Population growth and a sense of perspective

This is quite a fun site about population growth, and features this stunning graph of population growth over the past 10,000 years (via Seb's Open Research). No matter how many times I see graphs like that they still stop me in my tracks.

Some of my time recently has been spent working on a new website with a historical theme. And, coincidentally, reading some history books. I can recommend Cities in Civilization by Peter Hall (UK, US) for great potted histories of many interesting cities over the past couple of millenia; A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History by Manuel de Landa (UK, US) for a look at the past millenium from a new perspective; and London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew (UK, US) for a contemporary account of life for those at the bottom of the economic barrel 150 years ago.

In the past I've learned to appreciate reading history for what it can tell us about how societies change. But this current historical binge has made me look at change over time from a different perspective; I've realised how short, say, 30 years seems when looking back at London's 19th century population increase, whereas the year 2032 currently seems impossibly far off. If a problem today is going to take years to solve, never mind decades, it often feels like we might as well not bother. But, from a perspective far in the future, we'd know that the world can turn upside down in what is an all too brief period of time.

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