At http://www.npr.org/2011/10/31/141870269/op-ed-7-billion-now-but-population-will-drop you can add your comment on NPR’s coverage of the population reaching 7 billion. As you’ll see, the interview is spent emphasizing the imprecise nature of demographic forecasting. Thanks to Joe Bish for alerting me to this.
Op-Ed: 7 Billion Now, But Population Will Drop
October 31, 2011
Earth’s population crossed the 7 billion mark Monday. The growing population has been the subject of doomsday scenarios, but Colum Lynch worries that the U.S. and other wealthy countries will soon have too few citizens. He predicts the world population will decline by the end of this century.
NEAL CONAN, host: And now, the Opinion Page. The planet’s human population hit seven billion today, according to a United Nations estimate. The growth of the world’s population has been the subject of doomsday scenarios, at least as far back as Thomas Malthus in the late 18th century. But as Colum Lynch argues in Foreign Policy, predicting population growth or contraction is pretty much a loser’s game. You can go with the high-end projection of 27 billion, or an estimate of a smaller-world population some time next century. Lynch says that thinking about the implications of a world with fewer people is just as important as worrying about how many more the planet can handle.
So tell us: What does seven billion mean to you? 800-989-8255. Email: email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our website. That’s at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. Colum Lynch is United Nations reporter for the Washington Post and the author of the Turtle Bay blog at foreignpolicy.com, where his piece “It’s a Small World” ran recently. Colum Lynch joins us now from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you with us today.
COLUM LYNCH: Thanks for having me, Neal.
CONAN: And what don’t we know about that seven-billion figure?
LYNCH: Well, we don’t know that it’s happening today. We don’t know whether it’s happened yesterday, or a couple of days ago. I mean, it’s generally an estimate. I mean, it’s better than the projections that thinking about whether there will be eight billion in 2025. But a lot of this stuff is projections on the basis of assumptions, and, you know, like most assumptions, nobody really knows whether they’ll turn out to be true or not. I gather they probably – as your earlier guest said – probably picked today, Halloween…
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
LYNCH: …to decide on this, to scare the pants off of everybody about the fear of massive population growth.
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