This is a good thing, folks!
A new report reevaluating the long-feared "population bomb" has found not only that such an explosion in birthrates is unlikely given our current trajectory, but also that the global population will likely peak within this century before falling.
In a new study commissioned by the non-governmental organization Club of Rome and carried out by the Earth4All nonprofit collective, researchers found that, due to "a paradigm shift in demographics over the past 50 years," population growth rates worldwide have been far more sluggish than Paul and Anne Ehrlich expected when they published "The Population Bomb" in 1968, a volume which spurred fears of overpopulation for generations.
While the Ehrlichs' book correctly predicted a quadrupling of the global population to its current standing of about eight billion, Earth4All's press release notes, there's little fear that it will again double to 16 billion — and in fact, we might not even get up to nine billion before it starts shrinking instead.
"The global population could peak at a much lower level — around nine billion — by mid-century," the collective predicts. "And if the world invests more in economic development, education, and health, the global population could fall to levels at which everyone on Earth can have sustainable access to clean energy, shelter, food, and water."
"The bomb will have been defused," the press release declares — but there is, as always, a catch.
"This [research] gives us evidence to believe the population bomb won’t go off, but we still face significant challenges from an environmental perspective," Ben Callegari, one of the report's authors, told The Guardian. "We need a lot of effort to address the current development paradigm of overconsumption and overproduction, which are bigger problems than population."
Earth4All and its benefactors see two likely scenarios playing out in the future: either governments continue going about business as usual and fail to head off "regional societal collapse," especially in "the most vulnerable, badly governed and ecologically vulnerable economies," or countries begin taxing their wealthiest citizens to invest in social services and education, which would have something of a positive spillover effect on the environment and civil rights.
Overpopulation, in short, isn't going to be what destroys the planet as people used to think — but the choices people in power make now absolutely still could.
More on population control: Shocking Study Finds 99 Percent of the World Population Is Breathing Harmful Air