Population strategies

Population and Strategies for National Development
Gayl D. Ness and Meghan V. Golay

Coping with Population Challenges
Louise Lassonde

The Future Population of the World
Ed. Wolfgang Lutz

The Earthscan Reader

Posted: 1 September 2000

These four titles from Earthscan make a rich meal for all those who feared that concern with human numbers was on the wane.

The first, by Gayl Ness and Meghan Golay, complements another manual, published by IUCN, Our People, our Resources (Barton et al, 1996), which provided ideas for building bridges between population and sustainable development at a local level. This new book is more of a guide to national planning in this area.

Aimed primarily at those directly concerned with development planning and environmental conservation, it includes some highly specific ideas for setting up Population Environment Networks of interested professionals, which have yet to be tested.

Critics of this approach will no doubt argue that planning is dead; that the market rules. Demographic and environmental realities may force a more thoughtful response.

Louise Lassonde's book is a detailed review of the Cairo Conference on Population and Development, its background and its outcome. More importantly it is a deeply thought out critique of the Programme of Action agreed in Cairo. In three final chapters, the author identifies the inconsistencies in the document and what she sees as its failure to deal with the development side of the equation or to face up to the implications of demographic change, through the concentration on reproduction and women.

In her view "the shrinking of the population perspective carries with it the risk that we shall miss the real challenges of our time...potential changes that could provide 20 per cent of the world's population with a better quality of life, while 80 per cent revert to conditions that are best not described."

The Future Population of the World is a revised and updated edition of the book edited by Wolfgang Lutz first published in 1994. As such, it is probably the most authoritative collection of essays on future population trends to be found, including speculation on future fertility and mortality in developing countries and future inter-continental migrations. Lutz himself concludes that the world is likely to house around 10 billion people by 2050 and to stabilize at less than double today's population. He warns that if we do succeed in achieving the desired low fertility-low mortality scenario in the year ahead it could provide an immense dilemma of an ageing world, where by the end of the next century 42.5 per cent of the population would be over 60.

It is difficult to know quite who The Earthscan Reader is directed at. Almost certainly not the general public, nearly all of whom will find these demographic essays rather indigestible. However, several of the eminent contributors do not hesitate to take on themes well outside their demographic expertise and few could resist astronomer Fred Hoyle's speculations that within 5,000 years humans will have evolved, through a series of catastrophes into what is, essentially, a new species, highly sociable and with much greater intelligence. So there.

Reviewer: John Rowley