A recent study estimates the global population will hit a peak of 8.8 billion around the middle of this century, before rapidly declining soon after. Prior studies predicted the “population bomb” to go off later with a higher worldwide population, coupled with more catastrophic results. Despite the optimistic outcome of this study, it is only feasible if global societal changes are made soon.
Professor Dowell Myers of the Price School of Public Policy agrees with much of the study except for one part:
MYERS: “The bomb did go off. It’s not that it’s not going to go off. It did go off.”
He, however, believes this is a good thing.
MYERS: “I think it’s a positive trend finding that the that the population trajectory is starting to level off. Is is good news, even though it does give us extra social problems.”
The study conducted by the intellectual non-profit, Club of Rome, found raising average education and income levels globally have the potential to keep the population bomb’s fallout at a minimum.
Higher education levels of a society, especially of women, are often correlated with lower birth rates due to more employed women in the workforce. However, this can prove to be an issue with aging societies such as those of China and Japan and can lead to shortages of able-bodied people to repopulate society.
MYERS: “The economy can survive with fewer workers now because of automation. So that the population growth is slowing, that won’t hurt the economy as much. The thing is, in a capitalist system, it all works on consumption and the economy is driven by people at the base of the pyramid consuming a lot of goods and they consume. That goes into profits. And businesses and businesses then hire more workers. But it all works off of consumption. If you don’t have as many people, you’ve got less consumption.”
MYERS: “The big thing is we have a generational mismatch. We have an older generation that expects to be supported and we don’t have as many younger people.”
Even though the issue seems to be working itself out, our planet’s health is still in jeopardy.
MYERS: “The climate change issue is still very much alive. It doesn’t change that in the prospects of that in the next three decades. That’s still with us.”
To insure a less than dramatic population drop in the following decades, all hands must be willing to be on deck.
MYERS: “The environmental problems are not contained within any country’s borders. That’s the problem with you can’t get agreement across borders and it’s a global atmosphere. We have to get everybody on board. We can’t have a, you know, Brazil chopping down the rainforest, for example. It’s inside their borders and it affects their economy. But the atmospheric changes, the climate changes are totally interconnected around the globe. That’s the challenge for us.”
For Annenberg Media, I’m Lorenzo Arce.