Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

24,000 days old

I’m about 24,000 days old. Despite everything that’s happened over the last 65 years, one change in the material world stands out to me the most.

When I was born in 1955, fewer than 3 billion people lived on the Earth. According to YaleGlobalOnline, that number reached 7.8 billion in March 2020.

During my lifetime, the world population has more than doubled — and there was hardly a shortage of human beings on the planet 65 years ago. When my parents were born, there were only 2 billion people. In 1804, there was 1 billion.

We should hit 8 billion in 2023, 9 billion by 2037, and 10 billion by 2056.

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 76th Street at Grange Avenue. Grange, a two-lane country road, had a stop sign, and 76th didn’t, but it held 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 plus turn lanes and 76th Street has six lanes, and the crossroad can intimidate anyone not in an SUV. The fields have been paved over. The once-quiet country road bustles day and night.

Everywhere that I’ve lived and visited, roads and buildings grow and grow endlessly.

That’s what billions more people mean to me: more cars, more pavement, and more buildings — but fewer farm fields, fewer trees, fewer kid-friendly spaces, and less peace and quiet.


I’ve posted a new article on my writing website, “What’s a masterpiece worth?” How much did Cervantes get paid for Don Quixote of La Mancha? We don’t really know, but I try to come up with an estimate, and it jives with other estimates. He earned a pittance. Read the article here.


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