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How will we survive when the population hits 10 billion? | Charles C. Mann

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By 2050, an estimated 10 billion people will live on earth. How are we going to provide everybody with basic needs while also avoiding the worst impacts of climate change? In a talk packed with wit and wisdom, science journalist Charles C. Mann breaks down the proposed solutions and finds that the answers fall into two camps -- wizards and prophets -- while offering his own take on the best path to survival. Check out more TED Talks: http://www.ted.com The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. Follow TED on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/TEDTalks Like TED on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TED Subscribe to our channel: https://www.youtube.com/TED
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Text Comments (3579)
Wandering Watcher (1 day ago)
The skeptic in me sees no way out of this mess. Our civilization is based on continuous expansion. While fewer children would be nice in theory, it doesn´t work out so well in practice. Our economic system is dependent on constant expansion to drive investment, because money is fundamentally created as debt. Basiclly, there isn´t enough money on the planet to repay all debts and therefore the economy requires new loans to be created at all times, those loans comes from investment which in turn are fueled by ever increasing consumption of goods from the living standards rising or the population increasing. The last thing any nation wants is therefore a declining population. Making the problem worse is a combination of an aging population with even fewer young people to take care of them. Europe is currently doing everything in it´s power to delay the negative effects of this by importing as many people as possible to delay the future economic collapse. No one wants to be the first country to deal with demografic issues. Even to the point of destroying their own culture and unity; see Sweden.
Luchace Fox (8 days ago)
Nuclear power based on Uranium and Plutonium is ABSOLUTE INSANITY. Not to mention the most selfish thing that humans have ever done.
Mass Extinction (9 days ago)
Sounds like crapitalism We do what we have to do You believe in freewill No such thing as freewill 🤧 depression most of my life so why stop it now I'm on a roll
Wyatt Chiordi (12 days ago)
we have MUCH more important issues to protest about these days. like gender identity and manspreading .....The planet's health can wait
Narciso Duran (15 days ago)
We need more support for euthanasia clinics. After our reproductive years have passed (one child or none at all), the years of being a burden on the social net, and high consuming -- meds, motor trips to medical services, higher heating costs for older bodies, etc. -- intensify. I grew up in the 1970s on a collective in Mendocino county. This is how we were raised. My father willingly took his life at 58 and my mother two years later at age 56. I am 54 now. Euthanasia clinics would take the pain out of such a stoic decision.
Inseok Nam (15 days ago)
China + India will be the half of 10 billion. What 's wrong with them? They've got to do something.
mikeyd7733 (22 days ago)
Unfortunately the likely scenario is a mix of both..... We will engage in global war, but the outcome may be a lower population number.
(22 days ago)
Communism is the answer.
Inseok Nam (15 days ago)
Go to china.
evan williamson (22 days ago)
At 2:23, you raise the question: "Is this actually true? Are we going to hit the edge of the pitri dish?" You then set that question aside and never actually get back to it. Over the course of nearly 13 minutes, you fail to provide any evidence as to why the growth of our species is remotely analogous to the growth of microbes in a pitri dish. As someone with access to the internet, I urge you to look at birth rates in first world countries. THEY ARE DROPPING BELOW 2:1 CHILDREN:WOMEN!!!! How can you possibly ignore this trend? Take a look for yourself: http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/total-fertility-rate/. As humans continue to progress, particularly with respect to education, birth rates will continue to drop below sub-replacement fertility levels. Will we hit 10 billion? I don't know. What happens when we do? I don't know, but again, you fail to demonstrate why 10 billion is a scary number in the first place. When the population was 4 billion, people were undoubtedly screaming bloody murder at the thought of 3 billion more people, and here we are, doing better than ever. Just look at the wiki page for human overpopulation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_overpopulation#Projections_of_population_growth) and your fears will be alleviated. I'm happy to concede that humans aren't particularly special, and that your thesis isn't either. Just as Thomas Malthus was wrong that the global food supply would run out by the mid 19th century, you'll have been wrong to worry another 3 billion people.
TheMusicShaman (1 month ago)
These Thanos comments have me dead 😂
NPC #45095367 (1 month ago)
Yeah this guy doesn't look like sociopath.
Beartosser (1 month ago)
Fission is a bridge technology while we develop and deploy fusion.
