When I was born in 1955, fewer than 3 billion people lived on the Earth. According to the UN, that number reached 7 billion on October 31, 2011.
In my lifetime, the world population has more than doubled — and there was hardly a shortage of human beings on the planet 56 years ago. When my parents were born, there were only 2 billion people. In 1804, there was 1 billion.
We should hit 8 billion before 2030 and 9 billion before 2050.
I can't imagine a billion people, but I know what population growth has meant to me — this single memory, multiplied by everywhere:
When I was eight or nine years old, my friends and I would ride our bikes from our homes in Greendale, Wisconsin, to Boerner Botanical Gardens, about three miles away. (We were free-range children.) The quiet ride took us through suburbs and past farm fields and groves of trees.
The biggest crossroads was Grange Avenue and 76th Street. Grange, a two-lane country road, had a stop sign, and 76th didn't, but it had such scant traffic that an eight-year-old had no trouble peddling across it safely.
Less than a decade later, Southridge Mall opened at that corner, and more development followed. Now, as the photo from Google Maps shows, Grange Avenue is a four-lane boulevard and 76th has six lanes, and the crossroads can intimidate anyone not in an SUV. The fields have been paved over. The once-quiet country road bustles day and night.
And everywhere that I've lived and visited, the roads and shopping malls grow and grow endlessly.
That's what billions more people mean to me: more cars, more roads, and more malls — but fewer farm fields, fewer trees, and less peace and quiet.
— Sue Burke
Also posted at my professional website: http://www.sue.burke.name