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I am currently working on a series of JavaScript counters that show, among other things, the estimated world population, which is increasing, and the amount of the world's arable land, which is decreasing. This work builds on a script written by Kevin McCann, now of Bellanet, for the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, Canada.


How are the numbers calculated?

World population data are extrapolated from statistics obtained from the United Nations Population Division. The clock indicates an increase of about three people a second by tracking both births and deaths.

Data on productive land are extrapolated from statistics produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The clock shows that one hectare is lost every 7.67 seconds. Productive land is made up of arable land, pasture land, and forest.



World Population

From now until the middle of the 21st century, in only fifty years, the world's population will increase by 50% from 6 billion at the end of 1999 to close to 9 billion in 2050. 

October 12, 1999 has been chosen as the official date marking the advent of a planet with 6 billion inhabitants.  This historic milestone serves as a reminder that the rate of population growth has varied widely down the centuries. Two thousand years ago, only about 300 million people lived on Earth. The world population grew rather slowly, taking 1,500 years to double. From 1750 onward, however, the rate began to accelerate, doubling to 1.7 billion in a mere 150 years. A decline in the mortality rate, coupled with scientific and technical progress, was responsible for this spectacular growth. 

Population growth has continued to accelerate since the turn of the century. In 1950, the world had 2.5 billion inhabitants; on the eve of the third millenium there are 6 billion, with most of the new births occurring in developing countries. 

The world's population continues to increase.  Nevertheless, we are living at the end of the fastest growth period of human demographics.  Between 1995 and 2000, the growth rate was 78 million people per year; less than predicted a few years ago but the equivalent of a new China in 15 years nonetheless. 

The growth rate is slowing down.  Between 2015 and 2020 the annual growth rate will decrease to 64 million and then to 30 million by 2045-2050.  In 2050, the Earth will be inhabited by 8.9 billion humans.  A much slower growth rate is predicted after this time even though the possibility remains that the world's population will continue to grow to one day reach 10 billion. 

In 2050, Africa and Asia will be home to 20 and 60%  of the world's population respectively.  Developed nations will have twice as many elderly people as youth and the population of many in between will be in decline. 



Productive Land
The world's productive land is a constantly changing resource. Climatic variations, natural disasters, and human intervention are ceaselessly at work changing the boundaries of productive land -- arable land, pasture land, and forest. 

Arable land covers 3% of the world's surface. Despite the fact that this land is continually being lost to urbanization, the total area under cultivation is rising because of deforestation. Demand for agricultural land continues to increase in line with population growth, resulting in the clearing of marginal land, such as hillsides. The exploitation of marginal land is partly responsible for the erosion of the fertile soil layer, increased drought, the loss of essential soil nutrients, and salt contamination -- all reasons for abandoning the land. 

Land used for pasture occupies twice the area of land now under the plow. Although livestock raising produces less protein per hectare than grain, especially in developing countries, it enables farmers to take advantage of marginal land that is less suitable for growing grain. 

The loss of productive land can be attributed largely to the destruction of forests. The cultivation of land once forested, however, has not stopped the steady decrease in arable land or pasture land. 

Finally, the land that produces our food, provides us with firewood and construction lumber, purifies the atmosphere, maintains precipitation levels, and slows down erosion is continually decreasing. It is estimated that one hectare of productive land is lost every 7.67 seconds. 



About the JavaScript
Behind the clocks is a JavaScript. The original script ran under Netscape 2.0, although there were occaisional problems which can be attributed to Netscape. The new version should function just as reliably, but CSS formatting will not work on pre-4.0 browsers.

Recent changes

Replaced looping function with setTimeout function.

Clocks calculate based on UTC, not local time.

CSS now formats form elements where clocks reside.

Changes in progress

Make clock portable, to be displayed on other sites, while keeping script on original site.

A DHTML version of the clock.



About the Worldclocks

How are the numbers calculated?

World Population

Productive Land

About the JavaScript


Other Clocks
and Perspectives

Internet Clocks, Counters, and Countdowns

The Long Now Foundation

International Development Research Centre

World Game Institute presents counters for energy production, population, CO2 emission, and much more.

Critical and Significant Dates which may cause problems for computers; much more than Y2K.