RobosergTV (1 month ago)
the human cockroaches of this world have to STOP breeding like mindless sheeps. I am talking to you Africa and Asia. Stop breeding human waste.
Gaming with Zori (1 month ago)
7.53 billion estimated (2017) Currently 2019.. The earth can only withstand 10 billion humans. estimated 2035–2050.. What are we going to do its getting harder to find water everyday. Having 10 Billion people!
Ken Marriott (1 month ago)
He assumes that humans aren’t smarter than other animals. The technology and lifestyle that we enjoy today is a result of a large world population and specialization. Do animals farm or invent technology to make their life different? Do you think we will never escape earth as in Star Trek?
Sanguinarius9999 (1 month ago)
Sounds like the French watched this TED talk.
domitron (1 month ago)
The premise is wrong - that we SHOULD be striving to 10 billion. We should not. We should reduce our numbers. If we cannot do it, nature WILL do it for us. End of discussion. Deal with it.
Scott Bott (1 month ago)
There's plenty of data available that proves we won't get passed 9 billion. So...... this video is a waste
notmycupotea (1 month ago)
Mass sterilization, stop paying people to have kids and pay people to be sterilized.
Emperor Scott Yee (1 month ago)
Don't worry, WW3 or Global Warming will make sure we don't make it to 10 billion. After all, who wants World Peace anyways? Long. Live. Nationalism!
Its Chronos (1 month ago)
The question is, when will our population accumulate ten billion?
Vincent Sleeves (1 month ago)
Wizards only fools. Keep it tight.
Justin Hayes (1 month ago)
what and idiot yes we are specal
Julian Niemiec (1 month ago)
What was the point of this Video? I came here thinking I might learn something, instead, all I got was "We are all Doomed and there is nothing we can do about it" 1. We are only, in the last 20 to 30+ years starting to understand the Globe as a whole. 2. Predominantly Asia and Africa have seen High Population Growths in the last 200 years and birth rates are falling. 3. The globe is becoming less Violent, in recent years, and with a higher standard of living for most. 4. As overall intelligence increases, population rates fall. This is why I rarely watch TED Talks any more.
nwjh1957 (1 month ago)
The only problem with this discussion is a false premise. Human population growth for the last 60+ years has been linear, not exponential. Outside of Africa, that rate is slowing as babies per woman drop to 2.0 of less (in some countries). In effect, the population of Asia, Europe and the Americas are as big as they are going to get (in approximate terms), while the future growth will all be in Africa. We are at a point where the number of babies born is roughly steady globally, and we are filling up the spaces of the people who were never actually born as people age. See Hans Rosling's work (on other TED talks for more on this). This is not to say that there aren't problems. Food production and distribution needs a lot of work, as does water distribution, and efficiencies are critical. But the human population is heading for a peak, not unlimited growth, and we are collectively doing it by raising living standards globally. That's what cuts birth rates. And we are doing that remarkably well. So it's not quite a gloomy as suggested here, but that's no reason for complacency!
Skiid (1 month ago)
Food won’t run out , it will just get a lot more expensive. Get ready for $899 small plates at McDonald’s and pills given out by the government as a replacement for food .
Skiid (1 month ago)
When we get to that point we’re gonna be out of food and we’re gonna be eating pills like in that one rick & morty episode...
Destrudo Alexandros (1 month ago)
Pull the tigger rhow your head
Averreee (1 month ago)
Oh yeah yeah
Alexnadru Dinca (1 month ago)
Here's a thought: CONDOMS! We should use them from time to time. Don't you think?
Tauno Kekkonen (1 month ago)
If you start by saying that the population has grown exponentially, you'll lose anyone who has half a brain. Growth rate has been decreasing since the 70's.
Nick B (1 month ago)
This video doesn't mention what to do in order to actually stop the population growth. If we keep growing exponentially, no amount of technology will help unless we move out to space.
mark d (1 month ago)
Prophets vs Wizards, So Great!
kjf1230 (1 month ago)
Yes- Elon Musk’s Green Tec is open source and free Paton access. Regardless, single cell organisms don’t create factories, or advance technology. We are VERY Special
Dennis Steubing (1 month ago)
our petri dish is the hole Universe. I dont think that reaching the wall of the petri dish is possible for humanity. So no Point for you Mr. C. Mann ...
