Planning for population: a look at the numbers

Humans share the planet with an enormous amount of people. Today’s world population is now over 7.13 billion and rising quickly. Homo sapiens have been around for several million years, but the number of people living today is astounding compared to the past. In the last two hundred years we have gained over 6 billion people, with 1.6 billion of those being added since just 1990. Each year the earth’s population gains roughly 75 million people. That translates into 8,000 more humans living on our planet for every hour that passes, or a net gain of one new person every 16 seconds. With such an alarming amount of people being added each day, how will it even be possible for everybody to share the same resources in the future? What type of planning is required to account for a rapidly growing population?

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

This post is not designed to answer the planning questions, instead it is to gain additional awareness of how serious population growth is. Humans will face many new issues while dealing with an overwhelming amount of people in the near future- urban planning is only one of those issues, but it is vital because so much is at stake. The way that people live and interact with others is highly influenced by the environment they live and work in- an environment that will need to change as the population continues to skyrocket. While most everyone understands that the human population has been increasing, many don’t realize the full extent of the issue, or just how quickly it is happening. While the world population numbers may be the most dramatic, as the topic is broken down to a more local level it may be easier to see how it will affect you directly. 2013 2013

There are more than 317 million people living in the United States right now. That makes it the third-most populous country in the world. The U.S. is very large, but there are still 87 other people, besides you, per square mile. Most all of those people are living in some kind of home, often built within their lifetime. There were 132,312,404 housing units in the country 2011. Each home takes many resources to make, and a great deal of energy to live in. With most people choosing to live or move to urban areas in recent years, there are now about 82% of people in the U.S. residing in cities and suburbs. The American population nearly quadrupled during the 1900’s, going from 76 million in 1900 to nearly 300 million by the year 2000. The growth rate isn’t increasing as fast as it once was, but the Census Bureau still projects that the population of the United States will reach 439 million by 2050.

While Idaho may be one of the least densely populated areas of the country, with less than 1.6 million people living in the entire state, there should still be great concern for the population growth that is occurring here. Idaho is gaining people at one of the fastest rates in North America. In the 2010 census, Idaho ranked fourth nationally in the percentage of population growth, coming in at 21% from 2000-2010. Just over 40 years ago, the U.S. Census Bureau reported less than half the population we have today, with only 712,567 people living in all of Idaho in 1970. That means more roads are being built, more trees are being cut down, and more energy is being used than ever before.

The Boise area has seen the most significant growth in the state. Ada County has doubled in population since the 1990’s, going from 205,000 in 1990 to about 410,000 people in 2012. The U.S. Census Estimate shows there were 212,303 people in Boise in 2012, and an estimated 616,500 living in the larger metropolitan area. The population of Boise is projected to reach close to 360,000 people by the year 2030.

As the population goes up, the unemployment rate may be your last concern. Clean water, clean air, and open space will decline as rising temperatures cause a whole new set of problems. With food and resources being far from infinite, how big of a population can we really handle without destroying the entire planet? City planners will need to take serious and innovative counter measures if humans plan to continue to live comfortably.