trying to use it in a clever/light-hearted way based on the people who are breeding rapidly [for the most part: trailer trash/poorly educated]?  I am about as far from a white-rapper as it gets.

Muh Raf's picture

I find it odd that so many ZHrs believe this "overpopulation in a world of limited resources" tat, brought to us by the same people who brought all the other lies in the name of covert depopulation (read mass murder) activities. If we take the current population of the world and divide them into families of 5, give them a homestead the size of the Waltons and we would all fit into the two states of Texas and Ohio. The real problem is the imperial control and mismanagement of the world's resources by those folks that coined for us the term "the useless eaters", when of course they are the self-obsessed, ego maniac useless oligarch 'managers'. There's plenty of room and potential sustainable production to support a population of 60bn on this planet, however (and I don't like using normative statements as non-testable positives) that's not going to be allowed to happen. People need to research these claims a little further before treating them as 'facts'.

durablefaith's picture

Zerohedge, where even crappy articles are worth reading due to the quality of the commenters...well said.

Lost My Shorts's picture

wait wait wait ...

Help me out here; I am one of the slow ones, or maybe it's just late.  The land area of Texas is about 269,000 square miles, which is about 172 million acres. Divide that among 7 billion people and you get about 0.02 acres per person.  How big was the Waltons' homestead?

The total land area of the earth (including Greenland, Antarctica, Siberia and other places not yet liberated by global warming), is 57,310,000 square miles or not quite 37 billion acres.  That divides to a bit over 5 acres per person currently alive.  That is the whole earth, not just Texas and Ohio.

When you say size of the Waltons' homestead, you mean the size of a TV screen?  Or you learned math in church?

Lost My Shorts's picture

p.s. if we can fit the whole world in to Texas and Ohio, why all the bitching about immigration?

photonsoflight's picture

Because if the government doesn't have to follow the rule of law why should anyone?

U4 eee aaa's picture

Because there is enough land space (and even more sunlight and growing area) in Mexico too. If they can't manage themselves and make it south of the border why do you expect them to get it right when everything is given to them and they have even less incentive to work honestly?

Confused's picture

I love how most Americans forget that we have always had an "immigration" problem. Currently, some posters are concerned with the legal/ethical aspects of what is currently happening. And rightfully so. But many, many more are more concerned with the ethnic makeup of these immigrants. Maybe also rightully so. 

But the Italians, the Irish, Chinese, and many more have at one time or another had these same hatreds directed towards them, on the basis of ethnicity. 

Anusocracy's picture

Predicting the future is a specialty of dart-throwing monkeys.

MalteseFalcon's picture

"The real problem is the imperial control and mismanagement of the world's resources by those folks that coined for us the term "the useless eaters", when of course they are the self-obsessed, ego maniac useless oligarch 'managers'."

This is the root of all problems.

stacking12321's picture

i have to question this statement you made:

"so many ZHrs believe this "overpopulation in a world of limited resources" tat, brought to us by the same people who brought all the other lies in the name of covert depopulation (read mass murder) activities."

i know for a fact that you are wrong in making that statement, as i do believe that we have "overpopulation in a world of limited resources", and i don't support what you call "covert depopulation activities". thus, i am a counter-example to your claim, it is false.

so, stick to the truth, and don't make things up.



Nexus789's picture

Arrogant comment. 'The real problem is the imperial control and mismanagement of the world's resources'...ergo, it is a fundamental problem that will NEVER be addressed. Given this we have a resource growing problem and the chances of our complex civilisation collapsing as population levels rise will increase. 

bunnyswanson's picture

The banks used us to mine the land. In the meantiime, the necessary businesses went up around the people with a paycheck. And now they are finished..

BrosephStiglitz's picture

There may be issues with restricting the supply of certain necessities.  I could not comment on that.  The overpopulation thing doesn't really work in terms of land.  It does work, however in terms of:

- Phosphate Rock (needed for intensive farming.) As the supply of this dries up, food in some parts of the world becomes much more expensive.
- Fresh water.  This one is also linked to urban sprawl (and sanitation) but this is becoming an issue for many parts of the world and when you realize that fresh-water recovery is often a function of energy you realize that it will rise if unit energy costs rise.
- Energy costs. Another serious consideration.  As everything from operating a tractor, a combine harvester (see: food costs in general), or driving a truck full of cranberries 300 miles, would become more expensive in real terms.

So.. When I say I believe in the lower population/fertility rate "myth" it isn't because I don't think we could physically cram people onto the planet.  It is because I believe that  having access to the basic human necessities is going to get more expensive in real terms as we move forward.  And global fertility rates more or less evidence this:


If the rate drops below 2 terminally, we are going to see a declining population.  At the expense of going full Malthus, I would hazard to say that, humanity's recent exponential "hockey-stick moment" is going to mean revert, and the question is simply how long it takes for this to happen.

