Scott Stoll logo world traveler. A bicycle wheel and the globe symbolizes Scott's journey around the world on a bicycle.
The world population growth chart of homo infographic sapiens infographic. At the rate we are going the line will be off the chart in a few decades.
The world population growth chart of homo sapiens is exponential. It is estimated the planet can't hold more than 9-12 billion people. The photosynthetic ceiling means that there isn't enough sunlight to grow more plants — food. Imagine this graph also measures the oxygen consumption of the Human Race. Now imagine every person in the modern world emitting 6 metric tons of greenhouse gases and pollution. Now double that number (and the amplitude of this graph) to account for all the oxygen used in the combustion process (half turns into water). Furthermore, because oxygen is used in every aspect of life, not just burning fuel, but also in the manufacturing process (especially chemicals and plastics) and the destruction of all those products through oxidation (rotting, burning, rusting), triple the amplitude yet again and this represents a conservative estimate of the oxygen consumption of the human species. Sources: The United Nations Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, US Department of Energy, Wikipedia, and many more.

Human Population Growth Chart

The question isn’t if it will stop, but when?

This article is part of a series

Update 2022: Since I originally wrote this article, the scientific community is reaching a consensus that we are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction called the Holocene extinction. This 6th great mass extinction is being caused by humanity itself.

This Human Population Growth Chart illustrates the exponential growth of the human race and the consumption of non-renewable resources. Now imagine every person in the world during the modern age emitting 6 metric tons of greenhouse gases and pollution. Now double that number (and the amplitude of this graph) to account for all the oxygen used in the combustion process (half turns into water). Furthermore, because oxygen is used in every aspect of life, not just burning fuel, but also in the manufacturing process (especially chemicals and plastics) and the destruction of all those products through oxidation (rotting, burning, rusting), triple the amplitude yet again and this represents a conservative estimate of the oxygen consumption of the human species.

I read The Population Bomb when I was a kid. I still have the edition you see pictured here. Obviously, it made a big impact on me, and the predictions keep coming true. The saving grace so far has been humanity’s ingenuity, particular the invention of modern farming practices.

Join our Global Oxygen Depletion Facebook Page and follow some current thinking, and maybe lend some of your own. And stay tuned for Scott’s upcoming book Breathless. Join our mailing list to get news.

How often do mass extinctions occur?

This chart is from Wikipedia and it shows the frequency of mass extinctions for the last 542 million years. It is easy to see that they occur in regular intervals of about every 64 million years. The last big extinction event, the one that wiped out the dinosaurs, happened 66 million years ago. In other words, we are 2 million years overdue.

Update 2021: I’m still working on this. It’s been a tough project, but I plan to publish soon one way or another.

A graph of the frequency of mass extinction events. Mass extinctions timeline.
A graph of past mass extinction events in terms of percentage. Including the big 5 mass extinctions and numerous little ones. Source
Global oxygen depletion logo. An illustration of the Earth  as a big O2 molecule.

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Sources

The United Nations Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, US Department of Energy, Wikipedia, and many more.

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