Our role in the grand scheme of humanity is hard to visualize. This hour glass representation does a great job of showing us our place in history…
Right now about 7.95 billion people are on earth. With advances in medicine and an overall increase in prosperity worldwide, over twice the amount of people are born each year as die each year. 140 million people are born and 60 million people die, on average, each year.
About 109 billion people have lived and died. About half the people to have ever lived were around in the last 2000 years.
The major event in human history that led to the explosion in population growth is the agricultural revolution. Just 9 billion people lived prior to the agriculture revolution which was only 10,000 years ago. That means for the previous two million years of human existence we were living in small groups and had a very low overall population as a species. Some estimates say the human population got down to under 10,000 total at certain points in our early existence.
The industrial revolution was the next huge phase of population growth. With machines doing much of the labor that humans used to do, life continued to improve and we were able to have more kids. Now many western countries are facing decreasing rates of reproduction, while emerging countries are continuing to reproduce at high levels.