If you had to give every single person on the planet a handshake — assuming each handshake takes you about a second — it would take you about 240 years to get through everyone.
That’s well over three lifetimes of shaking hands, from the second you’re born to the day you die. Our world has a lot of people. More than the human mind could ever hope to comprehend.
Except, while we underestimate our population, we have a knack for overestimating just how much Earth can do for us. And that mistake could cost us big-time.
Throughout virtually all of human history, there wasn’t a lot of us. Nature came and went in the form of bears and tigers and ice ages, taking millions of lives with it. And yet, after just a few decades of growth and consumption, we’ve warmed the planet by 1.5°C, deforested 1/3 of our forests since the ice age, and bleached the majority of our oceans with carbon dioxide.
Now, the tables have turned and nature is at our mercy. What we have on our hands isn’t just too many people. It’s the source of all of humanity’s modern problems and potentially what ends us entirely — overpopulation.
Too Many, Too Little
As this article goes on air, the world has about 7.674 billion people living on it. Eighty years from now, at the end of the 21st century, we’ll have about 10.9 billion. By then, we’ll be in a global catastrophe. Almost every vital resource we have today — things like food, water, or space — won’t accommodate fast enough to keep up with that growth.
Overpopulation starts when too many people begin to share supplies from the same, limited source. Their consumption grows beyond the source’s capacity until it eventually fades away: