World Population Ceiling

When will the world reach it's ceiling? And how many people will there be?
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We live in two worlds - one planet, but two distinctly divided worlds. Since you are reading this, it is reasonable to assume that you are in the developed world - probably near one of those bright lights above. In this "first world" the population has nearly reached it's apex. The populations of the other world - the less developed parts of Latin America, Africa, Middle East, and South Asia - will continue rising unabated.

The United Nations Population Division estimates that the world population will climb upwards of 10 billion souls by 2100, and likely will continue to rise gradually for many years thereafter. Regionally the stories are quite unique. Europe has reached it's population summit and will soon start the slide downhill. Asia will follow 40 or 50 years from now. The developed countries of the Americas will continue a gradual rise, largely due to immigration. But Africa is the one major fly in the ointment, the thorn in the world's side. The population of this continent is growing at a constant and perhaps disastrous rate. It began the century at about 1 billion (15% of the world) and will quadruple by the end of the century. Eighty years from now 40% of the worlds population will live in Africa.

For a moment let's forget the dark continent. The rest of the world, developed and less developed, will likely reach it's population ceiling some time around 2055 at around 7 billion (Africa by this time will be about 2.6 billion). And by the end of the century the population of the non-Africa world is projected to drop back down to around 6.7 billion, little higher than it is today. By then Africa might be over 4 billion.

Yes, the world would reach it's population ceiling sometime between 2050 and 2060...if only Africa weren't such a mess. But with Africa to muddle things up the ceiling might not be reached for another 100 years. Despite the inevitable wars, famines, diseases, and natural disasters Africa will continue to grow. They will drag the world, kicking and screaming, onwards and upwards of 11 billion people. Some time in the middle of the next century the ceiling might finally be reached. Even then Africa will continue to grow, but the decline in the rest of the world's population will offset it.

Lacking a crystal ball, demographers can only estimate the distant future. They can not predict disasters and wars or know how the world will react when Africa passes Asia. We do know that Africa will not be able to feed their people. Even now religious tensions are rising and our TV screens are splashed with atrocities in far away places with irrelevant and forgettable names. It's the "hierarchy of death". It's Africa, that barbaric dark continent, that other world. Nobody cares...yet. But some day, like Syria, their borders will overflow. Some day, when it is too late, the world will care.

But there is good news. Where you are may seem crowded now. The traffic might be bad on Monday morning and the people are probably rude and annoying. Things might seem bad, but don't worry. Thanks to population stabilization in the developed world it will likely get only slightly worse. Good news, right?