Thomas Dowd (1 month ago)
Don't fall into the self-hatred trap that the concern of overpopulation can induce. Humanity is not a disease, and every person on this planet has enormous potential, and therefore, intrinsic value. There is no doubt we need to get serious about correcting the path we're on as a species, but it's just as important to stay rational about it in order to stay effective. Wording like "breakout species" to refer to humanity's population explosion is vastly oversimplifying. This planet has tremendous resources, and has always been capable of sustaining such a large human population. This rapid growth was inevitable, but has naturally led to problems with resource allocation (food, wealth). Our current state of existence is the result of billions of years of development of the Milky Way, or solar system, and our planet, Earth, followed by millions of years of evolution to produce the most intelligent, creative, and compassionate organism that we are aware of. Don't throw that away in a simple, poorly thought out argument for our inevitable self-destruction. That's just lazy thinking. It is largely believed that world population growth will virtually halt around the time the population hits 11 billion. I'll let Hans Rosling explain that one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LyzBoHo5EI To answer the speaker, yes, I do think we're special. Although the circumstances facing the protozoa in a petri dish as well as ourselves are similar, humans possess an unprecedented ability to adapt and overcome, on a level that transcends anyone's ability to forecast our fate. If you want to be part of the solution, educate yourself and help our global community overcome the current problems we're facing. Every individual is capable of causing change for the better of our world. It is not too late for us, and not too late for you.
WeepForManetheren (1 month ago)
As a wizard, I find this both under informed and unimaginative.
bert havermout (1 month ago)
Wizards and Prophets?”: Don’t make it more difficult than the problem already is. OK we are talking (at the same time) about population growth, greed, and global warming. Limit pop growth (it has been done before: Indonesia, China), limit greed (?), and limit global warming. The latter indeed nuclear energy IS an option!
SupernalOne (1 month ago)
We will fight each other to the death as we sink into quicksand
M Hartung (1 month ago)
The strong , competent , brave , resourceful will survive ; at least for a time........
Pavel Drexler (1 month ago)
I am affraid that nukes will solve this problem, but not in the way we will like.
Abraham Arbores (2 months ago)
It's time for a human outbreak in the solar system!
boxlessthinking (2 months ago)
Agenda 21 what. Man this guys sounds like he want you to ride a horse. lol
HDXBear (2 months ago)
Birth control good place to start
Bison Days (2 months ago)
YO U R POPULATION IS IN DECLINE SO WHY YOU WANNA KNOW !?
Celina K (2 months ago)
Simple; eat the rich, drown the poor
Celina K (2 months ago)
8:25 people don't like that they're patented or the possibility they might be 10:28 should have used thorium instead 10:45 good idea No mention of seaweed, duckweed or purple sweet potatoes? Well I guess tubers count
Conrad Wolf (2 months ago)
My wife and I are in the 40-50 group and enjoying life. No kids cause we didn't (and still don't) want them. We couldn't care less what happens to the planet after 2060. :) As for this quack, he forgets the main difference between protozoa and humans. Protozoa are all equal. Humans are not. The West, which discusses the ways to save our species and living in harmony with the planet has roughly 1.3 billion people. China, India, the rest of Asia and Africa, and Brazil and the rest of the poor countries in Latin America have a population of 6.3 billion, and they are (mentally) at the stage where the West was 3,000 years ago - eat and breed, eat and breed, eat and breed. Nigeria has gone from 46 million people in 1960 to 200 million (a staggering a growth of 435%) in just 60 years. Not to mention China, India, Indonesia, Brazil - all f*ing backward places with huge populations and no real plan, no real hope. Even if the West figures out ways to save humans, there are too many humans on this planet who will make sure that plan fails. The only way to save humans is to stop all immigration from undeveloped countries and have free trade agreements amongst the top 40 countries in the world, excluding the other 160 from it. Let them connect, if they want, and see if their block can survive. I would bet my last dollar on the Block of 40 against the Block of 160.
Tom Harris (2 months ago)
I thought he might have said something
pops tops (2 months ago)
the human species has always had a finite time to exist.we will go the way of the dinosours,then earth will shake us off like a bad case of fleas,and carry on its merry way until the sun eats her up,the end>
feelmd ks (2 months ago)
Easterns should stop giving birth up to 3 kids and then come to west and expect from our goverment to feed them. You see middle eastern families having 5-6 kids like rabbits... and get benefit for each kid.
