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Media Spotlight – Danny Dorling: Population 10 Billion

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Every day it seems another potentially catastrophic disaster is just around the corner, waiting to consume the human race and spit out our way of life.

Headlines and opinion pieces are forever warning us of the dangers of pollution and global warming, the terrifying effects of capitalism and the mind-warping drone of continuous advertising telling us what we need to buy and why. It is time for our people to fight back and, according to the United Nations, not too long from now we may have an army of 10 billion with which to strike.

This is the subject matter in Danny Dorling’s book Population 10 Billion, which should be interesting for anyone who needs reassurances that our world, contrary to rumour, is not about to end due to over-crowding.

A wealth of statistics helps Dorling illustrate the picture as it is – the global population has indeed been growing at an accelerating rate since we first hit the 1 billion mark in 1820 – 64,000 years after man first graced the planet.

By 1926, we had crossed the 2 billion line and just thirty-four years later in 1960, another billion had been added. In 2000; the human race reached a count of 6 billion.

That’s right – it took 64,000 years to grow to a billion people and just 180 years later we had added 5 billion more.

But what Dorling contends is that the real problem is a population that is not only growing at what some would deem an alarming rate (myself included), but a population that is getting older with each generation.

The book argues that the rate of population growth has actually slowed in the last 40 years but life expectancy over that period has been growing which the author argues is no bad thing. 

However, the prospect of a world in which fewer and fewer young people exist to lead the way in technological innovation and creative expression does not seem so rosy to me.

If we do see our numbers top the 10 billion benchmark, Dorling does not believe that having the space to accommodate all of us is the problem, even citing the fact that there is sufficient space in the US state of Texas to house us all.

Instead, he argues that consumption – rather, teaching future generations – however many people that may be – how to consume – is the key to our survival.

“If everyone behaved like the average American, you would need three planets to survive on” says Dorling. Provided we can educate ourselves to take our consumption down several (thousand) steps in that case, we should be just fine.

The book is by all means a good read for those of us who take an interest in the human story.

I found certain aspects somewhat eye-opening but other parts were, in my opinion, overly-optimistic given the news presented to us every day about crippling poverty, growing disparity between the rich and poor classes and the incessant threat of warfare between ever-more hostile and divisive cultures.

Our scarce resources are being expended to mortifying levels and personally, I can’t adopt the same optimism as Dorling but I’ll leave that judgement to the readers of what is definitely a new angle on a much-debated topic.

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