I met a bloke in Morrison’s car park last week. Paul, his name was. He started to chat to me about Peaches the campervan which led to interesting stories of his experiences in Australia of buying a camper. I had places to go and things to do, but this guy was interesting enough to spend an hour or so talking to. Plus, I was too polite to tell him that I had places to go and things to do.
He had just recovered from a hairy Covid experience and had an amazing amount of facts and figures in his head concerning his worries about this world, in particular the increase in world population (as well as the consumption of oil by the US and a number of other things – this is Totnes after all). We had a lot in common. I lived in Slovakia, he had lived in Hungary. I had lived in Jordan, he in Palestine. We established that we had similar world views. He told this story:
“So, Pete, imagine you live next to a beautiful lake. Every morning you take a walk around the lake and your life is wonderful. You walk your dog and enjoy nature. You have a neighbour. A grumpy neighbour, who you try to avoid. But one morning, as you are walking around the lake he is there, but smiling for a change. ‘Pete’, he says, ‘look at this beautiful lily I have here. It’s one of the rarest lilies in the world. The are only a few left today, but it can double itself every day. I will put it in the lake. Tomorrow, there will be two of them and the day after four.’
‘That’s great,’ you say.
And sure enough the next day there are two of this most beautiful and rare lily in the lake. And the day after four of them.
Three months later the lake is choked by the lilies. There is no oxygen left in the water and all of the fish have died. It is full. My question to you, Pete, is this: when was the lake half full? It is not a trick question.”
I could not work out the answer, because I am slightly dense when it come to maths and this made me panic as well as seeming like maths to me.
“It was the day before,” he said. “Remember that it doubles every day.”
So I went and looked up the figures he had quoted me and the world population since 1963, when I was born and now (the nearest I found was 2020). And then for the previous 57 years before I was born (the nearest being 1900). Paul was of a similar age to me. This is what I found:
So perhaps he has a point. There must be a tipping point above which our planet can no longer sustain its human population. And it is doubling every “my lifetime so far” (57 years). If you want to go back one further 57ish years, it was 1,200, 000, 000 in 1850.
Paul very nearly died from his Covid infection.
You meet some interesting people in Morrison’s carpark in Totnes. I somehow think that the loss of population due to the pandemic made me think about this on some other level. You could even look at all this from a religious point of view, or you could look at this as one of the results of our lifestyles and the population explosion as contributing factors. Who knows?
Think about it: the resources available to us; world population doubling every sixty years or so. The day before…