By the end of the month, the world's population will hit the seven billion-person benchmark — and it isn't showing any signs of slowing down. According to a special section of the National Geographic website, the global population will steadily climbed past seven billion and will continue to rise for the next several years.
The explosive global population increase can be attributed to several factors: people are living longer than ever before, more women are in their childbearing years (1.8 billion) than ever and scientists continue to find new ways to combat disease. By extrapolating these facts, among several other sets of data, NatGeo estimates that by 2050, the population could reach 10.5 billion.
The global population is currently growing by 80 million people per year. This worries some scientists, who note the deteriorating health of the Earth (melting polar ice caps, vanishing food supplies and dwindling supply of clean water), which some believe may cause conflict in the near future.
Still, it will take a lot to knock our population growth off course: The world population hasn't fallen since the Black Death of the 14th Century. It was developments in health sciences that helped combat widespread disease and reestablish the global population growth. Medicine has been one of the most important fertilizers of population growth since that time.
There are some, though, who believe that the natural resources of the Earth will not always be able to support so much life, regardless of whether we're able to combat disease or not. The founder of this school of thought is Thomas Robert Malthus of the late 18th century, who believed that unchecked population growth would ultimately lead to famine. But Malthus also believed that famine would be a good thing: He said it would push mankind to be ingenious and to find ways to continue support its people.
Whether humans will find a way to adapt to limited resources is yet to be seen. But for now, every second, we can welcome about four of the newest members of our species to our planet.