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Population 7 Billion

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The United Nations Population Fund estimates that in one week, on October 31, 2011, the world's population will reach 7 billion. Just 200 years ago, there were only 1 billion people on the planet, and over the next 150 years, that number grew to 3 billion. But in the past 50 years, the global population has more than doubled, and the UN projects that it could possibly grow to 15 billion by the year 2100. As the international organization points out, this increasing rate of change brings with it enormous challenges. Meeting the basic needs of so many will mean growing, shipping, and distributing more food while providing more clean water, health care, and shelter -- all without inflicting too much further damage on our environment. [42 photos]

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A baby gestures minutes after he was born inside the pediatric unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on October 21, 2011. According to Honduras' health authorities, about 220,000 babies are born in Honduras each year and the cost of having a baby delivered at the public hospital is $10. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido)
A baby gestures minutes after he was born inside the pediatric unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on October 21, 2011. According to Honduras' health authorities, about 220,000 babies are born in Honduras each year and the cost of having a baby delivered at the public hospital is $10. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido)
A densely populated neighborhood in West Delhi, India, seen from above via Google Earth. (© Google, GeoEye) #
Family members of Ziona pose for a group photograph in Baktawng village in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, on October 7, 2011. Ziona is the head of a religious sect called "Chana," which allows polygamy and was founded by his father Chana in 1942. Ziona has 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren. He lives in his 4 story 100-room house with 181 members of his family. (Reuters/Adnan Abidi) #
A view of deforestation on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia and Australia launched a $30 million project to fight deforestation in Sumatra as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost a planned forest-carbon trading scheme in 2010. Photo taken on August 5, 2010. (Reuters/Beawiharta) #
A long abandoned farmhouse sits in open fields near Osoyoos, British Columbia, on September 24, 2011. British Columbia has one of the largest collection of ghost towns or derelict communities in Canada. Many are past mining dreams that harvested copper, silver and gold and are either gone without a trace or lie in ruins ravaged by time. (Reuters/Andy Clark) #
Public residential buildings are seen in Po Lam, one of the "satellite towns" in Hong Kong, on September 14, 2011. This southern Chinese city is described as a concrete forest, famous for the number of high-rise commercial and residential towers. About 25 percent of the world's tallest 100 residential buildings stand in the territory. (Reuters/Bobby Yip) #
Young sea gypsies play in the water in the center of their neighborhood in the Sulawesi Sea in Malaysia's state of Sabah, on February 17, 2009. A community of 30 families of the indigenous ethnic group of sea gypsies maintain a nomadic and sea-based life without fresh water supply, TV nor electricity, and only go to land to bury the dead. (Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad) #
A group made up mostly of unmarried men poses for a photograph in the remote village of Siyani, about 140km (86 miles) west of Gujarat's capital of Ahmedabad, India, on October 5, 2011. Siyani is typical of many Indian villages and may be an indicator of things to come as India's male to female ratio declines. The village has some 350 unmarried men over the age of 35 - and hundreds more under 35 - because there aren't enough women to marry. Many women have also left to look elsewhere for grooms with more money and better prospects. Census data released earlier this year revealed there are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys born - a sharp fall since 2001 when the ratio was 933 girls for every 1000 boys. (Reuters/Vivek Prakash) #
Marie and Gabrielle Vaudremer, a pair of 101-year-old Belgian twins, hold hands as they celebrate their birthday at the Chateau Sous-Bois retirement home in Spa, on October 2, 2011. Marie and Gabrielle were born in 1910 and are the world's oldest pair of twin sisters, according to the Guinness World Records. (Reuters/Thierry Roge) #
A farmer walks past a terrace of codonopsis pilosula, a traditional Chinese medicine also known as dang shen, in Min county, Gansu province, on May 31, 2011. Rows of white plastic shields have been installed to protect the roots of the dang shen to keep it warm and moist. Commonly used as a cheaper substitute for ginseng, the herb is believed to lower blood pressure, boost one's immune system and improve appetite. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Cars cross a street in Mong Kok district in Hong Kong, on October 4, 2011. Mong Kok has the highest population density in the world, with 130,000 in one square kilometer. (Reuters/Bobby Yip) #
