Is the world headed toward zero population growth?

  • Published on January 10th, 2013

world population at 7 billion - but are we headed for zero population growth?It seems totally counter-intuitive, but it looks like the ZPG crowd may win out after all: The rate of global population growth is now declining, and within our lifetime, we could see the population stabilize and actually start to decrease.

But wait, you say… didn’t world population hit 7 billion last year?

 explains at Slate:

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.

If this plays out, it’s the best news I’ve heard so far this millennium. As science fiction writer Isaac Asimov pointed out way back in the ’70s, most of the worlds problems – energy, pollution, disease, hunger, poverty – stem directly from the simple fact that here are too many people. His greatest fear was that humanity would never voluntarily cut back on our rate of increase, and we’d have pestilence, war and famine do it for us.

Wise tosses out some encouraging numbers:

When Asimov argued for Zero Population Growth 40 years ago, fellow-author Larry Niven said that the only thing he was going to accomplish was to selectively breed humanity for “people who are too stupid to understand Dr. Asimov’s arguments”.

But Asimov projected we’d hit 7 billion by the year 2000. We’re already doing much, much better than he feared. At this rate, we may all see Asimov’s zero population growth in our lifetime ….

(Image from the White Ribbon Alliance)

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • It really is the elephant in the room. I give a regular donation to Planned Parenthood International, who are providing birth control for women in the areas where it’s needed most, like sub-saharan Africa. I would argue it’s the best environmental donation you can give. There are 200 million women around the world who want birth control but don’t have access to it for a variety of reasons. If we seriously want to curb population growth–that’s the best ROI I’ve ever seen.

  • Sujay Rao Mandavilli

    Population control is a very good thing:
    My suugestion to to stabilize birth rates at 1.6 or 1.7 children a woman. if this happens, I foresee populations as follows:

    2050 9.2 b
    2100 10 b
    2200 7 b
    2300 4 b
    2400 2.5 b
    2500 2 b
    2600 1.5 b
    2700 1 b
    2800 700 m
    2900 500 m
    3000 400 m

    if the world’s population gets any lower thn this, lets worry. Population control is the panacea for all the world’s problems!

    The key is population management, not population control. The differences between the two concepts should be the following:

    (a) more global outlook – better collaboration between countries in managing populations. This includes ideas to bring down the TFR, better ageing managmeent (this is indeed possible) , better immigration policies. (no country with a TFR of over 1.6 or 1,.7 should take any steps to increase population growth and countries with tfrs of 2.1 or more should start family planning programs immediately
    (b) long-term outlook – the long term survival of humanity is far more important than any short-term concens
    (c) The beleif that we can control our destiny through our collective actions, rather than leaving everything to destiny

    THIS IS THE ONLY SOLUTION. INTELLECTUALS and JOURNLALISTS (like you!) must play a role in creating awareness!!