The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Is the Earth's Population about to Start Declining?

You know that long-held conventional wisdom that the human population will grow exponentially, wreaking havoc on the planet and depleting its resources? According to a recent report, it’s bunk. Demographers are predicting that global population will soon taper and eventually decline. Slate has the story:

It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.)

In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today. And then it will fall.

We’ve heard snippets of this before, but most of the time coverage about demographics stokes fears of unsustainable growth, energy depletion, and food scarcity.

These classic Malthusian scare stories now look out of date. Read the article. It makes some interesting points about the implications of declining birthrates in developed countries and the cultural underpinnings of demographic transitions.

Published on January 11, 2013 2:30 pm