Whenever I’m having a tough day, it’s comforting to remember that I’m one of billions of people on the planet, and that my problems are small and insignificant in the grand scheme. Starting today, they’ll feel even smaller as the UN’s official estimate of the world’s population hits 8 billion people. It’s a difficult number to comprehend, and for many it’s 8 billion more reasons to worry about the future of the planet. In this piece, two demographers (experts on population growth) explain why there’s not really much we can do about it. What’s more, the arguments for controlling population growth often have racist undertones and would violate people’s right to bodily autonomy.

One person who may be reassured by the latest population figures is Elon Musk, who has tweeted that population collapse is a bigger risk to civilisation than global warming. While Musk is in the news almost constantly these days, little has been said about his autism, about which he first spoke publicly in 2021. Whatever you think of the new “chief twit”, it’s notable that the world’s richest man and one of its most influential inhabitants is autistic. Here’s an interesting look at what we can learn about neurodiversity from Musk’s life.

And while the human population has been growing, we should also be paying attention to the population of honeybees. New research shows that their lifespan appears to have shrunk by nearly half in the last 50 years. Talk about a buzzkill.

Avery Anapol

Commissioning Editor, Politics + Society

Varavin88 / Shutterstock

8 billion people: why trying to control the population is often futile – and harmful

Melanie Channon, University of Bath; Jasmine Fledderjohann, Lancaster University

Arguments about population growth are unhelpful, distracting and often racist.

Daniel Oberhaus (2018)/Flickr

Elon Musk: how being autistic may make him think differently

Punit Shah, University of Bath; Luca Hargitai, University of Bath; Lucy Anne Livingston, King's College London

Musk’s autistic traits and history of being bullied might help explain why he appears combative on social media

Honeybees are vital pollinators. BigBlueStudio/Shutterstock

Honeybee lifespan could be half what it was 50 years ago – new study

Dave Goulson, University of Sussex

The report results could help explain honeybee colony deaths.

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