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Hans Rosling Uses Simple Math to Explain World Population Trends

by April 26, 2011

img_1022Just returned from a pre-event discussion by tonight’s Momentum Series speaker, Hans Rosling. Momentum 2010 is a string of three great talks this Spring put on by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Professor Rosling used simple math to explain masterfully human population issues globally in a few minutes (see the image taken from the whiteboard, reproduced in a table below).

The gist is this: humans clearly have a large “footprint” on the planet compared to a few thousand years ago, yet “population control” will not have immediate impacts on the size of our collective footprint. The reason is that there is, pardon the pun, a good deal of “momentum” built into global population. As the rough numbers in the table below indicate, globally two people are more-or-less producing two children—a stark departure from even 1920 when, on average, two of every six children born died per couple.  Yet, there are large numbers of children globally who will grow up and have children of their own. Even with births and deaths more-or-less balancing, this means the momentum in the system will lead us toward a global population of 9 billion by 2050.


I look forward to seeing his full talk tonight, and view Professor Rosling as a role model for being able to explain complex issues in exceedingly, yet powerful ways. For anyone who is unfamiliar with his work, here is a hugely popular video of his on YouTube. We at Dialogue Earth aspire to be able to present topics including population dynamics in as an accessible manner.


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