Magazine article Geographical

Global Population

Magazine article Geographical

Global Population

Article excerpt

We are now in the middle of the key century of global demographic change, 1950-2050," writes esteemed demographer John Caldwell. Our economic, environmental and political futures have never seemed more dependent on the ebb and flow of world populations.

For much of the world, rapid population growth was a defining feature of the 20th century--between 1950 and 2000, world population increased from 2.5 billion to six billion. Some 89 per cent of this growth took place in the developing world, and it has become increasingly accepted that reducing it is central to narrowing the 'demographic divide' between the world's rich and poor.

But in the developed world, the picture is quite different. There, the curates of capitalism preach the virtue of constant population growth, driving the wheels of commerce ever onwards. This creed has meant the low birth rates in Japan and much of Europe have been met with dark predictions of economic collapse, of societies swamped by the elderly.

In this month's dossier, Andrew Brackenbury examines the forces that propel population growth and asks what made the 20th century so extraordinary. And what trends will shape the next 50 years--will there be more or fewer of us and, crucially, what will the impacts of these changes be? …

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