Special Issue of Science Magazine on Population

August 22, 2011 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Vicky Markham for alerting me to the new special Issue of Science magazine on “Population”.  Link to the table of contents at http://www.sciencemag.org/site/special/population/index.xhtml.  You will need a subscription to see most of the full articles.  In the 29 July 2011 issue, Science examines the opportunities and challenges created by demographic changes around the world.

At http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6042/538, you can read the following introduction.

Science 29 July 2011:
Vol. 333 no. 6042 pp. 538-539
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6042.538

Introduction to Special Issue

Doom or Vroom?

Gilbert Chin, Tara Marathe, Leslie Roberts

Social scientists can be a contentious lot. Since Thomas Malthus issued his dire warning in 1798-and probably before then-scholars have been arguing over how many people the planet can support. There are “doomsters” who continue to predict the worst, and there are “boomsters” who argue that population growth, while worrisome in many ways, can be an engine of economic growth.

In the 1960s, when there were half as many people as there are today, the doomsters had their day as fears of a “population bomb” gripped the world. And today’s rapid growth rate (7 billion people will occupy the planet this year, and that number is projected to reach 9.3 billion by 2050 and keep climbing) continues to spark alarm. But so far, the neo-Malthusian worries of global mass starvation and global calamitous environmental degradation and ensuing conflict have not materialized. The startling rate of population growth of the 1960s has actually slowed as families have chosen to have fewer children, freely in some countries and under pressure in others. Since 1950, the global fertility rate has dropped by half.

But at regional and local scales, the news is not good. In some parts of the world, most notably across sub-Saharan Africa, fertility and desired family size remain high, and conflict and famine are all too common. Almost all of the population growth between now and 2050 will be concentrated in the world’s poorest countries, which lack the resources to support their burgeoning citizenry. In contrast, in many developed countries and even in some still-developing ones, populations are projected to shrink, and worries center on how to support the higher costs of the aging population on the backs of fewer people of working age.

To read the rest of the introduction, please click here: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6042/538

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