According to a new study commissioned by the non-governmental organization Club of Rome and carried out by the Earth4All nonprofit collective, population growth rates worldwide have been far more sluggish than Paul and Anne Ehrlich expected when they published “The Population Bomb” in 1968, a book that sparked fears of overpopulation for generations.
While the Ehrlichs’ book correctly predicted a quadrupling of the global population to its current level of about eight billion, Earth4All’s press release notes that there’s little chance of it doubling to 16 billion — and, in fact, we might not even get to nine billion before it starts shrinking.
“The global population could peak at a much lower level — around nine billion — by mid-century,” the collective predicts. “And if the world invests more in economic development, education, and health, the global population could fall to levels at which everyone on Earth can have sustainable access to clean energy, shelter, food, and water.”
Earth4All and its supporters see two likely future scenarios: either governments carry on as usual and fail to prevent “regional societal collapse,” particularly in “the most vulnerable, poorly governed, and ecologically vulnerable economies,” or countries begin taxing their wealthiest citizens to invest in social services and education, which would have a positive spillover effect on the environment and civil rights.
This research provides us reason to think the population bomb won’t go off, but we still confront major challenges from an environmental standpoint. We need a lot of effort to address the current development paradigm of over-consumption and overproduction, which are bigger problems than population.
In summary, overpopulation will not destroy the world as previously thought — but the decisions made by those in authority now very well may.
Reference- Earth4All PR, National Geographic, Futurism, The Guardian