BFDT (2 months ago)
THE ANSWER IS: STOP MAKING BABIES. Really. Not kidding.
BFDT (2 months ago)
At 10 billion, the natural world in so many places will be replaced with our and our slave species biomass. There won't be enough room or resources for any other biomass, except of course, for the bacteria. The bacteria is the predator of 10 billion. Watch.
Oscar Maximo (2 months ago)
Hi, for example, here in Portugal: We are going to reduce fossil emissions and build another airport. F*ck Lavoisier.
Callum Lueders (2 months ago)
WOW. This. video. really. fuucked me up How am i going to argue with a SCIENCE JOURNALIST that he's saying toblerone wrong?!?!?!?! MY LIFES A LIE
Kriegtime101 (2 months ago)
Nuclear power is only safe in terms of the newest technology.
Kathy Coleman (2 months ago)
In the year 2525 If man is still alive, If woman can survive, They may find...
Mark Caseon (2 months ago)
Interplanetary colonization is a way to solve overpopulation.
Callum Lueders (2 months ago)
No. Not correct. The cost of colonising another planet and transporting millions (if not billions) of people would be much more expensive than fixing earth. And ethically it would be much worse than telling people to stop eating meat on Mondays or to stop using cars 3 days a week too as the people involved in the colonisation would be like how the British empire built Australia (x10)
green house (2 months ago)
the answer is world war 3. war is the best way to reduce population.
Callum Lueders (2 months ago)
orabigfatnuke
Sam Crone (2 months ago)
This is just Malthus economics it has already been disproved
D Roe (2 months ago)
This is one of the biggest non-issues people get all up in arms about. Less than half of the planet's land mass is developed, and we produce enough food for double the current global population. Between waste and stupid over regulations, stupidly huge amounts of food are thrown away every day. 10B is nothing. Given current farming technologies, we can easily support far more than 10B people.
Pieter Steenekamp (2 months ago)
Nah, I don't buy this scaremongering. Since Malthus two centuries ago there have been many doomsdayers and all were proved spectacularly wrong every time. Not? Old-timers like me remember all the predictions of the 1970's that we are going to run out of resources by the end of the 20th century. They were all spectacularly wrong. When Malthus preached doom, nobody had the answers, human ingenuity solved the problems and we have been better off all the way. Nobody has the answers now, but human ingenuity just got better and the pace of solving problems is faster than ever. Obviously there are ultimate limits to resources, but we are very far from those limits. For practical purposes we need an energy miracle, as per Bill Gates' definition of a miracle (www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/Energy-Miracles). With abundant clean energy and developments in AI and bio-technology, the sky's the limit. If you wish to worry and it makes you happy, please do it. Personally I'm not worried at all. We have been doing much better than protozoa, I don't foresee that human ingenuity will stop.
man of Christ (2 months ago)
Billions will be coming back with him.
man of Christ (2 months ago)
Jesus!
Mike (2 months ago)
There's something wrong about this. He suggests we can survive an outbreak, but really we can't.
Oscar Maximo (2 months ago)
He is wrong about protozoa on petri dish. What is observed is that the previous last generation will resort to canibalism.
Michael Cole (2 months ago)
5:48 Anyone else see the guy sleeping? Lol
Daniel Balan (2 months ago)
the western world guilt tripping the western wold about overpopulation, yet China and India alone account for 3 billion people, more or less. How stupid can you people be? Not to me mention the influx of migrants from Africa that tend to have at least 3 children. Yet the western world is the one that needs to get their act together.....Why do I never see an Indian or some Chinese guy talking about this? no. It's always some white bitter dude who scares stupid compassionate people into not reproducing.
Vlad Tepesh (2 months ago)
Looking forward to seeing human logistics hitting its ceiling, and the fallout.
Andre Abreu (2 months ago)
Yawn
Arnold.J. Meijer (2 months ago)
If we, the West, continue to pour into our countries third world trash, supporting them with aid, food and medicins, our world will be destroyed. So STOP doning that! And lets think about ourselfs!
Daniel De Lauretis (2 months ago)
we wont. the end of this TED.
rakzr (2 months ago)
Trump wants to chisel you into the wall.
Tronald Dump (2 months ago)
bring me THANOS!
Leopoldo Astudillo (2 months ago)
Stop fornicating!!!
