Tuesday, October 17, 2006


According to Them As Knows About These Things, the population of the United States passed the 300 million mark sometime around 7:45 a.m. today.

Them’s a Whole Lotta Peeps, peeps.

When I was a snot-nosed lad of not quite twelve, I remember going to the New York World’s Fair. That would be the one in 1964-65 that featured the stainless steel Unisphere - not the one from 1939-40 with the more iconic Trylon and Perisphere.

The Unisphere still stands in Flushing Meadow, and other structures from the 1964-65 Fair exist today as well. The New York State pavilion, in particular, was featured prominently in the movie Men In Black.

World’s Fairs don’t have quite the cachet they used to. Global shrinkage, facilitated by (relatively) inexpensive international travel and communications, means that many places once considered exotic and remote are now easily accessible. Foreign cuisine is available in even the most provincial corners of the USA, and free trade has transformed the consumer goods marketplace. And as if that were not enough, permanent World’s Fair-like theme parks such as Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center have filled any remaining gaps. You can go to “Morocco” and then go eat a taco. Oh, boy.

But back in the day, the New York World’s Fair was exciting. And one of the attractions was a U.S. Population Clock that, in flashing digits, registered the slow, steady increase in the number of our nation’s inhabitants.

Back then, that number was something on the order of 192,000,000 people. The 200 million mark was still several years in the future, to be reached in 1968. About twenty some-odd years after that, the 250 million mark would be surpassed.

I do not recall the details of what drove population growth back then, but the numbers today are easily available. With one birth every 7 seconds, one death every 13 seconds, and one (net) new immigrant every 31 seconds, we add a new person to our National Roll roughly every eleven seconds.

Three hundred million people. Less than five percent of the current world population of six billion, five hundred fifty-one million...

...which means that those of us who have beaten the Cosmic Odds and who live here are truly lucky indeed. It’s like winning the lottery - the only lottery that really matters.

No comments: