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On This Day in History: November 15
The Day of Eight Billion
Exactly one year ago today, on November 15, 2022, the human population reached eight billion. Except not exactly. It was a guess. It’s a pretty big number of folks who arrived slimy and squalling in the last 117 years, so they may have been off by a few million. Fuck it, they said, and pulled November 15 out of their collective ass.
--On This Day in History Shit Went Down: November 15, 2022--
You may ask, why did I reference the last 117 years? Because of Maria Branyas of Spain, who is the oldest person alive at 116 years and 256 days. We gotta include her in that eight billion. The other question is who are the “they” who plucked a date from a posterior orifice? It was the United Nations Department of Econom—oh fuck it who cares about the UN. A better question is: How did we reach such a number?
Motherfucking science is how.
Better food production and distribution happened because of science. Clean water, the germ theory of medicine, antibiotics, and vaccines? All science. You wanna go back to the “good old days” of the nineteenth century? Kiss half your children goodbye. Prior to the twentieth century, a quarter of kids didn’t live to see their first birthday, and fully half died before the age of fifteen.
I repeat: A mere century and a bit ago, a whopping 50% of people born did not live to see their fifteenth birthday.
That’s fucked up.
Child mortality is still high in the world’s poorest countries. That’s one of the reasons why population growth is highest in those countries. Wait. How the fuck does that work?
In the impoverished nations of the world, many people end up having more children than they desire, in large part due to a lack of access to the same scientific advancements that saw a population explosion in the last century.
In richer nations, we don’t expect any of our kids to die. My wife and I wanted two kids and so after two kids I got a snip job. Sorry for the TMI, but that’s another bit of science for you: safe vasectomies. We also didn’t have kids until we were ready thanks to other scientific advancements in birth control that we had easy access to. In poorer nations, the combination of lack of access to birth control, which includes safe abortions, and high child mortality results in a lot of unwanted pregnancies. The effect of a high death rate of children resulting in a higher birth rate is referred to as the child survival hypothesis. When you know that all your kids are likely to live, you have fewer of them, and vice-versa.
Now before you start getting all racist and making misinformed statements about population control in poorer countries, know that the richest 10% of humans are responsible for half the world’s carbon emissions. Conversely, the poorest half only contribute to 7% of carbon emissions. Even worse, it’s the people in poorer regions who bear the brunt of our living-in-luxury-fuck-the-planet attitudes. The idea of population control is rooted in racism and eugenics, when the real issue is overconsumption.
People in poorer nations need adequate access to food, medicine, and birth control not because it will lower birth rates, but because it’s the right fucking thing to do. No one should be faced with the decision to have five children so that hopefully three will live.
Coupled with no longer letting capitalism run amok and burning through the planet like we’ve got a spare in the trunk would make the world a better place for all eight billion plus humans who call Earth home.
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Normally I throw a picture of my book here, and I am careful to protect my family by not sharing photos of them, but this one is twenty years old so I figure they’re pretty unrecognizable. Here is me and the two trouser trophies. The rocking of the kayak put them to sleep in about 20 minutes. But yeah I still want you to buy my book.