cover image Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline

Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline

Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson. Crown, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-984823-21-2

The world faces not an overpopulation crisis but a birth dearth that will reshape civilization, according to this arresting and contrarian look at the planet’s demographic future. Bricker, CEO of the research firm Ipsos Public Affairs, and journalist Ibbitson, authors of The Big Shift, critique the United Nations model that predicts world population will grow from 7.6 billion today to 11.2 billion by 2100; they instead cite demographers who foresee global population peaking at 9 billion by 2060, then shrinking to 7 billion (and falling) by 2100. They point to two main causes of the coming cull: urbanization, which makes children’s labor less valuable, and above all feminism, which encourages women to pursue education and careers instead of early childbearing. The authors interview people from Brussels to Nairobi who are planning on having just one or two kids, below the replacement rate. The authors see pros (less resource depletion) and cons (stagnating economies, fewer workers to support pensioners, extinction of small cultures, loneliness) in the population bust and predict the collapse of an aging China and the resurgence of the U.S. if it embraces immigrants. Lucid, trenchant, and very readable, the authors’ arguments upend consensus ideas about everything from the environment to immigration; the result is a stimulating challenge to conventional wisdom. Agent: John Pearce, Westwood Creative Artists. (Feb.)