Book Review: Empty Planet

Had Bricker and Ibbitson written a book about Noah’s Flood, the title might have read Dry Planet, with a warning of an impending drought.

The authors maintain that a disaster of declining global population is imminent. This contrasts with today’s global human population of 7.8 billion, which is at flood level, and is rising steadily by some 80 million a year.

Concern about a human “culling” seems premature, if not reckless, in a world where billions of poor people struggle for their very existence. Consumption of natural resources is unsustainable, and we are fast destroying the Earth’s oceans and potable water sources. In its brief existence, Empty Planet (February 5, 2019) has already performed a disservice by diverting attention away from the reality of unrelenting population growth, and by echoing the naysayers who would “debunk the myth of a population explosion” by minimizing the glaring mismatch between global biocapacity and human consumption.

The book takes the position that “we must ignore [the approaching reality of population decline] no longer.” The authors maintain that China appears to be on the verge of a collapse of its population. The authors’ “solution” to a perceived impending global population collapse includes immigration, although migration simply redistributes, but does not alter, global population numbers.

In complaining that “[smaller families] reduce the number of consumers” and that “robots thus far have proved to be pretty useless at purchasing refrigerators,” the authors reveal a bias in favor of ramping up consumption of manufactured goods. But already, humans’ demand for resources exceeds the supply, and the gap continues to widen. A fortunate few consume resources at an unsustainable rate on the backs of the many who suffer in their lacking.

Many researchers conclude that the quest for sustainability lies in the stabilization, then steep reduction, of world population and of per capita consumption in the more developed nations. Indeed, in an odd reversal of its theme, the book concludes in a well-camouflaged admission that fewer people would make for a better world. Listed benefits of population decline include “play[ing] a major role in limiting carbon emissions,” and ”the best prescription for protecting the seas.”

But the book ends by equivocating, “things have a way of working themselves out,” and, “the future will make its own way.” This is a weak conclusion to 252 pages of fear mongering.

Evan Jones is a retired professor of physics at Sierra College, in Rocklin, CA. He has been a member of Population Connection since 2011.

One thought on “Book Review: Empty Planet

  1. After reading a synopsis of this book, I have to agree with Evan’s excellent review. This book is a horrible denial of the realities of our population/environmental destruction dilemma.

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