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  1. 1

    The demographic trap [letter]

    King M

    Lancet. 1991 Feb 2; 337(8736):307-8.

    Dr Taylor (Jan 5, p 51) observes that my paper (Sept 15, p 664) revisits issues much discussed 2 or 3 decades ago. As 1 of the original proponents of the child survival hypothesis, he cites the article on which it was based. This 1967 paper makes no reference to ecological destruction, the plight of huge cities in the tropics, the grave constraints on the resources needed for the socioeconomic gains that would bring down the birthrates--or to the demographic trap, although the paper does mention that "progress is overwhelmed by people". Nor does it discuss conditions under which family planning is too late to prevent the trap closing, a point which Dr Potts and Professor Rosenfield do not mention either in their 2 papers (Nov 17, p 1227; Nov 24, p 1293). There seems to be a conspiracy not to mention the trap, which is Lester Brown's term not mine. Since nearly 1/4 of a century has passed since publication of the main paper on which the child survival hypothesis is bases and since major changes have taken place, including a 60% growth in world population, might it not be time to review some aspects of that hypothesis and the UNICEF programs which follow from it? The several meanings of sustainability are causing much confusion. Could we use "ecosustainability" for the "maintenance of the capacity of an ecosystem to support life in quantity and variety", and leave "sustainability" for "able to be continued"? If something is able to be continued for long enough, it has to be ecosustainable, so that the 2 meanings do ultimately converge; even so the distinction would reduce confusion. Health should therefore be "an ecosustainable state". (full text)
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