7 Billion and Counting

Friday, November 04, 2011

Joel E. Cohen, mathematical biologist, head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, and author of How Many People Can the Earth Support?, talks about the implications of passing the 7-billion world population milestone. 


Joel E. Cohen

Comments [28]

Estelle from Austin

You mentioned the problem of needing more US workers to support Social Security for the elderly. One solution not mentioned: Increase legal immigration!

Nov. 04 2011 03:59 PM
Donna from California

re: increasing retirement age. sadly most employers hiring often will bypass people over 50 because they feel they are too old for the job. if we want people to work longer, businesses will have to rethink this thought.

Nov. 04 2011 01:38 PM
John-Luke from East Village

We rightfully try and cure cancer and malaria but the reality of the fact is that if we do, the population explosion would mean the end of the world. At what point do we address population control? Sit David Attenborough thinks we should have started population reduction years ago. Wouldn't population reduction solve most issues from ecological disasters to famine and even city parking!

Nov. 04 2011 12:32 PM
Joel E. Cohen from New York

To Natalia from Port Washington NY
Take a look at the Population Council and CARE

Nov. 04 2011 12:13 PM
Amy from Manhattan

There's also going to be less land surface to live on & to grow crops on if we don't do enough to counteract global climate upset & sea level rising.

Nov. 04 2011 12:05 PM
Lin from NYC

Had to stop was doing to write a comment because I do not feel you covered this subject adequately. Re population explosion and how to fix it on the backs of seniors: The author claims that these days seniors are better able to work and support themselves. If this is true why are teachers being forced out of their jobs once they reach higher salary levels? How are police officers, health care aides, nurses, construction workers, firemen etc expected to perform their jobs into their late 60s? The author doesn't consider how loss of hearing (even with use of highly expensive hearing devices) eye sight (expensive glasses), problems with arthritis, slower reaction time, etc affect
the way one works. Then there are high perscription costs (getting higher) and I could go on! No questions some seniors are able to do more but I do not see that as the norm when it comes to working and finding new work. Actually, where are those employers who are willing to hire most seniors for livable wages? Didn't you have a caller just a few fews weeks ago
call to suggest seniors should move over and allow younger people to take their positions?

Nov. 04 2011 11:54 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Anyone remember the Zero Population Growth (ZPG) movement from the '70s? Well, that didn't work out.... When they said the population would double in 30 years, I didn't believe it. They were right, though. Tom Lehrer referred to "3 billion hunks of well-done steak" in "We Will All Go Together When We Go"--now it would have to be 7 billion, & that doesn't scan!

Nov. 04 2011 11:54 AM

people, people, people.
we exist, and expand, at the expense of other species. More than scenes of distant melting icebergs, or the disappearance of frogs in your garden; its a daily, minute-by-minute occurrence that only accelerates as we pop out kids, grab and rejigger land, alter climate and ocean temperature.

Who the hell wants to live on such a planet?

Nov. 04 2011 11:36 AM
Kristin McDonough from 188 Madison @ 34th St.

Dr. Cohen will be at NYPL's business library, SIBL, 188 Madison@34th St.
at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday December 1
in Healy Hall on the lower level..

SIBL will be screening his 45 minute lecture "Malthus Miffed" at 1:00 p.m. at the conclusion of which Dr. Cohen will lead a live discussion.

All are welcome

Nov. 04 2011 11:34 AM
Mary from New York

Brian, Africa and India can't be compared, with population. One is a continent and the other is a country.

Nov. 04 2011 11:29 AM
Bernard from Bronx

I am not so concerned about the number of people on earth as I am about people's propensity to overuse resources. There is enough resources to support billions more if we would learn to behave in a moderate way with respect to our consumptive behaviours.

Nov. 04 2011 11:28 AM

Yes, it's easy to keep working longer than 60 or 65 when your job is... sitting in a desk.

There is a rather hilarious disconnect between the well-educated classes who work in climate controlled offices and the rest of the population. We should just get the miners some Aeron chairs.

Nov. 04 2011 11:27 AM
David from New Jersey

I have already planned to try to work to at least 72 years of age. I am 63 now. I am a computer technologist and I hope that my skills stay sharp and therefore stay employable. Since we are putting off retirement, is there any chance we can get decent vacations to rest and repair from the stressful environment we all live and work in?

Nov. 04 2011 11:26 AM
David from nj

Considering survival of the fittest and that populations with the highest reproductive/survival rates are most likely to dominate, and that population growth is highest in the poorest and least educated societies, is humankind selecting for supidity and being disadvantaged?

