How Does The Population Grow So Quickly?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Yesterday was World Population Day: A day created by the United Nations to focus on building a sustainable future.

Over the past 30 years, almost three billion people have been added to Earth. Another two billion are expected in the next 30.

How have we gotten so big so fast? Good Question.

It was four million in 10,000 B.C. We hit our first billion in the early 1800s. Today, the population is 7.7 billion.

“Improved water and sanitation,” said Audrey Dorelien, a demographer at the University of Minnesota. “Innovation in medicine. Life expectancy has gone up.”

Even as fertility rates have dropped worldwide. Still, for every one death, 2.5 people are born.

“There are some regions where we really saw we’re driving that growth, so you can think of countries like India and China,” Dorelien said.

China and India are the two most populous countries in the world. The United States is a distant third.

“But that will actually change,” Dorelien said. “Many sub-Saharan African countries are going to double in size, while some other regions are actually going to shrink.”

China, Japan, Thailand and much of Europe are some of the regions that will shrink.

“Us here in the Americas, we’re going to continue to increase, but population growth is not going to be as fast as it is in sub-Saharan Africa,” Dorelien said.

So, can the world handle 10 billion people?

“That’s a difficult question to ask,” Dorelien said. “It’s not necessarily that population growth is bad, what we really want to make sure is that when there is growth that it’s done in a way that’s environmentally sound.”

In the time it took to tell this story, we’ve added about 300 people to the world.

Experts say fertility rates drop when more women have access to contraception, health care and education – that’s part of the work the U.N. emphasizes on World Population Day.