Katy and her husband Facundo practice her breathing during a swimming pool prenatal course run by the private Aquamater clinic in Caracas, Venezuela, on October 1, 2011. Aquamater opened in 1999 and is the first center specializing in waterbirths in Venezuela. It aims to advise couples, who pay a fee, on techniques for breastfeeding, pain relief and different ways of giving birth. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #
Clotilde Boutin of France holds her newborn baby as she looks at her Venezuelan husband Antero Alvarado at the private Aquamater clinic in Caracas, Venezuela, on September 23, 2011. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #
Motorists crowd at a junction during rush hour in Taipei, on October 29, 2009. There are more than 8.8 million motorcycles and 4.8 million cars on Taiwan's roads and nearly all motor vehicles and inhabitants are squeezed into a third of the island's area. (Reuters/Nicky Loh) #
Men look at the overflowing Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam on Narmada river at Kevadia Colony, some 200 kms from Ahmedabad, India, on August 29, 2011. The dam is one of India's most controversial dam projects and its environmental impact and net costs and benefits are widely debated. (Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images) #
The crowded maternity ward of the government-run Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, Philippines, on June 1, 2011. The ward, the busiest in the country, sees an average of 60 births every day. The Philippines' population growth rate of around 2.0 percent is above Southeast Asia's average of around 1.7 percent, with an estimated 200 babies born every hour. Lack of a national policy on birth control and access to modern family planning methods - frowned upon by the powerful Catholic church - are some of the factors that have led to the country's population ballooning to nearly 100 million, according to various government and private sector estimates, with the Philippines the second most populous nation in the region after Indonesia. (Reuters/Cheryl Ravelo) #
Indian laborers are silhouetted after sunset at a construction site of a new apartment building on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, on October 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer) #
The Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, at twilight on October 9, 2011. Already the second most populous country with 1.2 billion people, India is expected to overtake China around 2030 when its population soars to an estimated 1.6 billion. (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade) #
A German man from Hamburg, who identifies himself only as Yiorgos, smokes a cigarette in his home in the village of Skafi some 500 km north of Athens, Greece, on September 27, 2011. Skafi once had a population of about 45 families but today it is populated by Yiorgos alone in the winter and about a dozen elderly Greeks who come in the summer. Greece's population has shrunk by more than 1 percent over the last 10 years, according to a census carried out earlier this year, thereby bucking the trend of the last few decades. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis) #
A farming region in Heilongjiang Province, near Harbin, China, viewed from above via Google Earth. (© Google, GeoEye) #
The sun sets over the Ifo extension refugee camp in Dadaab, near the Kenya-Somalia border, July 31, 2011. The whole of drought- and conflict-wracked southern Somalia remains in a serious food crisis. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) #
A section of Sun City, Arizona, a retirement community near Phoenix, seen from above via Google Earth. (© Google) #
An aerial view of the island of Out Skerries, on September 22, 2011. Out Skerries is a tiny, treeless island off the east coast of Scotland where the population is just 65. There are only seven children on the island making the school the smallest in the UK. (Reuters/Olivia Harris) #
Aron Anderson, 6 plays in the playground at Out Skerries school, on September 23, 2011. Aron is one of only seven children on the entire island. (Reuters/Olivia Harris) #
A view of a residential building in Shanghai, China, on March 18, 2009. Shanghai is currently the most populous city in the most populous nation in the world, home to more than 23 million residents. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Filipinos inspect a site after a retaining wall at a landfill collapsed causing a rubbish-slide due to heavy rains brought on by typhoon Nanmadol in Baguio, north of Manila, on August 28, 2011. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #
