The coming population crash : and our planet's surprising future

by Fred Pearce

Paper Book, 2010


Pearce chronicles nearly 200 years of demographic issues, beginning with efforts to contain the demographic explosion, from the early environmental movement's racism and involvement in eugenics to coercive family-planning policies in China and India.



Call number



Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, c2010.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Stbalbach
It is common wisdom that the world has too many people and thus faces an uncertain future from resource constraints (Peak Oil, food shortages, etc..) and pollution (global warming, ozone etc). However as Fred Peace shows in this easy to read and refreshingly optimistic book, the answer to our
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problems may lie in the simple numbers of demography. Pearce starts with a history of population control, beginning with Malthus in the 18th century, which lead to Eugenics thinking of the early 20th century which lead to the Holocaust and then to the sterilization programs in India by the UN and 1-child policies in China - all of which have been disasters and essentially nationalistic and/or racists at the core. Along the way he makes uncomfortable connections with the environmental movement and this type of thinking.

As it turns out, population control has been naturally occurring on its own. In countries all over the world, birth rates are on the decline as woman choose to have 0 to 2 children, which is near or below replacement rates. The reasons are not by design, it just sort of happened, a result of increased affluence and urbanization brought on by the green revolution of the 60s, and increased access to and awareness of birth control. Given a choice, women don't want big families, they'd rather invest resources in a few healthy children and pursue their own life interests. The numbers tell the story and Pearce's book is full of page after page of amazing perspectives that totally changes how one sees the world. In short, most likely we will reach "Peak Population" by 2040, that is, the total number of humans on the planet will peak at around 8 billion and then begin to decline, rapidly. There are already some days on planet earth when more people die than are born.

Pearce has written a fascinating and optimistic book, we really need it in this time of gloomy predictions about the future. Demography very well may be the saving grace of the human race. Or I should say, women may save the day by choosing not to have big families. My only complaint is he doesn't look at the potential downsides of a declining and aging population - on market economies, tax bases, standards of living, etc.. and what conditions in the future could cause a reversal of increased birth rates, such as what happens during baby booms. Nothing is assured, but assuming the macro trends stay in place - globalization, urbanization, woman's liberation - the population problem, and conversely environmental and resource problems, may just have a good chance of resolving themselves with time, and we may look back on this period as an overpopulated transition to a more stable and gentle age.
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LibraryThing member fpagan
If you haven't seen Italy and want to do so while it's still Italian, better not wait too long because, without large-scale immigration, continuation of the current low fertility rate would result in a population decline of 86% by 2100. Comparable prospects face much of the rest of Europe,
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including Russia. And Pearce reports that much of the rest of the world, including the third world, is headed in the same direction. The reasons: higher infant survival, female empowerment, and female free choice. The outlook: world population peaking at maybe 8 billion by 2050, falling to 5 billion by 2100; much migration; lots of old people. Pearce says much about many ancillary topics, and guesses enviro-economic collapse will somehow be avoided. He says nothing about a technology singularity or the transhumanist scenario.
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Original publication date



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