The Economist does it usual shilly-shallying in reporting the latest UN World Population Prospects, focussing (as it always does) on the ageing of the population rather than on the massive social, environmental and security challenges posed by a global population of over 11 billion by 2100, according to the latest revision of the UN’s medium variant. Even The Economist, though, can only bury the real story so far: global population growth is speeding up again.
So anxious is The Economist to avoid giving any comfort to those worried by population growth that it misses the real story: almost 300 million Nigerians by 2050 and — even more difficult to imagine — 56 million people struggling to survive on the edge of the Sahara in impoverished Niger (up from 16 million today). By 2100, there may well be over 4 billion Africans. You may sincerely believe that the world will adjust to this new reality but you lose credibility as a newspaper if you just gloss over it. The story is covered rather better in The Guardian
Also this week, came further questions over how much of an unmet need there really is for family planning. Conventional wisdom is that many women, in Africa and the US especially, want smaller families but can’t get access to high-quality family planning services (see, for example, this Guttmacher report). A growing number of experts think things might not be quite so simple, especially in the highest-growth countries.