What future for peasant communities in the North? A holiday report

July 20, 2010

New books on development: bad microfinance; climate change and war; what works; inside the World Bank; mobile activism

July 20, 2010

Global population, the Hans Rosling way – Ikea meets powerpoint

July 20, 2010
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My favourite lecturer on development, Hans Rosling, has gone post-digital. His new TED lecture on global population growth uses Ikea storage boxes instead. But don’t worry, he gets onto his trademark whizzy graphics at the end, and the result is spellbinding, as always. His message? If you want to reduce global population growth, start by increasing child survival rates.


  1. Another engaging and insightful lecture by Hans Rosling, however, population growth is an incredibly messy subject and it seems a little simplistic to put see the only solution as promoting child survival.

    I saw a recent programme on the BBC where David Attenborough emphasised that the key to reducing fertility rates is education of young girls (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00pdjmk)

    Meanwhile, some recent research suggests that social pensions have had a significant impact on decreasing fertility rates in Southern African countries where they have been introduced (http://www.wahenga.net/node/1787). This concept – based on the premise that a key reason why people have many children is so that there will be someone to look after them as they get older – is generally accepted in the North.

    So, it seems like there are likely to be quite a lot of factors at play here.

  2. Sorry for a stupid question: While there is a clear correlation between child survival rate and family size (and therefore, population), as the graphics brilliantly illustrate, the presentation seems to assume a causation between the two. Is that because a causation has been clearly established or are there any loose ends/ gaps in that part of the argument?

  3. @Abraham.

    It’s the demographic transition. As more children survive, there is less need to have more children, and as a result fertility rates decline. This process took centuries in the ‘old’ developed world, and while it is occuring faster in the developing world, still takes decades.

    Tim Dyson’s ‘Population and Development’ is a great book to read more about it!

  4. The two other key messages were really interesting too:

    1) Rosling considers the poor to be the Bottom Two Billion (or roughly ‘bottom third’: 2bn out of 7bn now, 3bn to 4bn out of 9bn by 2050), instead of Collier’s Bottom Billion… presumably Rosling is including many of the poor in India and other places that Collier doesn’t include.

    2) The role of the old West as a ‘foundation’ (I would prefer ‘demonstration’) of what a green and more just economy could like. I think this places Rosling much nearer the optimists

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