Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
August / September 1999


Coming to a Planet Near You: Six Billion Human Beings

by Fred Elbel, Population Committee

Y6B, the Year of 6 Billion is upon us. Y6B, the other Year 2000 problem, marks the point at which world population will have doubled within the lifetime of everyone older than 40 years old. World population is projected to continue to increase to over 9 billion by the year 2050. Every 20 minutes, the world adds another 3,500 people. During the same 20 minutes, it forever loses at least one entire species of animal or plant life - 27,000 species per year. 

What are the Ramifications? 

Per capita, grain production peaked a decade ago. Agricultural land is rapidly being degraded and used for sprawling cities. Water is in ever shorter supply. 

Out of six billion people, one billion are teenagers entering their reproductive years. “Population momentum” will keep world population growing even after fertility (the birth rate) is reduced, because these teenagers will grow up to have children while their parents are still alive.

What About U.S. Population Growth?

The U.S. is the third most populous country and the fastest growing large industrial nation. The U.S. has doubled its population in the last 58 years. It is expected to nearly double, to possibly half a billion people, within another 50 years. As Earth Day founder and former U.S. Senator, Gaylord Nelson, noted, “With twice as many people projected for the next 60 years, we will need twice as many hospitals, prisons, roads, schools, and more. This growth will place a heavy burden, economic and otherwise, on the American taxpayer.” Of course, the environmental consequences will be equally serious.

What About Colorado?

According to The Sierra Club Sprawl Report, “The Dark Side of the American Dream,” from 1990 to 1996, metro Denver population has increased 15 percent and metro land use has increased 66 percent. Thus, metro Denver population is doubling approximately every 28 years. Twenty-nine species are listed as endangered or threatened in Colorado, and loss of farm and ranch land is accelerating. Growth and sprawl continues not only in metro Denver, but throughout Colorado.

What You Can Do:

The Population Committee is producing a joint Y6B presentation, in mid-October, along with the National Audubon Society, the Colorado Population Coalition and nationally-recognized guest speakers. For more information, please contact Fred Elbel at 303-220-7499 or by e-mail at


Number of People  How long did it take?
1 billion (About 1800)  All of human history 
2 billion (1930)  130 years
3 billion (1960)  30 years
4 billion (1974)  14 years
5 billion (1987)  13 years
6 billion (1999) 12 years


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