7 Billion

That is a very scary number, isn’t it? Seven Billion. I know that numbers have grown and grown over the years. I was born in an age when million was a huge number. Few people had a million of anything, and whole countries would reckon national income in millions (or national debt) and reckon government budgets in a few million dollars. I find it somewhat scary nowadays that million has become something of a throwaway number, and forecasts can have a several million range, making us assume the difference between 1 and 2 million is a paltry sum to be quibbling about.

And the population of my home country, New Zealand was hardly a million, and the total population of the whole world was just 2 and a bit billion. Aha! Billion.

When I went to school we were taught the natural progression of numbers- 1 times 10, times 10, times 10, etc., and despite what the American system told us, we, as kids stuck with the progression of 10 times 10 was a hundred, then 10 times 100 was a thousand, then 1000 times 1000 was a million, and, logically thinking, of course the next BIG number was going to be the number times itself- 1,000,000 times 1,000,000 a billion? (…because, as the silly table below shows, we should value the ‘intermediate’ numbers).
1- one
10- ten
100- hundred
1000- thousand
10000- ten thousand
100000- hundred thousand
1000000- million
10000000- ten million
100000000- hundred million
1000000000- thousand million
10000000000- ten thousand million
100000000000000- hundred thousand million
1000000000000000- thousand thousand million…BILLION!

Of course it doesn’t work that way and the Americans had their way. Don’t let logic stand in the way of capitalists’ games. So a billion was arrived at by simply multiplying 1,000,000 by 1,000. Doesn’t seem fair to me, and this led to the minimalisation of BIG numbers. A trillion, which to my child’s mind SHOULD have been HUGE but, instead, it is only 1000 times a billion!!! Cheapskates!

Of course as time went by the Earth wasn’t a big enough place to fully occupy our minds and we looked into the stars, and improving techniques have enabled us to almost see bodies hovering around the beginning of time, but how could we understand the vastness by using such numbers as billions and trillions? Thankfully a school-boy in New York thought of a neat way around this by naming the number that was 1 followed by 100 zeros!!! GOOGOL. This sort of enabled ordinary people to get an idea of really BIG numbers that space exploration distances generated, but ass with numbers, space seemed to have no limits, no end, no ‘greatest’ so a new number was in vented. The GOOGLEPLEX. This is a 1 followed by a GOOGLE of zeros. Sorry, you’ve now lost me again!!

BUT, sometime in the next few days or, maybe, weeks (less likely given the almost exponential nature of this subject) the population of the Earth is going to reach 7 billion– that’s 7 with 9 zeros. At the time of publishing this post, the world population was 6,997,185,468, and it was reckoned that there were 15,347 live births an hour, and 6,418 deaths. (The population of New Zealand had reached 4, 384,273.)

Check this site to see where in the history of World population you stand.

And now start thinking about what the implications are for the World with this frightening number and rate of increase of the population and how this rate can only increase given improved health care and associated slowing of mortality. The most obvious issue is how we are going to feed the World. And, of course, how we are going to manage the effects on the planet of this press of humanity. Do we need a series of holocausts? Epidemics? Floods, pestilence and plagues? Or is the answer dealing with the number of people by feeding, clothing and keeping them healthy. Whatever needs to happen needs to get past the planning stage about NOW.

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