A traditional Mongolian tent near Zuunkharaa city, Selenge province, Mongolia, 200km northeast of Ulan Bator, on October 12, 2011. Mongolia is the world's least densely populated country, with 2.7 million people spread across an area three times the size of France, two-fifths in rural areas on wind swept steppes. According to a 2010 National Population Center census, every year between thirty to forty thousand people migrate from the countryside to the capital Ulan Bator. Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
A single ger (or yurt, tiny white dot at top left) stands along a dirt road near the broad riverbed of the Tuul River in a remote area of Mongolia, seen from above via Google Earth. The riverbed is over two miles wide at this point.(© Google, Geocentre Consulting, Mapabc.com, Ches/Spot Image) #
Wrecked rickshaws in a dump at Mirpur in Dhaka, bangladesh, on September 23, 2011. Rickshaws far outnumber cars on the streets of many Bangladeshi towns, and they are an important source of income for the country's poor, who often have no other options. Yet the vehicles are a major headache for police, who struggle with licensing and safety issues for the estimated 1 million tricycle rickshaws on the road in Dhaka. Nearly half of all road accidents in the city are believed to involve them. (Reuters/Andrew Biraj) #
A pensioner sits in a wheelchair in a long corridor in a residential home for the elderly in Eichenau near Munich, Germany, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Michaela Rehle) #
A cargo train on the Kenya-Uganda railway line travels through the sprawling Kibera slum, one of the largest and poorest slums in Africa and home to about 1 million people, in Kenya's capital Nairobi, on August 26, 2011. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) #
People gather to get water from a huge well in the village of Natwarghad in the western Indian state of Gujarat on June 1, 2003. (Reuters/Amit Dave) #
Workers remove floating garbage from Three Gorges reservoir area in Yunyang County, China, on October 24, 2010. (Reuters/China Daily) #
Residents crowd in a swimming pool to escape the summer heat during a hot weather spell in Daying county of Suining, China, on July 4, 2010. (Reuters/Stringer) #
Favela Joaquim de Queiros, a hillside neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, viewed from above via Google Earth. (© Google) #
A woman takes a photo of relatives in front of graffiti painted by Brazilian artists Val, Cris and Toddy, members of OPNI, an organization that uses graffiti to improve life in the slums, in the Vila Flavia favela of Sao Paulo, on August 27, 2011. OPNI, a Portuguese acronym which means "Unidentified Graffiti Artists", was formed in 1997 by some 20 youths in Sao Paulo's marginal slums with the goal of transforming the streets into an open-air gallery where the community can express its gripes and denounce social injustices. (Reuters/Nacho Doce) #
Cuban neonatologists watch over premature babies in the natal intensive care unit of a public maternity hospital in Gatire on the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela, on October 5, 2011. The hospital is part of the "Barrio Adentro" program, which is a collaboration between the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, where highly trained Cuban doctors help provide publicly-funded health care for poor and marginalized communities in Venezuela. (Reuters/Jorge Silva) #
People play tennis at a tennis court surrounded by high-rise buildings in downtown Shanghai, China, on November 4, 2010. (Reuters/Carlos Barria) #
The power plant of Kardia, Greece, viewed through a destroyed house in the village of Charavgi, some 500 km north of Athens, on September 29, 2011. According to a May 2007 WWF survey called "Dirty Thirty", the Greek Public Power Corporation's (PPC) power plants of Kardia and Agios Dimitrios are the EU's top two polluting stations. The once flourishing nearby villages of Charavgi and Kleitos have been gradually abandoned since PPC opened the two mines. The company "bought" the villages and relocated residents elsewhere. The only person who now lives in Kleitos is an Indian immigrant, Jangdip Pal, 45, who works as a nightguard at the mine. And only one shepherd and his family live in Charavgi. The power plants produce 70 percent of Greece's electricity. (Reuters/Yannis Behrakis) #
Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims board overcrowded trains as they try to return home after attending a three-day Islamic Congregation on the banks of the river Turag in Tongi, outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 23, 2011. The congregation held each year since 1966, is among the world's largest religious gatherings. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman) #
St. Paul's Cathedral is seen among the skyline through the smog in central London on April 22, 2011. A combination of hot weather and still conditions brought on by a high pressure system increased levels of ozone and polluting particles known as PM10s, which can affect people's health. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images) #
A nurse fills in documents minutes after a baby was born inside the childbirth unit at hospital Escuela in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on October 21, 2011. (Reuters/Edgard Garrido) #

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