Were the Population Alarmists Right or Wrong?

by Carl Haub, senior demographer, Population Reference Bureau

Articles proposing that past alarm over world population growth is now completely wrong have appeared quite frequently over the past 10 years or so and seem to be gathering momentum. Such writings express the view that low birth rates, not high ones, are the world’s problem, voiding the long-held fears of overpopulation. Paul Ehrlich, author of the (in)famous 1968 book  The Population Bomb, is a common target of this criticism, although concern about rapid growth predated his book by many years. The concern over rapid population growth decades ago had a very sound basis. Birth rates in developing countries—where the concern was by far the greatest—were quite high and the use of family planning unknown. There really did seem to be no end in sight.

Continue reading

“Exponential” Does NOT Mean “Fast”!

by Carl Haub, senior demographer, Population Reference Bureau

I’ve seen many occasions where writers have stated that a particular population is growing “exponentially.” That term seems to have evolved to mean “fast.”  The exponential rate—as opposed to percentage increase—is the one usually used to measure population growth. So let’s take a look at what it really means and, honestly, I’m definitely not being picky here. Exponential growth simply means that something, be it money in the bank or the population of Egypt, grows continuously. Compounding continuously is another way of saying it.

Continue reading