With 4000 persons per square mile, the city of San Jose is twice as crowded as Bangladesh. To quote a famous authority: "the world is . . .full, and the population is too large for the soil." Another famous thinker has decried "our teeming population. Our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly support us . . ." These men, however, were not speaking about San Jose or San Francisco or New York in our time but about Carthage and Rome almost two thousand years ago.
Neither of these men could soar over their cities, and see that outside of their immediate view there were vast empty spaces with almost no people at all. Human beings crowd together, now as in ages past, not because of lack of space on the planet, but because we need to work together, to buy and sell, to give and receive services from one another. Our cities and towns have always thronged with people and traffic - horses, donkeys, and camels in ages past; motor vehicles today.
If all of the people in the world moved into the state of Texas (which has grown about 80 percent since 1960), each person could be given the space available in the typical American home and all the rest of the world would be empty. The land area of Texas is some 262,000 square miles and current UN estimates of the world's population (for 12 October 1999) are about 6 billion.
By converting square miles to square feet - remember to multiply by 5,280 feet per mile twice - and dividing by the world's population, one readily finds that there are more than 1,217 square feet per capita. A family of 5 would thus occupy more than 6,085 square feet of living space. Even in Texas, that's a mansion.
These numbers apply to just one-story, house-type dwellings. With a housing mix of multi-story buildings, including town houses, apartment buildings and high rises, appreciably greater living space could be provided. Such an arrangement would allow ample land for yards and all the necessary streets and roads. Meanwhile, the rest of the world would be completely empty, available for all of mankind's agricultural, manufacturing, educational, and recreational activities!
The most densely populated country in Europe is Holland. No one talks of Holland being overcrowed. San Francisco has about 16,000 persons per square mile, inner London has about 20,000, and Brooklyn in New York has more than 30,000. Most of the earth is still empty, as we can see when we fly over it. It is estimated that the area occupied by human beings amounts to no more than 1 percent of the earth's land surface.
The World Bank's projection of the ultimate population of the world is about 10 billion. At that level of population, human beings may occupy 2 percent of the earth's land surface, and we might use a fifth of the land area for our crops; at present, farmers use less than half of the available arable land.