The Shock of Global Population Decline
By Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson
For half a century, statisticians, pundits and politicians have warned that population growth is spiraling out of control, threatening to overwhelm the earth's resources. They are wrong. Empty Planet shows why exactly the opposite will soon be upon us.
'A fascinating study . . . written with energy' Sunday Times
'Riveting and vitally important' - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now
Empty Planet offers a radical, provocative argument that the global population will soon begin to decline, dramatically reshaping the social, political and economic landscape.
For half a century, statisticians, pundits and politicians have warned that a burgeoning planetary population will soon overwhelm the earth's resources. But a growing number of experts are sounding a different kind of alarm. Rather than growing exponentially, they argue, the global population is headed for a steep decline.
Throughout history, depopulation was the product of catastrophe: ice ages, plagues, the collapse of civilizations. This time, however, we're thinning ourselves deliberately, by choosing to have fewer babies than we need to replace ourselves. In much of the developed and developing world, that decline is already underway, as urbanisation, women's empowerment, and waning religiosity lead to smaller and smaller families. In Empty Planet, Ibbitson and Bricker travel from South Florida to Sao Paulo, Seoul to Nairobi, Brussels to Delhi to Beijing, drawing on a wealth of research and firsthand reporting to illustrate the dramatic consequences of this population decline - and to show us why the rest of the developing world will soon join in.
They find that a smaller global population will bring with it a number of benefits: fewer workers will command higher wages; good jobs will prompt innovation; the environment will improve; the risk of famine will wane; and falling birthrates in the developing world will bring greater affluence and autonomy for women. But enormous disruption lies ahead, too. We can already see the effects in Europe and parts of Asia, as aging populations and worker shortages weaken the economy and impose crippling demands on healthcare and vital social services. There may be earth-shaking implications on a geopolitical scale as well.
Empty Planet is a hugely important book for our times. Captivating and persuasive, it is a story about urbanisation, access to education and the empowerment of women to choose their own destinies. It is about the secularisation of societies and the vital role that immigration has to play in our futures.
Rigorously researched and deeply compelling, Empty Planet offers a vision of a future that we can no longer prevent - but that we can shape, if we choose to.
Darrell Bricker (Author)
Darrell Bricker is CEO of Ipsos Global Public Affairs. He is the author of five books, most recently The Big Shift.
While too many believe that numbers are boring, Bricker believes they are incredibly useful and interesting. The problem lies in that people who are good with numbers tend not to be great storytellers. His writing has always focused on telling stories that break down the barrier between numbers and broader public understanding. There's always a story or tragedy and romance in the data. Bricker sees it as his job to find the story and tell it.
John Ibbitson (Author)
In a career spanning three decades, John Ibbitson has worked as a reporter and columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, Southam News, the National Post and, since 1999, the Globe and Mail, where he became Chief Political Writer in 2012 and Writer at Large in 2015.
He has written eighteen books, including The Landing which won the 2008 Governer General's Award for Children's Literature. His non-fiction books have been nominated for the National Newspaper Award, the Donnier Prize, the Twillium Book Award and the City of Toronto Book Award.
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- Publication date:
05 Feb 2019
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A fascinating study — David Goodhart, Sunday Times
The "everything you know is wrong" genre has become tedious, but this book is riveting and vitally important. With eye-opening data and lively writing, Bricker and Ibbitson show that the world is radically changing in a way that few people appreciate — Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and Enlightenment Now
While the global population is swelling well over 7.5 billion people today, birth rates have nonetheless already begun dropping around the world. Past population declines have historically been driven by natural disasters or disease - the Toba supervolcano, Black Death or Spanish Flu - but this coming slump will be of our own demographic making. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Bricker and Ibbitson compellingly argue why by the end of this century the problem won't be overpopulation but a rapidly shrinking global populace, and how we might have to adapt — Professor Lewis Dartnell, author of The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch
A highly readable, controversial insight into a world rarely thought about - a world of depopulation under ubiquitous urbanisation — George Magnus, author of The Age of Aging and Red Flags: Why Xi's China is in Jeopardy
To get the future right we must challenge our assumptions, and the biggest assumption so many of us make is that populations will keep growing. Bricker and Ibbitson deliver a mind-opening challenge that should be taken seriously by anyone who cares about the long-term future - which, I hope, is all of us — Dan Gardner, author of Risk and co-author of Superforecasting
Arresting . . . lucid, trenchant and very readable . . . a stimulating challenge to conventional wisdom — Publishers Weekly
Warnings of catastrophic world overpopulation have filled the media since the 1960s, so this expert, well-researched explanation that it's not happening will surprise many readers . . . delightfully stimulating — Kirkus Reviews
Thanks to the authors' painstaking fact-finding and cogent analysis, [Empty Planet] offers ample and persuasive arguments for a re-evaluation of conventional wisdom — Booklist
[Bricker and Ibbitson] have written a sparkling and enlightening guide to the contemporary world of fertility as small family sizes and plunging rates of child-bearing go global. — Paul Morland, Globe and Mail
Bricker and Ibbitson work their way around the globe in pacey, sometimes breathless journalistic prose, although their argument is refreshingly clear and well balanced . . . — Robert Mayhew, Literary Review
The authors combine a mastery of social-science research with enough journalistic flair to convince fair-minded readers of a simple fact: fertility is falling faster than most experts can readily explain, driven by persistent forces . . . Empty Planet succeeds as a long-overdue skewering of population-explosion fearmongers — Lyman Stone, Wall Street Journal
A bold thesis, but the authors are convincing . . . this briskly readable book demands urgent attention — Sarah Ditum, Mail on Sunday