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

This article is part of a series

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

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.

The Population Bomb by Paul R Ehrlich
The Population Bomb by Paul R Ehrlich.

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, particularly the invention of modern farming practices and the Nobel Prize winning method for creating fertilizer.

What happens if the world runs out of oxygen?

The article you are reading is based on years of research. The facts and science are real. However, in my new debut sci-fi novel, I extrapolate these ideas into the worst-case scenario: A firestorm devastates the Earth’s atmosphere, and a handful of survivors question whether it is worth saving themselves.

Will humanity survive the oxygen apocalypse? Find out now

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.

Join us on Facebook

Follow some current thinking and lend some of your own.

Sources

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

Please share:

Facebook
Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More stories like this

Have you ever wondered how much breathable air is on Earth, and if we'll ever run out? Our atmosphere is paper-thin relative to a basketball, and we use its oxygen to power internal combustion engines, create electricity, and manufacture products (cement, chemicals, plastic). Worse, we are destroying the plants that make more breathable oxygen.
I calculate how much oxygen a tree breathes and how much excess oxygen a tree produces in three different ways. Spoiler alert: It's not a lot.
Ten reasons why we might be measuring oxygen in the atmosphere wrong. And how global oxygen depletion may be a hidden driver of climate change.
Footprint in the sand

Subscribe to my newsletter ​

I enjoy sending short stories about my adventures. I also send updates with free worksheets, new books and inspirational ideas to help you live a more joyful and meaningful life.