What goes up: are predictions of a population crisis wrong?

| January 27, 2019 | Leave a Comment

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Media Type: Article - Recent

Date of Publication: January 27, 2019

Year of Publication: 2019

Author(s): Darrell Bricker , John Ibbitson

Newspaper: The Guardian

Categories: , , , ,

Changing fertility rates challenge dystopian visions and UN projections about the future of our overcrowded planet.


She is a well-educated, professional woman, working in an office tower in central Nairobi, Kenya. Because of her status and education, the price required to marry her is bound to be high. Although dowries are often now paid in cash, she expects hers will be paid in the traditional method of cows and goats, and that the wedding will take place in the village she came from.

“I’m a traditional girl,” she explains.

It could take a long time for any suitor to accumulate the capital needed to pay – or at least down-pay – her dowry. She’s fine with that.

These remarks offer a window on one of the most compelling questions of our time: how many people will fill the Earth? The United Nations Population Division projects that numbers will swell to more than 11 billion by the end of this century, almost 4 billion more than are alive today. Where will they live? How will we feed them? How many more of us can our fragile planet withstand?

But a growing body of opinion believes the UN is wrong. We will not reach 11 billion by 2100. Instead, the human population will top out at somewhere between 8 and 9 billion around the middle of the century, and then begin to decline.

Similarly, Prof Wolfgang Lutz and his fellow demographers at Vienna’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis predict the human population will stabilise by mid-century and then start to go down.

A Deutsche Bank report has the planetary population peaking at 8.7 billion in 2055 and then declining to 8 billion by century’s end.

The UN discounts the claims of these experts, relying on the authority of experience. “We imagine that countries that currently have higher levels of fertility and lower levels of life expectancy will make progress in the future in a similar manner, at a similar speed, to what was experienced by countries in the past,” John Wilmoth, director of the UN Population Division, says. “It’s all grounded in past experience.”

But the dissident demographers think this is wrong, primarily because the UN is failing to account for an accelerating decline in fertility as a result of urbanisation. In 2007, for the first time in human history, the majority of people in the world lived in cities. Today, it’s 55%. In three decades, it will be two-thirds.

Read the complete article here. 

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  • Greeley Miklashek

    The demographers have way too narrow a view of population dynamics and the criteria to define “overpopulation”. I’m a retired physician who practiced medicine for 42 years and finally determined that “population density stress” is killing us now and has been for centuries through all of our “diseases of civilization”. Ironically, given that the lead case study in this article is a Kenyan woman, a British physician published a statistical review of his medical practice in rural Kenya in the 1920 and up to 1932, as “Civilization and Disease”, C.P. Donnison, MD. In his unfortunately now very rare book, the good doctor reports he and his fellow rural African physicians examining 238,851 patients and not finding a single case of heart disease, which is the number one killer of modern urban Westerners and crowded urbanites allover the world, including Kenya. The pathophysiology is now well understood and overpopulation is the cause. So, my dear demographer colleagues can throw their raw numbers round all they want, but until they start to factor in our multi-epidemic modern diseases of civilization, they will only be seeing a small piece of this puzzle. And, BTW, fertility rates are one thing, but infertility rates are the real marker of increasing population density stress: infertility in the US has increased 100% in 34 years to 1/6 couples (also true in crowded urban centers around the world), and sperm counts in the West have fallen 59% in 38 years. Crowded animal colonies become extinct after reaching maximum numbers and as a result of poor child care and neuro-endocrine mechanisms responding to crowding. We will never see 10B humans on earth and face extinction as a species by 2,100-2,300. More data will give a more precise date. Only voluntary one-child families can bring our numbers back down to a sustainable 1950 level of 2.5B by 2,100. Now, you know the rest of the story. Stress R Us