Today the world got a little more crowded.
The planet used to be a pretty empty place for most of history. I know it’s hard to imagine a time when you didn’t have to wait in lines for just about everything, or compete with other people to find things in your size, to your taste, or within your budget. Populations in Europe, Asia, and the Americas hovered in the hundreds of millions up through the 17th century, often getting whacked badly by plagues and an insistence on killing one another. There were under a billion people in the world at start of the 1800s. The most populated city was Beijing (with just over a million inhabitants). London had just over 800,000. New York didn’t even make the top ten.
But the agricultural and industrial revolutions were already underway, and while they brought with them new challenges to life expectancy (large scale mining was a sure bet for missing out on old age, and pollution made people sick), they yielded better and more consistent nutrition, sanitation, and medical services that did things like lower the infant mortality rate in London from 74% to 31%. Population exploded around the world, far outpacing even the most expert efforts to kill people (like a few world wars and revolutions). More technology and ingenuity meant more people, and more people living longer. Three billion people lived on Earth by 1960, and that number doubled by this day in 1999 when the U.N. declared that the 6 billionth living human being had been born.
It’s odd that we don’t talk about longevity as one of the by-products of our communities.