In a bit over 200 years, the human population went from 1 billion to 7.8 billion. In this very short amount of time we had an 8-fold increase in humans on the planet. The planet was not ready. Busy, clever humanity quickly chopped up and devoured the Earth. Homo sapiens (humans) used to be simply one species among many in nature. Now, humans have so thoroughly dominated the planet, our choices and actions determine how much of the planet survives – and determines whether we as a species will survive.
These many billions of people joined the planet before systems were put into place to accommodate so many people. Systems to help us get along with each other, and to collectively make sure we don’t destroy ourselves and our planet. Instead of thoughtfully planning for our collective future, we humans are just stumbling from emergency to emergency.
Today’s presentation is twofold:
First, a tour of humans’ presence on the earth, and the insane amount of pressure we’ve put on our natural environment and climate.
Second, just as importantly, a review of the incredible progress humans have made on poverty, education, life expectancy, health, peace and much more. It’s clear – humans can solve big problems.
So, here I offer you equal doses of fear and hope. And I suggest we put our heads together and cooperate, in a global way.
~ The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord http://www.tobyord.com/book
~ World population, last 12,000 years https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth
~ World GDP over the last two millenia https://ourworldindata.org/economic-growth
~ Vertebrate extinction rates since 1500 https://ipbes.net/global-assessment
~ One in four species are at risk of extinction https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48169783
~ 4005 vertebrate species decline 60% since 1970 Zoological Society of London / WWF - Living Planet Index 2018 https://www.zsl.org/global-biodiversity-monitoring/indicators-and-assessments-unit/living-planet-index
~ CO2 emission by fuel type, World, 1751-2017 https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions
~ Atmospheric CO2 levels last 800,000 years https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/
~ Average temperature anomaly, Global, 1850 to 2018 https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emissions
~ World temperature since last ice age US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/what’s-hottest-earth-has-been-“lately”
~ Land use over the long term, World, 100-2016 How the world's land is used (world map comparison) https://ourworldindata.org/land-use
~ Meat production by livestock type, 1961 to 2018 https://ourworldindata.org/meat-production
~ Global fishery catch by sector, 1950-2010 https://ourworldindata.org/seafood-production
~ Global freshwater use over the long run, since 1900 https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-stress
~ Inside Climate News - September 13, 2020 Deforestation Is Getting Worse, 5 Years After Countries and Companies Vowed to Stop It https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13092019/forest-loss-rate-global-deforestation-amazon-fires-corporate-agribusiness-international-declaration
~ Global plastics production, 1950-2015 https://ourworldindata.org/plastic-pollution
~ World’s Top 500 supercomputers https://www.top500.org/statistics/perfdevel/
~ The Independent - May 1, 2014 Stephen Hawking: Transcendence looks at the implications of artificial intelligence - but are we taking AI seriously enough? https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/stephen-hawking-transcendence-looks-at-the-implications-of-artificial-intelligence-but-are-we-taking-9313474.html
~ World population living in extreme poverty, 1820-2015 https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts
~ Life expectancy, 1771-2015 https://ourworldindata.org/life-expectancy
~ Global child mortality, 1800-2017 https://ourworldindata.org/a-history-of-global-living-conditions-in-5-charts
~ Literacy rate, 1820-2010 https://ourworldindata.org/new-literacy-dataset
~ Gender ratios for mean years of schooling, 1870-2010 https://ourworldindata.org/global-education