December 2011

The World’s Population: 7 Billion and Counting. . .

Taipei motoristsTaipei motorists

Taipei motorists
Growing populations in big cities, such as Taipei, Taiwan, can cause roadways to become very crowded.

Did you know that you are now 1 of 7 billion people living on Earth? The United Nations Population Fund has estimated that the 7-billionth person was born on October 31, 2011. This is big news for everyone on the planet. To get an idea of how large a number 7 billion is, here are some fun facts:

  • 7 billion seconds is about 222 years.
  • 7 billion footsteps would take you around Earth’s equator about 100 times.
  • A stack of 7 billion pennies would be about 6,629 miles high and would be worth $70 million.

Earth’s population has more than doubled since 1960. Even though many families today are smaller than in the past, the world’s population is still growing. This is because more children are living to reach adulthood and more adults are living into old age. In fact, for every 5 births in the world there are only 2 deaths. The average life expectancy for people today is about 68 years. The average life expectancy is the average number of years that people are expected to live. In 1800, when the world’s population first topped 1 billion people, the average life expectancy was only about 28 years.

So, what does this mean for the planet? There is still plenty of space on Earth for all 7 billion people. However, more people today live in cities than at any other time in Earth’s history. More than 20 cities have populations of at least 10 million people. As cities continue to grow, the challenge will be to provide people with clean water, clean air, food, electricity, and other needed resources. Scientists and leaders around the world are working hard to ensure that Earth can continue to support our growing population.

Image credit: ©Nicky Loh/Reuters

Question 1
What is the average life expectancy for people today?

Question 2
What is one of the challenges facing cities with growing populations?

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