Global Population Debate

The new global population debate. How many humans should, can, will live on this planet?

In 1900, there were a billion and a half people on Earth. In the 20th Century, that population doubled, then doubled again. Now we’re over  7 billion. By the end of this century, projections are we’ll be near 11 billion humans. We’re adding a million every four-and-a-half days. For centuries, doomsayers have warned of an over-population apocalypse. Now the warnings are coming two ways. That we must cut back or nature will do it for us. That in reining in numbers, some nations will fail. Up next On Point: the blazing new debate over human population, high and low, and its impact.

— Tom Ashbrook


Alan Weisman, senior editor and producer for Homeland Productions, author of “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth,” “The World Without Us.”

Steven Philip Kramer, professor of Grand Strategy at the National Defense University, author of “The Other Population Crisis: What Governments Can Do About Falling Birth Rates.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The New Yorker: Head Count — “The latest population projections from the United Nations were released in June. If they’re correct, by 2025 there will be eight billion people on the planet. By 2050, there will be nine and a half billion, and by 2100 there will be nearly eleven billion. This is an awful lot of mouths to feed. It’s also a lot of people for Weisman to turn, as it were, back into air.”

Foreign Affairs: Baby Gap —  “Although overpopulation plagues much of the developing world, many developed societies are now suffering from the opposite problem: birthrates so low that each generation is smaller than the previous one. Much of southern and eastern Europe, as well as Austria, Germany, Russia, and the developed nations of Southeast Asia, have alarmingly low fertility rates, with women having, on average, fewer than 1.5 children each. For example, the total fertility rate is 1.6 in Russia, 1.4 in Poland, and 1.2 in South Korea. In the United States, it is 2.05, which is about the replacement level.”

Washington Post: Book Review: Book review: ‘Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth?’ by Alan Weisman — “What would a planet with a stable population and ecologically sustainable use of resources look like? Where should we be headed? However, just as the discussion gets interesting, Weisman starts to duck out. He endorses the famous formula in Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 bestseller, “The Population Bomb”: that the impact of humans on the planet is a combination of our numbers, what we consume and the technology we use to produce what we consume. But while he is good on the impacts and on human numbers, he is sketchy on the rest.”

Read An Excerpt From “Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth” by Alan Weisman

Read An Excerpt From “The Other Population Crisis: What Governments Can Do About Falling Birth Rates” By Steven Philip Kramer

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