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Human Numbers Through Time


World in the Balance homepage

Human Numbers Through Time 1
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2,000 years ago...

...at the dawn of the first millennium A.D. the world's population was around 300 million people.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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1,000 years later...

...the population had risen by as little as 10 million. And well into the second millennium, it grew less than 0.1 percent each year. The numbers in Europe even fell in the 1300s—struck down by the Black Plague. But beginning in the late 18th century, the Industrial Revolution would raise living standards and spur growth.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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800 years later...

...the population had climbed to the landmark level of one billion people. Almost 65 percent of all people lived in Asia, 21 percent in a prospering Europe, and less than 1 percent in North America.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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127 years later...

...the two-billionth baby was born. From 1920 to 1950, the population growth rate hovered around 1 percent a year. But beginning in the middle of the century, the advent of antibiotics and other public health advances profoundly altered life expectancy, increasing the number of children who would live to bear their own children.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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33 years later...

...advances in medicine, agriculture, and sanitation had spread to many places in the developing world. By 1960, the global population reached three billion, and in the late 1960s the growth rate hit an all-time peak of 2.04 percent a year.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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14 years later...

...new reproductive technologies had helped curb the growth rate. But with so many people already on the planet, a population "explosion" was under way, and the epicenters of the explosion lay in the developing world. The four-billionth baby was born in 1974.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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13 years later...

...the five-billionth baby was born.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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12 years later...

...around October 12, 1999, the six-billionth baby arrived. Today, Europe and Africa each hold about 12 percent of the world's population. Nine percent live in Latin America, 5 percent in North America. And, just as in 1800, Asia is home to the majority of Earth's inhabitants—roughly 61 percent, or more than 3.5 billion people.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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Roughly 50 years from now

Over the next half century, our numbers will increase again, likely to a staggering nine billion people. Nearly all of this growth will take place in developing countries, where the demand for food and water already outstrips supplies.



Human Numbers Through Time 1
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World Population Growth, 1800-2050

At the turn of the 21st century, almost 75 million people were being added to the earth every year—about a quarter of the entire U.S. population. In the future, almost all population growth will be in the developing world.



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