“China will start to lose population and will be a weaker power”
He is co-author of a book that predicts the decline of the world population. Canadian journalist John Ibbitson participates this Wednesday in the first of the three days of the Lisbon Conferences on the acceleration of global changes.
The fourth edition of the Lisbon Conferences kicks off this Wednesday with the participation of President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and continues until Friday. Due to the pandemic, the organization – in charge of Clube de Lisboa – adapted the format to online (more information here), which left The Globe and Mail journalist John Ibbitson desolate for not being able to return to Portugal.
If you were an interviewer at this conference on accelerating global change, who would you like to ask a question to, and what would it be?
I would like to ask the director of the United Nations Population Division [John Wilmoth] when he is going to change the numbers on the forecasts. Not long ago, and for the first time, the UN projections dropped the numbers, from 11.8 billion people at the end of the century to 10.9 billion. But since the book [Empty Planet – The Shock of Global Population Decline, written with Darrell Bricker] has been published, there are new studies and data that point to much less. The decline in the world population will happen more quickly than we predicted in the book. India has already reached the replacement rate [2.1 children per woman] and in many countries the decline is being more rapid.
They concluded in the book that the world population will decrease due to two factors: there are more and more people in cities and more women working. Did they take into account other factors, such as religion or the infant mortality rate?
The book [Empty Planet] starts from the premise that the United Nations population projections are wrong. The United Nations believed that we would reach 11 billion by the end of the century before stabilizing. This is the popular wisdom that is found in many films and books of a Land poisoned due to overpopulation. Writings like that of [Paul] Ehrlich or the Club of Rome [The limits of growth] maintain that population growth is our greatest threat. Darrell [Bricker] and I knew that there were several demographers who were calling into question the numbers of the United Nations. We wanted to know if they had a good argument and if it could be translated into a story that the average reader could understand. We did our research, traveled around the world and talked to demographers, statisticians and academics, but also to new people and especially young women to find out what their plans are, their priorities. And we came to the conclusion that demographers are right, the planetary population will reach 9 billion in the middle of the century, but then it will decrease. And it will happen for four reasons, two of which you have already mentioned. The planet has been continuously urbanizing. When we exchange the countryside for the city, the utility of children changes. A child in the rural world can be an asset to work in the field. A child in the city is a liability, more like a mouth to feed. In economic terms it makes sense to have fewer children.
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