We so often talk about our planet’s exploding human population that the very idea of a shrinking population is, well, kind of non-intuitive at this point. But we are not always growing in numbers as an article over at New Scientist discusses. It doesn’t happen often, but as that somewhat macabre article points out, during great disasters global deaths can surpass global births, leading to a short blip of a downturn in the sharply exponential rise of our species. The 2004 Asian tsunami, politically-fueled famine in China in the 1960s, and the American bombing of Hiroshima all are recent examples.
Of course, back in the days of slow, linear population growth it took less of a cataclysm for birth rates to be overtaken. The days of the Black Death in Europe 500 years ago reversed the growth trend more severely than any events today.
But even this too will pass. Already most developed countries (except you, old US of A) have reached very low and in some cases negative growth rates. Most experts believe that that developing countries will also soon follow a similar path and pass through the demographic transition until we see world population level off and perhaps even shrink.