How Many People Can Live On Planet Earth?

by on January 22, 2015

Sir David Attenborough finds the answer.

It was in 1798 that Thomas Malthus first published An Essay On the Principle of Population, a seminal work on economic and socio-political theory, one of the pioneering works of its kind. In his thesis, Malthus argued that the ever increasing amount of population, in accordance with subsequently faster depletion of the limited resources on the planet, spelt out a pessimistic future for humanity.

Fast forward to the 21st century. The world is a much bigger place than the one in Malthus’s day – both politically, culturally, and, of course, in terms of population. Last year, the world crossed the threshold of  the total population of 7 billion. However, even as we make advances in technology and science, our resources are approaching exhaustion faster and faster with each passing year. In a few decades, experts estimate, the natural resources simply won’t be able to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of the populace. But what’s interesting is that this line of thought, if you look carefully enough, has been present at almost all times in history. However, the reality facing us at this point in time, in the byproducts of an ever-increasing populated planet – global warming, deforestation, water shortage, inadequate food supply, pollution, just to name a few – is more worrying and more relevant than any other point in history.

In this BBC documentary, biologist and one of the world’s best known faces of science, Sir David Attenborough poses the question: How many people can live on planet earth? Examining the currents of the present, past, and the future, Dr. Attenborough deduces the number that our planet can afford at its capacity, and, reiterating Thomas Malthus, looks at what would happen if the world population  grows out of control.

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