We may be in for a rude awakening.

Pop Smoke

Though the planet's population is starting to slowly level off, it's still growing at an appreciable pace and experts anticipate it won't peak until north of 10 billion.

That huge mass of people could lead to an imminent "population correction," as population ecologist William Rees from the University of British Columbia in Canada warned in a recent paper published in the journal World.

In other words, if we keep growing at this rate, we could be in for a rude awakening.

"Humanity is exhibiting the characteristic dynamics of a one-off population boom-bust cycle," Rees writes. "The global economy will inevitably contract and humanity will suffer a major population ‘correction’ in this century."

It's not just humanity on the line. Earlier this year, Stanford biologist Tony Barnosky warned that the world is facing the worst global mass extinction episode since the dinosaurs.

Boom and Bust

Simply put, us humans are putting major stress on a world that only has so much to offer.

"Homo sapiens has evolved to reproduce exponentially, expand geographically, and consume all available resources," Rees wrote, changes that have been "countered by negative feedback."

With the advent of industrial agriculture and the use of fossil fuels, humanity has reduced "many forms of negative feedback," allowing the population to expand rapidly for several hundred years.

But all of that energy needed to maintain this number of people has to be "dissipated" somewhere, according to Rees, meaning that while we keep extracting resources, waste gets discharged "back into its host."

According to Rees, the end result of a collapse could be devastating, with as few as 100 million people remaining afterward.

Don't Worry, Live Happy

Rees also warns that we shouldn't view declining growth rates as a reason "not to worry," even if the world population is predicted to peak at 10.4 billion in the mid to late 2080s.

After all, he writes, "even average material living standards are corrosively excessive."

So where does that all leave the fate of humanity? Rees argues that it's "unlikely" humans will go extinct given technological advancements. But the toll could still be grim.

"That said, rebounding negative feedbacks — climate chaos, food and other resource shortages, civil disorder, resource wars, etc. — may well eliminate prospects for an advanced worldwide civilization," he concluded.

More on population decline: There Will Be Fewer People Alive in 2100 Than Now, Experts Predict

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