How much is 7 billion?


It would take nearly 3 Olympic-sized swimming pools to hold 7 billion M&Ms. (Olivier Latyk for The Washington Post)
October 27, 2011

On October 31, the world’s 7-billionth person will be born.

There’s no way to know for sure when or where this will happen, because more than four babies are born on the planet every second. But the United Nations, an organization run jointly by many countries to work on important global issues, estimates this important baby will make his or her entrance Monday.

Why does this matter? Because the more people there are in the world, the more food, energy, housing and medicine is needed to care for them. And the population is getting bigger all the time. W hen Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, the world was adding two people per minute. Today, it’s growing at 158 people per minute! That makes it harder to provide everyone with a good quality of life.

One particular problem with world population growth is that most of it is happening in poor countries, where families tend to be bigger and living conditions more difficult. In fast-growing India, for example, only 31 percent of the population has access to a working toilet, according to a recent report from the United Nations.

One way to think about population growth is to think about what would happen if the number of people in your house or school doubled, said Pam Wasserman of Population Connection, a group that works on solving problems related to population growth. “What would you need more of? How would your life be different?”


(Olivier Latyk /FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The good news is the world’s population is expected to grow more slowly in the future, possibly leveling out at about 10 billion people at the end of this century.

In the meantime, no matter how you look at it, 7 billion is a lot of people. In fact, it’s a lot of anything. We’ve put together some facts about 7 billion that will help you understand just how big that number really is.

— Margaret Webb Pressler

1. Seven billion M&M’s would almost fill three Olympic-size swimming pools.

2. There are probably 7 billion bacteria in your mouth right now — or maybe even more!

3. Americans consume 7 billion bananas, the nation’s most popular fruit, roughly every four months.

4. If the Wizards played a game every night at Verizon Center, with every seat full, it would take 950 years to play for 7 billion fans.

5. When you are between 31 and 32 years old, you will have lived for 1 billion seconds. To reach 7 billion seconds, you would have to live to be 220 years old!

6. If you stacked up 7 billion sheets of copy paper, the stack would be 504 miles high — about the distance to the international space station and back again!

7. The Earth measures 24,900 miles around the middle. To travel 7 billion miles, you would have to circle the globe nearly 300,000 times.

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