The Late Hans Rosling’s Last Book Claimed that Most Human Lives Now Are Getting Better And Better: The New Julian Simon?

By Donald A. Collins | 6 August 2022
Church and State

(Photo: Dreamstime.com)

The late Hans Rosling’s 2017 book (he died of cancer that year) which I have read, coauthored with his son and daughter entitled Factfulness offers its readers a plethora of positive information about the world’s people.

That many people are NOW doing better I am pleased to learn.

Here are some comments on his views. His book was enthusiastically lauded by the eminent Bill Gates at the time it was published, and Rosling achieved many honors and awards. He was a highly acclaimed TED lecturer.

Its main message is that the dismal truths about the dangerous planetary trends other researchers have told us about are wrong.

Here’s a few of many “wrong” views cited-on pages 60 to 63:

More people eating better
More people going to school longer
Less deaths in many categories
Less use of nonrenewable resources

Great?

For many experts the Rosling’s willingness to proclaim a great world future must remind many of them about the earlier fantasies offered by the late economics professor Julian Simon who you can read about here.

Simon dismissed concerns about population growth, which Rosling does not, admitting human numbers will likely increase from about 8 billion now (having grown 4 times in my 91-year lifetime) to 11 billion by 2100. See pages 77 through 89.

Experts agree on the numbers. Perhaps 11 billion people here by 2100. I have written a couple of recent books suggesting we try to reduce that number gently and safely, but I see no sign we will be doing that.

Reason not to worry?? After all, women, Rosling correctly reports, are having fewer children, so human numbers will fall.

Logical. However, meantime our present numbers are chewing up more resources annually than earth can provide and killing of unique flora and fauna not replaceable.

Read a recent opinion on our excess use of earth’s resources entitled “We’re gobbling up the Earth’s resources at an unsustainable rate”.

While we have no reachable planet in our planetary circles around our sun that can offers us any replacement resources, we spend billions trying to put humans on Mars, while ignoring or moving too slowly on preserving our own earthly lifelines to our survival. Again, I have tried to capture that possibility in a new book entitled “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”, available on Amazon.

The climate crisis Rosling does acknowledge on page 229 where he agrees with Al Gore’s forecast that climate could pose a serious problem. He says the recent international meetings on climate did promise solutions. Yes, promises were made. Will they be kept?

Now the main reason for experts’ disagreement with the Roslings: Timing.

As more people have better lives, the growing population has brought us to a sizable annual percentage of excess use of our planet’s resources.

Putin’s war in Ukraine shows how stopping grain exports has huge immediate effects on human starvation. And that our ability to feed these numbers now and in the future is precarious. Fragile supply disruptions now will cause human deaths.

The wildfires, water shortages, major flooding, wasteful pollution, seas rising and temperatures going beyond easy recourse will not stop as the human numbers rise and world leaders promise control measures, while human behavior remains still fixated on endless growth.

Growth of human overuse of resources on a finite planet is not possible. While I welcome reading Rosling’s data that humans in many categories are doing better, the clock is ticking and the time for urgent actions is inexorably leading to vast numbers of us dying while the resources we count on will, even after those billions die, afterwards not exist.

Rosling’s current data could be proven correct, and now he and his able children were thanked by such an eminent enthusiast as Bill Gates. But ahead they may be happy that they didn’t fully embrace the absurdities of Julian Simon.

However, their Pollyanna willingness to downplay negative data which they see as being deferred indefinitely by wise human behavior, does not dismiss the concerns of Paul and Anne Erhlich on population or the dire environmental facts presented by EO Wilson and Sir David Attenborough that are now on course to lead us to global disaster.

One of the best recent papers on population and resources can be read here.

Remember, as many experts argue, the 6th Extinction is still very possible.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC, has spent over 50 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of “From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013”, “Trump Becoming Macbeth: Will our democracy survive?”, “We Humans Overwhelm Our Earth: 11 or 2 Billion by 2100?”, “What Can Be Done Now to Save Habitable Life on Planet Earth?”, “Vote” and “Can Homo Sapiens Survive?”.

Hans Rosling: Global population growth, box by box

Al Bartlett on Julian Simon

Sir David Attenborough on overpopulation

Paul Ehrlich – Avoiding a collapse of civilisation: Our chances, prospects and pathways forward

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