Make room. Scoot over. Squeeze in. Get your elbow out of my ribs. Get your toe out of my eye. Get your finger out of my ... well, OK, you can keep it in there if you like, but in some countries that means we're now engaged. Or perhaps Mormon.
I hope you don't mind being this hotly intimate. You do? Too bad. Better get used to it, sweetheart. It's only gonna get worse.
It's not like you have a choice. It's not like it's easy being here on the planet 40 years from now, around the year 2050, the time when the
, after much sighing and general wringing of hands, that we as a rapacious and relentlessly procreative species will be exploding all over ourselves in numbers that, at first glance, seem entirely ridiculous and untenable and doomed, but which, when you look at them more carefully, are completely ridiculous and untenable and doomed.
Here it is: A mere 40 years from now, the world population, which just recently reached a sweating, gasping seven billion, will be well over nine billion. Ethiopia and Nigeria are on track to grow the fastest, nearly tripling in population, along with similar patterns in other "high-fertility" African regions, which is all kinds of absurd given that continent's struggles to adequately feed and water even a fraction of its current population.
Minorities will soon flip to the majority in America, much to the horror of Arizona, Texas and many, many panicky Tea Partiers, who very much believe that God really wants America to look exactly like a giant Idaho Wal-Mart, only with more gluten.
What else? Russia will apparently look a lot more like Detroit, given that harshy frozen country's severely declining birthrate, economic doldrums and generally low, vodka-abridged quality of life. America will
as third largest in the world, mostly by birthing 100 million more confused coffee slurping fans of reality TV (308 million now, 423 million then), some of them very beautiful, life-affirming and totally cute in those jeans, but many of them mal-educated, broke and living with their parents -- and by the way, if you're around 25 and reading this right now, that parent is probably you.
In slightly more comforting news, China and India's populations will hold steady at 1.3 billion or so (China declining slightly, India growing), which is good news indeed because everyone agrees they're already completely preposterous as it is. Japan has almost no idea what's going on and will stay in vague socioeconomic limbo for many thousand more days. Parts of Europe are on the birth-rate "uptick," mostly because it feels good and they like sex more than they like God. Which is as it should be, really.
What do we make of it all? How to remain optimistic and sober in the face of such seemingly senseless and staggering figures? More than nine billion people? Have we no shame? Have we no condoms? Have we no idea what the hell we're really doing on this pale blue dot way, way over here at the far edge of our tiny, forgotten galaxy?
Sure, 40 years ago experts likely rang many of the same alarms, saying that by the time the world hit seven billion (in 1970, it was just shy of four billion) all would be chaos and destruction, the global infrastructure would collapse, because surely no one would have a clue what to do with
And, well, they were essentially correct. Sure, we're still here. Sure, we've managed to avoid complete cataclysm so far. But only barely. It turns out we are fabulously good at reproducing like drunken rabbits. It's everything after that where we seem to lose our collective minds.
But wait, is it really so bleak?...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently suggested that you please live in sin forevermore, that you also please step away from the fear, and that you seem to enjoy always walking in circles. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...