Heads up: Top comment and controversy

Good news! We might not be heading for an over-population apocalypse, after all

Slate

Jeff Wise has written a fascinating article in Slate that convincingly challenges the received wisdom that global population growth with soon outstrip the Earth's resources. In fact, according to a report by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, population growth is actually slowing down.

It took 13 years for the human population of Earth to grow from 6 billion to 7 billion and 12 years to grow from 5 billion to 6 billion; this is the first time in our history that the rate of population growth, which has been growing exponentially since the first homo sapiens, has actually slowed.

So what does this mean for our future? "On the bright side, the long-dreaded resource shortage may turn out not to be a problem at all, " writes Wise. "On the not-so-bright side, the demographic shift toward more retirees and fewer workers could throw the rest of the world into the kind of interminable economic stagnation that Japan is experiencing right now."

In Western Europe the problem of shrinking population is by now so familiar that the Germans have even invented one of their famous portmanteau words for it: Shrumpfgesselschaft or "shrinking society".

Fears of human population outstripping the Earth's resources go back thousands of years. The work of 19th century economist Thomas Malthus is famous, but did you know that Plato and Aristotle also broached the topic back in the 4th Century BC?

The notion that we might precipitate our own extinction by choosing not to reproduce is rather more novel, however. As Wise points out, while we know how to restrain birth rates (educate women), government attempts to encourage parenthood in countries such as Singapore and Sweden have so far been largely unsuccessful.

SOURCE

React Now

Read Next
 

Beware of the jovial buffoon who picks fights overseas

Boyd Tonkin
 

My shameful failure to live up to the spirit of Christmas

Howard Jacobson
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all