A thoughtful, evenhanded, and accessible mix of reporting and analysis concerning population control, by the diplomatic...


CRITICAL MASSES: The Global Population Crisis into The 21st Century

A thoughtful, evenhanded, and accessible mix of reporting and analysis concerning population control, by the diplomatic correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor. Acknowledging the complexities of population growth, Moffett finds cause for both trepidation and hope. He ranges widely to illustrate the issues involved. Considering Cairo as a case of third-world urban overcrowding, he describes the political effects (including the resurgence of radical Islam among the poor) and the economic effects (such as urban encroachment on farmlands). Drawing on successful examples elsewhere, he suggests decentralization, housing deregulation, increased farm output, and a stronger private sector as solutions. Considering countries like Kenya, which can no longer feed their people, he proposes such nation-specific strategies as water conservation and replenishing the soil with nutrients, noting that biotechnological research has seldom focused on Third World agricultural problems. Still, if developing countries are to lower their rate of population growth, their citizens must begin to want smaller families, a change in attitude that will require improving the education and status of women in societies that are often patriarchal. While Moffett observes that religious belief does not preclude contraception in many Catholic countries, he is critical of the Church's population policies and its power at the United Nations. Though the Reagan and Bush administrations, influenced by laissez-faire economics and opposition to abortion, retarded world population control, Moffett thinks much can still be done. He may be pollyannish about the peace ushered in by the end of the Cold War, but he's right in observing that favorable conditions exist for wealthy nations and international organizations to address the world demographic explosion. The book could use more edge, both in its prose and its attitude toward experts, but it should aid anybody engaged with this vital issue.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1994


Page Count: 224

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994