National Geographic

Population Projection: Your 7 Billion Neighbors And What They Mean

According to the UN Population Division, you will have seven billion cohabitants on the planet by the end of this year. It is also projected that by 2045, the global population could reach nine billion. That kind of growth — the fastest in history — raises serious concerns and questions for you, me and the planet: If we can barely support our current population, can we possibly sustain another 2 billion?

The cover story of National Geographic's January issue probes questions of growth and sustainability at a time when entire species are vanishing, glaciers are melting, and almost a billion people are going hungry each day. Their short video sums it up in numbers:

Today NPR's Talk of the Nation and National Geographic are bringing Robert Kunzig, author of the magazine article, as well as NPR's Richard Harris and Upmanu Lall of the Columbia University Water Center together to discuss how and where the world's population is growing and aging — and the implications for the environment.

  • A new house went up every 20 minutes during the 2004 building boom that seized Las Vegas and its sprawling suburbs, like Henderson.
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    A new house went up every 20 minutes during the 2004 building boom that seized Las Vegas and its sprawling suburbs, like Henderson.
    Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Altitude/National Geographic
  • Bundled newborns on Sept. 1, 2010, are arranged for a portrait at Orlando's Winnie Palmer Hospital, the second busiest birth facility in the U.S. By 2050 America's population is expected to top 400 million.
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    Bundled newborns on Sept. 1, 2010, are arranged for a portrait at Orlando's Winnie Palmer Hospital, the second busiest birth facility in the U.S. By 2050 America's population is expected to top 400 million.
    John Stanmeyer/National Geographic/National Geographic
  • Using every fertile inch, farmers harvest rice in the hills of Yunnan Province. High-yield seeds and ample fertilizer allow China to feed its billion-plus people on less than 10 percent of the Earth's arable land.
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    Using every fertile inch, farmers harvest rice in the hills of Yunnan Province. High-yield seeds and ample fertilizer allow China to feed its billion-plus people on less than 10 percent of the Earth's arable land.
    Jim Richardson/National Geographic/National Geographic
  • Immigrants like these Indians at a Sikh festival in Barcelona are bolstering Europe's stagnant population growth rate. Research shows that the more education a woman receives, the fewer children she is likely to have.
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    Immigrants like these Indians at a Sikh festival in Barcelona are bolstering Europe's stagnant population growth rate. Research shows that the more education a woman receives, the fewer children she is likely to have.
    Randy Olson/National Geographic/National Geographic
  • Its steaming streets crammed with vendors, pedestrians and iconic ambassador taxis, Calcutta throbs with some 16 million people — and more pour in every day from small towns. In 1975 only three cities worldwide topped ten million. Today 21 "megacities" exist, most in developing countries.
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    Its steaming streets crammed with vendors, pedestrians and iconic ambassador taxis, Calcutta throbs with some 16 million people — and more pour in every day from small towns. In 1975 only three cities worldwide topped ten million. Today 21 "megacities" exist, most in developing countries.
    Randy Olson/National Geographic/National Geographic
  • Resources that can be replenished, like China's bamboo, will be crucial as the world's population continues to expand.
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    Resources that can be replenished, like China's bamboo, will be crucial as the world's population continues to expand.
    Fritz Hoffman/National Geographic

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