What will the world be like at the end of the 21st century? UN statisticians warn we’re headed for a Malthusian nightmare in which too many humans compete for too few resources on a planet degraded beyond recognition. But in their provocative new book, Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline, pollster Darrell Bricker and journalist John Ibbitson argue the opposite is true: that falling birth rates around the world portend a future in which Earth’s population is older, smaller and more urban — and in which Canada is uniquely positioned to weather social and economic challenges.
On the causes of population decline
JI: I thought population decline was happening because society was urbanizing, but the bigger reason is that more women became educated and demanded and acquired control over their own bodies. When that happened, women decided to stop having so many kids. So global population decline has as much to do with the empowerment of women through education as it does with the economics of having children.
On the universality of declining birthrates
DB: It used to be that when women thought about having kids and how many kids to have, the decision was rooted in some kind of external agenda — it was for their husband, it was for their country, it was for their religion. When it’s for themselves, and it’s about self-actualization, we fi