When discussing the environment, overpopulation and consumption are two topics that come up pretty regularly. We all know that having too many people in the world would mean resources would quickly deplete. However, according to a group of biologists, a better way to measure environmental impact is by the overall weight of humanity rather than the amount of people roaming the planet.
According to their data, using average height and body mass index combined with the number of adults on Earth, the total adult population weighs 287 million tons. This does not include children and will continue to grow in the coming decades, as the population head towards 9 billion. It is now over 7 billion.
Of the 287 million tons, 15 million is due to people being overweight, and 3.5 million due to obesity. Unsurprisingly, North America is the most overweight continent, with the average person weighing in around 178 pounds. In Asia, the average weight is 127 pounds. The global average weight is 137 pounds.
According to Professor Ian Roberts, North America only accounts for 6% of the global population, but is responsible for over one third of the world’s obese population. “If every country in the world had the same level of fatness that we see in the USA, in weight terms that would be like an extra billion people of world average body mass,” he said. While it might be easy to assume obesity is the result of nations with little to no poverty, there are also countries like Japan that are economically stable but still have low levels of obesity.
“We often point the finger at poor women in Africa having too many babies,” Professor Roberts noted. “But we’ve also got to think of this fatness thing; it’s part of the same issue of exceeding our planetary limits.”
He makes a pretty inarguable point there. Adding more people to the planet is obviously part of the problem, but if we add the weight of a toddler onto our midsection over the course of a few months or years, is that really much different?