Welcome to 2023. If things feel a little more crowded, well, they should.
At some point late last year the world’s population topped 8 billion. That’s a lot of people. To put it into perspective, it took humanity until around 1800 to reach a world population of 1 billion (or at least, that’s what some experts say. There’s a lot of room for disagreement there). Since then, we’ve been pretty busy.
I’m not sure how the experts know the population of the world was 1 billion in 1800 or is 8 billion now. Who’s actually doing all the counting? Here in the U.S., we live in one of the most advanced civilizations in the history of the world and every 10 years when we try to count ourselves fights break out all over the place because some people claim they’re not getting counted and other people claim they’re getting counted twice. How do you get even a good guess in a place like Bangladesh? I guess when you’re talking about 8 billion people, being off by a million here and million there really doesn’t make much difference.
China, which has been the most populous country for as long as I can remember (and probably a lot longer) may be overtaken as No. 1 this year by India. The good old USA is third. The next three most populous countries might be a surprise if you haven’t been paying much attention lately: they are Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria.
As far as I can tell, there are more humans around than any other kind of mammal. The only potential rivals to that claim would be the brown rat or the house mouse. There’s a bunch of rodents around and they aren’t volunteering to be counted, so we’ll never know.
As best as anyone can tell, there are around 1.5 billion cows on the planet, around 1 billion pigs, maybe 900 millions dogs and possibly 600 million domestic cats. How about chickens? Did you know there are 23 billion chickens in the world?
On the other hand, some estimates say there are 1.4 billion insects for every human on the planet. That’s a lot of bugs! There could be from 10 to 100 quadrillion ants on the planet alone. I think about a quadrillion of them live in my back yard.
And birds? There are a lot of birds flying around. Estimates range between 50 billion and 430 billion, which seems like a wide margin for error. We humans are minor leaguers compared to our avian friends. Just so you know, the most populous wild bird on the planet apparently is the red-billed quelea. There are around 1.5 billion of these birds on the planet and I’m guessing that you, like me, have never seen one. This is because they spend their time flying around Africa.
But back to human beings. You can see the population boom right here in Miami County. Some places in Ohio, particularly large cities, have been losing population. Dayton, for instance, topped out at around 262,000 in 1960. Today, there are only 137,000 people living there. On the other hand, when I was born Miami County’s population was somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000. The latest census put the county at 108,000. I can actually go to the grocery store these days and not see one person I really know. Of course, I can’t see very far these days and I can’t remember the people I do see, but that’s another story.
Why do I bring all this up? Well, there are times in my life when I realize I am taking myself a little too seriously. This was pretty much the case all the time the first 18 years or so of my life and there have been times in the ensuing years when things happened to go right and I think I should get the credit.
When I catch myself thinking that way, I think about how I am one of 8 billion people on the planet. Talk about the proverbial grain of sand on the seashore! That means there are 7,999,999,000 people (give or take a few thousand) who don’t even know I exist. There’s probably an even bigger number that don’t care.
We don’t even want to get into the insect part. Why, there are a quadrillion of them in my neighborhood alone who don’t care about me, except for maybe trying to get into my house.
So as it turns out, none of us really is a big deal. You want a big deal, start counting insects.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]