A lively exploration of how “we do not face the challenge of a population bomb but of a population bust—a relentless, generation-after-generation culling of the human herd.”
Warnings of catastrophic world overpopulation have filled the media since the 1960s, so this expert, well-researched explanation that it’s not happening will surprise many readers. Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, and Globe and Mail writer at large Ibbitson (co-authors: The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture, and What It Means for Our Future, 2013) point out that a dozen nations are already shrinking. “By 2050,” they write, “the number will have climbed to three dozen. Some of the richest places on earth are shedding people every year: Japan, Korea, Spain, Italy, much of eastern Europe.” The authors explain that throughout history, birth and death rates were high, and population grew slowly. After 1800, increased food production and public health improvements lowered death rates, so populations boomed, but this didn’t last long. Also after 1800 came the Industrial Revolution and urbanization. Children are a big help on the farm but little use in a city. Perhaps most important, the authors emphasize, when women acquire education and status—something that happens in cities—they have fewer children. As a result, birth rates began dropping along with death rates, and most readers will be surprised to learn that the poor are not exempt. Brazil’s fertility is below its replacement rate, and Mexico’s is fast approaching. While it’s not unanimous, the authors are not alone in concluding that world population, now around 8 billion, will stabilize near 8.5 billion at midcentury and then decline. This is not necessarily good news. Nations losing population suffer labor shortages and an excess of elderly whose support requires taxes from a shrinking number of younger workers. The only effective solution to population decline is immigration, which, all researchers and the authors agree, always benefits their new nation.
A delightfully stimulating and not terribly controversial overview of human demographics.