TV review: Don’t Panic – The Truth About Population (BBC2)
I gauge my attitude to over-population by how many times I mutter ‘f*** off out of my way’ between getting off the commuter train at London’s Liverpool Street and attempting to machete my way to the Tube.
It was 57 at the last count – it rises week by week – and I’m not entirely sure all were under my breath.
So I was pinching a hefty dollop of salt when I approached Don’t Panic: The Truth About Population (BBC2).
Swedish statistician Professor Hans Rosling didn’t actually wear a Keep Calm And Carry On T-shirt while presenting his endearingly upbeat vision of the future but he may as well have done.
Standing in front of a lot of computer-generated, brightly coloured balls, he bounced numbers at us, all designed to kid us that, hey, the world isn’t as cocked up as we think.
Population growth has slowed down in poorer countries due to health education, literacy has increased and the numbers living in extreme poverty have decreased.
No one would argue these are not good things. But the flip-side is that the global population is still predicted to increase from seven billion to 11billion in the near future.
Rosling’s statistics on how we’re going to feed and heat this huge growth in people didn’t stack up quite so happily as his jolly reports on how things are getting better in Africa and Asia.
Lacing his lecture with a tedious knocking of our knowledge of the issues – ‘Time for the Great British Ignorance Survey again’ he chortled – all Rosling’s Ministry Of Positive Thinking brought to my mind the classic line about lies, damned lies and statistics.
Yes, it was mildly shaming that we Brits think the world is less advanced than it is. But this was just more number-wanging: there was no mention of how the Swedes, for example, would have fared in a similar survey.
‘I’m not an optimist, I’m a possiblist,’ was Rosling’s summation, not quite allaying doubts as to how much we should trust anyone who comes out with the line: ‘Ladies and gentleman, I give you my all-time favourite graph.’
I’m not going to bedrudge him his glass-half-full view of global statistics but, sorry Hans, I didn’t buy it for a minute. Though I would like some of your happy pills to get me to the other side of the station.