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Published on July 18th, 2010 | by Michael Ricciardi

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TED Talk: Hans Rosling on Global Population Growth


The key to achieving sustainable, global population growth, according to Doctor Hans Rosling in a recent TED Talk, is raising the standard of living of the world’s poor.

But, isn’t a higher living standard correlated with increased use of energy and raw materials (the ‘factor 32′ effect) and thus bad for the planet? While the first part of the question is valid, counter-intuitively, the answer is “no”.

Famed for his informal motto: “Let my dataset change your mindset”, Professor Rosling, using unlikely props and eye-popping animations, explains the reasoning (and data) behind his not-so-radical assertion…

Doctor Hans Rosling of Sweden’s renowned Karolinska Institute gave a recent Ted Talk on achieving sustainable, global population growth and puts forth his proscription for avoiding a future population catastrophe.

Using data drawn from UN statistics (on infant mortality, birth rate, education, GDP, etc.), and utilizing a unique visualization software* (which he co-developed with his son and daughter-in-law), Rosling dispels not a few myths that we Westerners have about the developing world.

See the TED talk and dig the groovy graphics! (article continues below):

So, just who is this professor Rosling anyway? Hans Rosling is a professor and researcher at Sweden’s world-respected Karolinka Institute. He established his intrepid physician’s career by tracking a rare paralytic disease (“konzo”) in rural Africa and discovering its cause (hunger and contaminated cassava).

Hans Rosling of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden

Rosling is also the co-founder of Doctors without Borders Sweden and the author of a book on Global Health. Narrating his animations like he was a sportscaster, Rosling’s colorful and entertaining lectures have a serious objective: to change how we think about the ‘developing world’, and so as to motivate us to work towards a sustainable future for everyone.

To do the convincing part (if you needed any), his graphic animations are designed to make global trends clear, while also more  playful and intuitive in the way they convey information.

Clinching his colorful reputation, the good doctor is also an accomplished sword-swallower! (not doctor approved).

* Rosling’s visualization software was funded through his nonprofit, Gapminder’. The free software, which can be loaded with any data, was purchased by Google in March 2007.

For more TED Talks, visit the TED site.

top chart credit: Human population growth rate in percent, with negative zero percentage, including the variables of births, deaths, immigration, and emigration, as listed on CIA factbook (2006 estimate). The PNG version (above): Xiong Chiamiov, under a Creative CommonsAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.




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About the Author

Michael Ricciardi is a well-published writer of science/nature/technology articles as well as essays, poetry and short fiction. Michael has interviewed dozen of scientists from many scientific fields, including Brain Greene, Paul Steinhardt, Arthur Shapiro, and Nobel Laureate Ilya Progogine (deceased). Michael was trained as a naturalist and taught ecology and natural science on Cape Cod, Mass. from 1986-1991. His first arts grant was for production of the environmental (video) documentary 'The Jones River - A Natural History', 1987-88 (Kingston, Mass.). Michael is an award winning, internationally screened video artist. Two of his more recent short videos; 'A Time of Water Bountiful' and 'My Name is HAM' (an "imagined memoir" about the first chimp in space), and several other short videos, can be viewed on his website (http://www.chaosmosis.net). He is also the author of the (Kindle) ebook: Artful Survival ~ Creative Options for Chaotic Times



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