Who are we?

Jean-Francois Rischard: I think that when you look at these various curves of sort of world population curve, or the curve that measures economic activity, you see something that rises very slowly for 2,000 years, then picks up steam around the Industrial Revolution – the old one, the 18th century one. And then you have the curve goes up and up, and now we’re in a period of human history where the curve goes straight up. Straight up meaning going suddenly from three billion people in 1960 to nine billion people in 2050. That’s an extremely fast runoff, and the same is happening on the economic front as well. And so to give you a sense of how steep the curves are, just consider the fact that for instance today, we have six billion people, as I said, on the planet. The world GDP is $40 trillion. And at this rate, we’re using 1.25 planets in terms of the ecological footprint that we have. Whereas 30, 40 years ago we were using roughly half a planet. And if you go from now, which is 2007, to 2050, and you make some modest assumptions as to what will happen in between to growth rate and population, you come up with the staggering figure that in 2050, we will have nine billion people. The world GDP will be $140 trillion. In other terms, more than three times bigger than the one we have now. And unless we do something about the ecological footprint of humanity, we’ll be at 2.25 planets, which is absolutely impossible – 1.25 is already impossible. But going towards two is the end of the system. So that is what’s happening, is that we’re now in the part of the curve where the curves go straight up. And that is absolutely unprecedented. There is nothing like this in human history before.

Recorded on: 7/2/07

We are using too much of the planet.

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

Want students to cheat less? Science says treat them justly

Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.

Credit: Roman Pelesh/Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
  • The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
  • The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
Keep reading Show less

A key COVID-19 immune response in children has been identified

This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.

Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Coronavirus
  • The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
  • Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
  • This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
Keep reading Show less

A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Paitoon Pornsuksomboon/Shutterstock/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Study calls out the genes that make cancer cells so hard to kill

    Researchers from the University of Toronto published a new map of cancer cells' genetic defenses against treatment.

    Credit: CI Photos/Shutterstock
    Surprising Science
  • Developing immunotherapies for cancers is made more difficult by how different tumors are from each other.
  • Some cancers are actually made worse by immunotherapy.
  • A piece falls into place on the complicated puzzle of genetic interactions of cancer cells.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Quantcast