Whatever happened to the population bomb?
The stunning acceleration of population growth in recent decades led to use of the term "population bomb." This paper considers whether use of this term was justified or represented a scare tactic, and responds to other frequently raised questions on world population growth. In language gearedto laypersons, the authors explain that the current population explosion has been caused by the wide gap between birth and death rates in Third World nations. 59% of the 99 less developed countries which populations of 1 million or more have experienced no recent decline in fertility, 22% show a moderate decline (total fertility rates of 4-6/1000), and 18% show large declines (total fertility rates under 4/1000). It is also noted that even when the birth rate falls to the relacement level, the population continues to grow due to the pool of young people left over from periods of higher fertility. By 2020 the less developed countries may grow from their present 3.4 billion to 6.4 billion. It is noted, however, that population projections are extrapolations of current experience, projected toward an artificial endpoint. Thus, individuals and governments have scope to influence projected trends. It is concluded that population growth will eventually slow down, either because of a decrease in fertility or a calamitous rise in mortality.