Over-optimistic headline: The world won’t be crowded overall

The Independent

12 January 1998

Frontpage headline: The world won’t be crowded after all.
Article page 12 with excellent map correcting the over-optimistic headline.

GREEN – LOW FERTILITY RATE – PROSPERITY ARRIVED OR ARRIVING
BROWN – HIGH FERTILITY RATE – TROUBLE ARRIVED OR ARRIVING

WHEN TROUBLE ARRIVES NOTE THAT POPULATION INCREASE IS MENTIONED BUT NEVER BLAMED AS A MAJOR CAUSE BY POLITICIANS OR THE MEDIA

The general picture remains as accurate now as in the 1998 estimates, but note: (1) all countries are now more densely populated, some substantially (eg Haiti, Rwanda, Pakistan, Philippines) some hardly at all (eg Japan, Germany) (2) Fertility rates in Morocco, Egypt, and especially India have not fallen as fast as predicted; those in Chile, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Iran, Thailand, and Mongolia have fallen faster. Statistics come from UN Population division. Projections to 2050 are from medium variant. See http://esa.un.org/unpp.

The front page headline is justified when it refers to the three-quarters of the world coloured green. But the headline is wildly misleading when Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan is included. In most countries in this region, family planning is not easily available and fertility rates remain high. The population has doubled twice since 1950 and is expected to double again before 2050. Even now, after only two doubling (from 300 million to 1,200 million) we can see extreme poverty, hunger, civil turmoil, and conflict in this region, with the migration of many millions of desperate people. After the next doubling to 2,400 million the distress will be so great that people will at last see that as well as saving lives we should have provided developing countries with family planning – the same family planning upon which our own prosperity depends.

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