What is the relationship between environmental stress—especially shortages and degradation of cropland, forest stocks, and supplies of fresh water—and civil violence in developing countries, including insurgency, ethnic strife, and revolution?
Remember the population bomb? This profound concern over exponential growth of the world’s population provided ample fodder for academic dispute and dinner conversation during the 1960s and 1970s. Commentators like Stanford University’s Paul Ehrlich warned we would soon see famine, eco-catastrophe, and war as poor nations failed to cope with their surging birth rates. Yet these worries were swept from the popular imagination in the 1990s, when a less gloomy view prevailed: Yes, world population had grown dramatically, but birth rates were dropping practically everywhere. Many conservative commentators declared that the human population explosion was over. The real problem had become the impending global “birth dearth” or “population implosion.”
The human population explosion is far from over, and its dire effects will be with us for many decades yet. “As many people will be added in the next 50 years as were added in the past 40 years,” the U.N. writes, “and the increase will be concentrated in the world’s poorest countries, which are already straining to provide basic social services to their people.”