Books

Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker & John Ibbitson

Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker & John Ibbitson

An award-winning journalist and leading international social researcher make the provocative argument that the global population will soon begin to decline, dramatically reshaping the social, political, and economic landscape.

For half a century, statisticians, pundits, and politicians have warned that a burgeoning population will soon overwhelm the earth's resources. But a growing number of experts are sounding a different alarm. Rather than continuing to increase exponentially, they argue, the global population is headed for a steep decline — and in many countries, that decline has already begun.

In Empty Planet, John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker find that a smaller global population will bring with it many benefits: fewer workers will command higher wages; the environment will improve; the risk of famine will wane; and falling birthrates in the developing world will bring greater affluence and autonomy for women. 

But enormous disruption lies ahead, too. We can already see the effects in Europe and parts of Asia, as aging populations and worker shortages weaken the economy and impose crippling demands on healthcare and social security. The United States and Canada are well-positioned to successfully navigate these coming demographic shifts — that is, unless growing isolationism leads us to close ourselves off just as openness becomes more critical to our survival than ever.

Rigorously researched and deeply compelling, Empty Planet offers a vision of a future that we can no longer prevent — but one that we can shape, if we choose. (From Penguin Random House)

From the book

The great defining event of the twenty-first century — one of the great defining events in human history — will occur in three decades, give or take, when the global population starts to decline. Once that decline begins, it will never end. We do not face the challenge of a population bomb but of a population bust — a relentless, generation-after-generation culling of the human herd. Nothing like this has ever happened before.

If you find this news shocking, that's not surprising. The United Nations forecasts that our population will grow from seven billion to eleven billion in this century before leveling off after 2100. But an increasing number of demographers around the world believe the UN estimates are far too high. More likely, they say, the planet's population will peak at around nine billion sometime between 2040 and 2060, and then start to decline, perhaps prompting the UN to designate a symbolic death to mark the occasion. By the end of this century, we could be back to where we are right now, and steadily growing fewer.


From Empty Planet by Darrell Bricker & John Ibbitson ©2019. Published by Penguin Random House Canada.

Interviews

For decades, the United Nations has been sounding the alarm about the potentially catastrophic consequences of global population growth. Empty Planet co-author Darrell Bricker says the opposite is true. 10:37
For decades, the United Nations has been sounding the alarm about the potentially catastrophic consequences of global population growth. Empty Planet co-author Darrell Bricker says the opposite is true. 10:37

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.