JoachimderZweite (2 months ago)
Why not face it calmly - we are screwed and we have passed the tipping point. My only consolation is it comes for the rich too though they may last a little longer.
João de Carvalho (2 months ago)
Wizard vs. Prophets is like Edward Bellamy vs. William Morris in their late 19th century utopias: "Looking Backward: 2000–1887" and "News from Nowhere".
Mahersay (2 months ago)
Why does this have only 1/2 a million? Share this now! This is exactly what he was saying, people need to be aware of the edge of the Petri dish and the solutions we need to push for.
MDM (2 months ago)
It's tough to get 5 people to agree on what to get on a pizza. We are not going to get 9 million to agree on anything.
wolfaww (2 months ago)
perry brought me here
Pocket Monkey (2 months ago)
Who’s down for the 10 billion subscriber special
Myusuf05 (2 months ago)
Thanos will stop by
Out of Many, One. (2 months ago)
Thanos is gonna snap his fingers duh
Kevin Neely (3 months ago)
Mann co.
Lê Thị Nhàn (3 months ago)
People actually think having less kids will save the earth. I disagree. Today with mordern science we should be able to survive for millions of years. I can say governments are corrupt and want to control society. And has already with taken a shift, especially with technology and social media. Were all programmed and gullible. The fact is we barely know anything about earth as a whole . We can stop and nip half the problems in society to move fowards if we stick together as human race.
Grommsh (3 months ago)
I feel like he is missing the one thing that makes humanity different than a protozoa stuck in a petri dish, and that's the fact that we have the capability to move to an endless amount of dishes. There's an entire universe filled with enough resources to last humanity billions upon billions of years, and yet the enthusiasm to go out and claim it is not there. There is at least 25 times more water out in our solar system than there is on the entire earth. Solar panels in space could collect a near limitless amount of energy to power the entire planet. Orbital agricultural hubs that are there to purely grow large amounts of food without damaging the ecosystem of the planet could be built. Mining operations on other stellar bodies would make it so that we do not have to continue to dig into our own for building materials and precious metals. Our real solutions to saving the people on this planet, lie outside of the planet. And only once people start caring about it and funding it, will it happen.
T1337P (3 months ago)
we get rid of the radical religious people, and there we go, only 2billion pop left. Problem solved
inferno (3 months ago)
Easily.
brandon alger (3 months ago)
Can i do the public speaking for you next time mate. Your points are valid but the delivery is shocking
charles mcdowell (3 months ago)
Nice nuke commercial.
Zackidoo Zacoou (3 months ago)
Bs
Clayton Smith (3 months ago)
Could we just put the Japanese in charge, please?
Denis Daly (1 month ago)
And the Germans, Swiss, Swedish, Norway, Ireland, Denmark.
Korkel (1 month ago)
+Crystal Ball After they sorta made an alliance with germany and italy
richard lin (2 months ago)
Sushi
Crystal Ball (2 months ago)
Last time they tried to get in charge, they got nuked.
Ameer Faithullah (3 months ago)
We have feminism now, we won't hit 10 billion
Graham Kettles (3 months ago)
We dont, we all DIE along with all the animals we've taken with the planet. We are not needed on this planet for it to survive, but we need it for our own survival. It's simply a humanist problem not a problem with the planet. So once global extinction happens, the planet wont be concerned about climate change because we're the cause and effect of that platform.
Soul Assassin (3 months ago)
Mass killing to help balance this.
Dan O'reilly (3 months ago)
We need a new plague - Dwight K Schrute
Ben Ferguson (3 months ago)
More people need to be having fewer or no children.
Steven Martin (3 months ago)
Mad Max Beyond the Thunder Dome style gladiator matches? Deathball? DCU movies...? Pick your poison. 😉
Pretty Prudent (3 months ago)
We may as well fill up this planet...Why not?
Florence P (3 months ago)
EASY: give women their full reproductive rights. Abortion available everywhere, free contraception, no more child brides, no kidnapping, no rapes, no social pressure to have kids. And you will see the population decrease FAST. It's men who want children, not women. And men know that if women are in charge of their fertility they will want less kids or no kids at all. they're terrified of that of course. So basically the patriarchy needs to be abolished. Obviously men don't want that.
Knucklia Assphuck (3 months ago)
More land.. More farm more food. More people. More cars, more houses more planet more land more farm more people

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