In the 1973 movie Soylent Green, the world had turned (spoiler alert!) to cannibalism to feed its billions of unwashed masses by 2022. But nine years before that milestone, it looks as if the world’s population could actually be starting to decline.
The number of people on the planet has grown exponentially in the past half-century alone, from 2.5 billion in 1950 to an estimated 7 billion in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The world’s 7 billionth person, born sometime last March, elicited concern that we would run out of food and resources for everyone. An ever updating Census Bureau population clock shows the numbers rising.
People have worried about this since at least the 18th century, when British political economist Thomas Malthus first theorized that unchecked population growth would ultimately lead to starvation. China, so concerned about the drain of overpopulation on its resources, instituted a one-child policy in 1979, imposing heavy fines on parents who go over the limit.
But it turns out the world’s population isn’t growing nearly as fast as it once did. In fact, experts say the rate of population growth will continue to slow and that the total population will eventually — likely within our lifetimes — fall.
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