The societal pyramid scheme: Are we heading for depopulation disaster?

The world’s population is set to expand to 9.7 billion but will contract sharply by 2064 with enormous economic, social and geopolitical implications – with urbanisation becoming a universal form of birth control. Sean Smith investigates

Thursday 28 October 2021 00:00
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<p>Paradoxically, our willingness to cluster together in gridlocked and crowded cities might just save the planet from overpopulation </p>

Paradoxically, our willingness to cluster together in gridlocked and crowded cities might just save the planet from overpopulation

The global population has doubled in just 40 years and at some point in 2024 Earth will welcome its 8 billionth human inhabitant. But apocalyptic fears of overpopulation are unfounded because global birth rates are plummeting as a side effect of urbanisation. Paradoxically, our willingness to cluster together in gridlocked and crowded cities might just save the planet from the scourge of overpopulation but according to Nobel laureate Steven Chu, we’re going to need a very different economy.

Professor Chu, the former US Secretary of State for Energy, has famously compared the global economy to an unsustainable pyramid scheme because all models of future economic growth depend on the phantom purchasing power of the billions who will never be born. What’s more, he said everyone knew it but no one was talking about it.

Officially, the United Nations acknowledge that the rate of population growth will slow but still grow to reach 11 billion by 2100. But, demographers now believe that the UN forecast is wrong because it fails to recognise the extent to which urban workplaces have become hostile environments for working mothers.

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