Nov. 04 2011 11:25 AM

As Joel Cohen wonders, we must be concerned when the wealthiest 6 billion ignore the plight of the poorest 1 billion.

But the problem is worse. In the United States, we have the wealthiest 100,000 and its slaves in Congress and the White House actively, viciously hostile to the plight of the 7 billion.

Nov. 04 2011 11:25 AM
Robert from NYC

But that's politcal garbage talk that we don't have enough younger workers to support the growing older population. That's republican chat to used to pit one group against another. Take a look and investigate it yourself and stop just spewing the talk politicians use. Money has been put into retirement and Social Security all along by those how taking the money out. Yes continued input is necessary but it is going it. Much of Soc Sec has been used for other purposes and that's an issue one never hears talked about. Social Security is fine for quite awhile now. As population grows minimum increases in collecting FICA--MINIMUM-- can be made as well as increasing the top level of input to FICA, i.e., there is a ceiling that can be lifted and not that far but a little at a time if population continues to increase. It just has to be that way for it to work and it works and there's no reason why it shouldn't to continue to work.

Nov. 04 2011 11:23 AM

Economist and philosopher Amartya Sen pioneered work on the relation between democracy, education, population, and wealth. He won the Nobel Prize for his work.

It's a shame Joel Cohen shows so great an understanding of biology and population but so little of economics and non-biological issues. Raising retirement ages won't do anything if the jobs aren't available for those people to take.

Nov. 04 2011 11:21 AM
RJ from prospect hts

This word "globalization" as it's being discussed is another word for the "colonization" that's happened for a long, long time for Africa's resources--agriculture in the late 1800s, minerals and oil wealth throughout the 20th century. And it's been 30-40 years since it's been known that educating women in small communities has helped reduce population growth and the increased cohesion of communities--that women as the feeders and nurturers have sustained them. So hitting the 7 billion mark is just another Western benchmark that makes us pay momentary attention to this exploitation.

Oh, and the life span of poor and minority communities is shorter than those well off and white, so do their retirement ages stay lower? So they can have comparable retirement periods?

Nov. 04 2011 11:19 AM
John A.

"Wouldn't population reduction solve most issues"
Would somebody please clarify that this commenter is not talking about genocide. What Is he talking about?

Nov. 04 2011 11:18 AM
Nora from Bloomfield, NJ

Q: Is it true that the higher a woman's education level, the less likely she is to have children? What are the Darwinian implications of this -- less intelligent women?

Nov. 04 2011 11:18 AM
Natalia from Port Washington NY

I haven't seen many non-profits that focus on international maternal health and newborn care other than UNICEF. Does your guest know of any?

Nov. 04 2011 11:16 AM
John-Luke from East Village

We rightfully try and cure cancer and malaria but the reality of the fact is that if we do, the population explosion would mean the end of the world. At what point do we address population control? Sit David Attenborough thinks we should have started population reduction years ago. Wouldn't population reduction solve most issues from ecological disasters to famine and even city parking!

Nov. 04 2011 11:13 AM
John A.

So, does the man have his own theoretical max, provided we change land management and cap personal consumption*?
*Which are not going to happen, to completess, but might be attempted.

Nov. 04 2011 11:13 AM
Henry from Brooklyn

When people talk about overpopulation, the knee jerk reaction is to talk about birth control.

What about the increasingly aging population? Life expectancy is now almost 70 years versus 53 in 2009. Now scientists have discovered how to reduce the effects of aging in mice!

So if were all getting older, who is gong to do the work to keep us happy in our old age.

Nov. 04 2011 11:10 AM

The UN claims the population has passed 7 billion. The US Census Bureau says we will hit that number some time in the next month.

Nov. 04 2011 11:08 AM
carolita from nyc

With all the people in the world, there will never be enough jobs for everyone. Remember the communes of the 60s? They weren't necessary back then, they were just fun, or practice. They're going to be necessary in the future. I just don't know if people are socialized enough to do them now, now that we've all been raised as loners, but there's hope for the younger generations en route. I guarantee that communes based on time-barter economy will become part of the economic landscape.

Nov. 04 2011 10:32 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The problem isn't too many people, it's lack of shared resources and political conflict.

Nov. 04 2011 09:27 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

We have reached 7 billion much more slowly than the whacko-progressive alarmists once predicted that we would.....and all based on the "scientific predictions" of the time that were not open for heretical discussion by the naysayers on the right.
Sound familiar? Keep it in mind when they hysterically blubber about the imminent global climate catastrophe due any week now

Nov. 04 2011 08:39 AM

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