A new animation from the American Museum of Natural History shows the exponential growth of our species, from less than a million people when modern humans began migrating out of Africa about 100,000 years ago to more than 7.2 billion alive today.
It took 200,000 years for our human population to reach 1 billion—and only 200 years to reach 7 billion.
But growth has begun slowing, as women have fewer babies on average.
When will our global population peak?
And how can we minimize our impact on Earth’s resources, even as we approach 11 billion?
The animation shared to YouTube by the AMNH cites data from Population Connection, the UN World Population Prospects, Worldometer’s real-time population counter, and NASA, and raises numerous questions on the future of humanity and our home planet.
As the video points out, human populations likely remained below 1 million people between the evolution of modern humans in Africa about 200,000 years ago and the early migrations across the globe about 100,00 years ago.
Growth then accelerated with the advent of farming, and by AD 1, there were roughly 170 million people on the planet.
The video then moves through the emergence of the Roman Empire and the Han Dynasty, totalling about 176 million people before the year 100.
Then came the Silk Road, the Golden Age of India, peak Maya Civilization, and the birth of Islam, bringing the world to 190 million people by 700.
Once the navigational compass was invented, numbers began to pick up, reaching 210 million around the year 1100.
Human Population Through Time
Mid-way between 1300 and 1400, the world experienced a rare population decline – the bubonic plague.
Still, by the year 1700, the human population was just 590 million people.
Soon after, however, ‘modern technology and medicine bring faster growth,’ the video explains, causing the population to skyrocket with the industrial revolution.
Just after the year 1800, the population hit 1 billion.
There are now over 7.2 billion people on Earth, just 200 years after reaching this milestone.
It’s thought that the global population will peak at 11 billion people around the year 2100 if the current trends continue.
Center for Biodiversity and Conservation
David Hillis, Derrick Zwickl, and Robin Gutell, University of Texas
World Population used courtesy of Population Connection, ©2015
Other Population Data Sources
United Nations, “World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision”
US Census Bureau
Maps and Event Sources
Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center
Needham, J. Science and Civilisation in China
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database