Worldwatch Paper #143: Beyond Malthus: Sixteen Dimensions of the Population Problem

September 1998
Lester R. Brown, Gary Gardner, Brian Halweil
ISBN: 1-878071-45-9
89 pages

Print version is out of stock.

Many countries that have experienced rapid population growth for several decades are showing signs of demographic fatigue. Overwhelmed by the need to educate children, create jobs, and deal with the environmental effects of population growth, governments faced with a major new threat-such as AIDS or aquifer depletion-often cannot cope.

In our demographically divided world, fertility has dropped and population has stabilized or is declining in some countries; but in others where fertility is still high, population is projected to double or even triple before stabilizing. As recent experi ence with AIDS in Africa shows, some of these high-fertility countries are simply overwhelmed when a new threat appears. While industrial countries have held HIV infection rates among their adult populations to 1 percent or less, infection rates are as hi gh as 26 percent of the adult population in some African countries. With their rising mortality trends, more reminiscent of the Dark Ages than the bright millennium so many had hoped for, these countries are falling back to an earlier demographic stage wi th high death rates and high birth rates, and no growth in population.

In examining the stakes involved in potentially adding another 3.3 billion people over the next 50 years, the study calls for immediate expansion of international family planning assistance to the millions of couples who still lack access, and new investm ent in educating young people, especially women, in the Third World, to promote a shift to smaller families.