10 billion vs Population 10 billion

If you want to think more about population issues facing the planet please read the book on the right by Danny Dorling.

10 billion populationI bought both after wandering around the bookshop trying to decide between the two. I had read about the book by Stephen Emmottt on the Guardian who labelled it as ‘unscientific an misanthropic’. I was intrigued as I had noticed the brightly coloured book in previous trips to the bookshop with the statement on the back that it was ‘about the unprecendented planetary emergency we’ve created’. Unfortunately, I found the book frustrating, and somewhat concerning as it is more of a negative rant with some completely ludicrous statements. I read the book about half and hour, as it contains a lot of graphs, (some of which are found here and have recieved a lot of commentary here), and black and white photographs which seem to serve just to bulk up the page numbers. I appreciate that this is a scientist who believes there are fundamental issues that need addressing about the rate of population growth and the potential for the planet to sustain so many people. However, the book takes a very negative stance throughout cherry picking data to reinforce the points he is trying to make. I can see what he was trying to do, he was trying to make an accessible book to bring population issues to people’s attention. Unfortunately, it seems like this was written to shock people rather than provide information about what was happening around the world, and more importantly what we can do about it.

Danny Dorling’s book, Population 10 billion, on the other hand is much more informative and balanced, and this was summed up in the introduction:

“This is a book for pragmatists. It is about how ten billion people can live well on this planet. I do not argue that they will; just that enough evidence exists to suggest that it is possible. So here is story about this possibility.”

Both of the books mentioned here were in part sparked into creation by the revision of global population predictions by the UN which said that instead of reaching about a 9.1 billion by 2100, it would actually be more likely to reach 10.1 billion. How we deal with the issue of growing population is still being played out, but it is important that we don’t just assume that the planet will become a ‘hell hole’ to use Emmott’s words.

As one blogger has neatly summarised:

“Emmott argues that a combination of population growth, rising consumption, climate change, species loss and environmental depredation will lead us to catastrophe by the year 2100, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In his inimitable catch phrase: “We’re f*cked”. Dorling agrees with Emmott’s basic thesis but adds: “Yes we can”.”

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2 Responses to 10 billion vs Population 10 billion

  1. Emmott’s book as based on a stage show at the Royal Court Theatre, London in summer 2012 which got rave reviews in British newspapers. We looked at all the reviews and found that every single “fact” quoted (except the 10 billion figure itself) was false or exaggerated. See
    The book was due out next September, but publication seems to have been brought forward to coincide with the publication of Dorling’s book.
    The UN’s 2011 revision is just a series of graphs making minor adjustments to the last major report in 2004. Emmott has been expressing these sentiments since at least 2006. The source of his pessimism is a General Environmental Model of Life, the Universe and Everything which he’s been working on at the Cambridge Microsoft Laboratories where he’s Professor of Computational Science. Apparently it doesn’t work yet, and the fact that the programme crashes every time he tries to run it is interpreted as the impending end of the world.
    Does he not mention this in his book? It was the subject of a talk he gave at NESTA last year.
    More details can be found at

  2. Thanks for commenting. I had already made a link to some of your commentary on Emmott’s work and your other posts are interesting too. I hadn’t realised the publication had been brought forward. I hope people buy Dorling’s book too if they do read Emmott’s work.

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