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

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