El Vaquero's picture

" Phosphate Rock (needed for intensive farming.) As the supply of this dries up, food in some parts of the world becomes much more expensive."


The sad thing is that a majority of people don't even understand that there is such a thing as a phosphorous cycle.  They really wouldn't like what we'd have to do to speed it up without industrial civilization to give us phosphate rock and NPK fertilizers.  We'd have to use human waste in one way or another on our fields.  While our sewage treatment plants do a good job of keeping the communicable diseases associated with human waste at a minimum, they also flush a lot of phosphorous out to sea, instead of putting it on crops.  Then there's the "sludge," but I suspect that there are much safer and less nasty ways to apply human waste to crops. 


If you are worried about an industrial collapse, be it permanent or temporary, think about what you're going to do with all of your shit and piss.  How are you A) going to keep it from becoming a health hazard, and B) put the vital nutrients where they need to be at the same time?

TheGreatRecovery's picture

Depopulation is not mass murder.  Depopulation merely requires families to have only 1 or 2 children.

There is NOT plenty of room and potential sustainable production to support a population of 60 billion people on Earth.  There is not even room and resources for 7 billion people.  I say 7 billion, because everywhere I have gone, it takes no time at all to see, first hand, ongoing destruction of environmental (renewable) resources.  And that, of course, is the result of having a population of 7 billion.

Not to say that having a culture run by a small group of obvious psychopaths isn't, perhaps, the SECOND biggest problem.  But when the resources go, there will be no way to deal with that or any other problem.

Lastly, does anyone here live in an area which is actually declining in population?  I have heard that such areas exist, but I haven't personally seen any.  So, is where YOU live actually declining in population?

armageddon addahere's picture

Lastly, does anyone here live in an area which is actually declining in population?  I have heard that such areas exist, but I haven't personally seen any.  So, is where YOU live actually declining in population?

Detroit and a hundred other Rust Belt (Northeastern US) cities. Also towns all over the midwest and west that used to serve the farmers who are no longer there, since big agriculture took over.

There are lots of declining and nearly abandoned towns and cities across the country.

TheGreatRecovery's picture

Okay.  I just haven't been to any of them.  Thanks.

Prisoners_dilemna's picture

There's a segment of the population, who are hairless, believes 2000 year old fairy tales, drinks milk, and exhibits other infantile behaviors.

It was designed this way. The designers just forgot to restrict mating behaviors.

We're going Viral, Bitchez.

disgruntled housewife's picture

Seriously! Who runs the planet but a bunch of Ivy League school educated- Skull and Bones types. Who prints unrestrained amounts of fiat money that is issued on credit cards so people can buy tons of crap and governments can fund unending wars. What makes the world go round- people or money?

Yes- it would be nice to have more financially literate folks out there but it would be better to have people who took responsibility for their actions and would admit it is their actions that have caused global warming. Unrestrained managers of capital daming up rivers to subsidize Alcoa plants in Brazil and other equally wasteful expenditures guised in the cloak of helping regular people rather than admitting it is for the companies of their choice. Negative externalities are paid for by all except those who create them.

You have a problem with resources drying up look no further than the financial institutions of the world. Their unrestrained printing presses running 24/7 so the financial industry can get rich on fees and interest is the cause of the ills in this world. They hide behind their educations and convince the masses they know best as they cloak their actions in complex language to discourage the little people from looking behind the curtain.

Put the blame where it belongs.

cigarEngineer's picture

A Master's in Engineering takes one year. Not that hard and $12k at a state school.

Seek_Truth's picture

Not anymore:

$20k/year is more like it.

And a Master's in Engineering takes 6 years.

Harbanger's picture

I assumed he meant after you get a Bachelors in Engineering, that's the hard part, the Masters is easy.

sun tzu's picture

Did you get your degree from a diploma mill? Five years if you're very smart and 6 years for most. How did you get through undergrad and grad in one year?

Most state schools require 33-36 credit hours for an MSEE. That's closer to $25K than $12K

Uber Vandal's picture

I can think of many elderly people who have been infinitely more productive than a number of the people who have been recipients of tax payment transfers (ref EBT, TBTF) compliments of many of us posting here.

At least they may be a repository of wisdom when all else fails.



BrosephStiglitz's picture

Edit: Misread your point on TBTF etc. (Sorry.)  Yes I agree I would take an army of 70 year old burger flippers over the rentiers who have gamed the system into creating arbitrage for themselves and their buds.

I still maintain the dynamics of global population demographics are -very- worrying and we are heading for an inter-generational clash.  Having said that yes, I agree.