Seven billion and one

by Westbrook

This poem finds Westbrook in his environmental mood. His figures are outdated now: it is several years since the number of humans reached his critical figure of 7,000,000,001, and the world reached eight billion during 2022. It is expected to reach nine billion in the early 2030s, at which point the growth since 2011 – approximately 2 billion – will be equal to the entire population of the world in 1950.

See the illustrated blog post here.


The UN forecasts world population to reach 7 billion by 2011 – news report

Seven billion and one, or give or take:
That was the count at which humanity
Collapsed through its own gravity to make,
Endlessly compressed, a singularity –
Another quantum world.

The shockwave opened cages, locks and bars:
On ringroads, skirting pining dogs, shy beasts
Snuffed jack-knifed HGVs and dinted cars;
Over unpeopled cities and on unwatched coasts,
The Earth unheld her breath.

Her sigh was short – a hundred years, no more –
By then the world already had regressed:
Skimming the eaves, swifts, as so long before,
Were shrieking to their brood to leave the nest,
Discover Africa and Kidbrooke Grove;

Pampered pipistrelles quadrilled in clouds of midges,
Pond-seams creaked and croaked with sated squatters,
On fallen trees, stag-beetles burned their bridges
And wheeled in whirring tribes to urgent matters
Of pheromones and procreation.

Oak, beech and ash marched past the bounds
Of Eden Crescent and of Garden Avenue,
Shunting sleepers, wrenching rails around,
Back up the untrained line from Waterloo
To London Bridge and Lewisham.

Long after, on her rounds, the Power that Be
Felt mild surprise to see such alteration.
“No wonder the prayers seemed quieter to me.
Was it – ? No, surely I’d have felt the fission.
Asteroid? Viral mutation?

What species should I next exalt to reason?
Should I try non-primates for a season?
How good to see the old girl healed and green!
I’ll let her rest for now, and hope her new start gives
Her humbler Adams and wiser Eves.”