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The state of the world

Read an article about the state of the world to practise and improve your reading skills.

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Reading text

If your view of the world comes from watching the news and reading newspapers, you could be forgiven for lying awake at night worrying about the future. Apparently, rising violence and population rates mean humans are both killing each other in ever larger numbers and being born at rates the world's resources can't sustain. To make matters worse, all the wealth is concentrated on a handful of people in the world's richest countries. People in low-income countries live in poverty while the West gets richer. Depressing, isn't it?

But do the statistics support our negative world view or is the world actually improving?

Let's take global population first. It's around 7 billion now, in line with figures predicted by the UN in 1958. By the year 2100, the same experts predict it will be around 11 billion. But did you know that 11 billion is probably as high as that number will get? The rate of increase will slow down in the second half of this century thanks to falling birth rates today.

Falling birth rates? Yes, that's right.

In the last two centuries, improvements in technology and health meant fewer children died young, fuelling rapid population growth. These large families produced even more children who survived into adulthood and had their own children. But with the wider availability of contraception in the 1960s, the global average number of babies per woman has declined from six babies per woman to as low as two.

The biggest factor in child mortality is poverty. And while it's still true that only 20 per cent of the world takes about 74 per cent of the world's income, 60 per cent of the world now falls into a middle-income group, with 11.6 per cent – the smallest amount of people in history – still living in conditions of extreme poverty. If the majority of the world's people have money, international aid could realistically achieve the UN target of eradicating poverty by 2030. As poverty goes down, life expectancy goes up, birth rates go down because parents can expect their existing children to survive, and the global population stabilises.

As for news stories that make us think the world is an increasingly violent place, there is cause for some optimism too. Between the end of World War II and 1990, there were 30 wars that killed more than 100,000 people. Today there are still civil wars, but countries are mostly co-existing more peacefully than in the past. However, terrorism has shot up in the last few years and, since World War II, wars have killed many more civilians than soldiers. Even for civilians, though, the statistics are not all bad. Although deaths are nine times more likely to be a result of violent crime than political conflict, the global murder rate fell slightly, from 8 per 100,000 people in 2000 to about 5.3 in 2015.

Of course, none of this means the world is perfect, and whether you personally are affected by war and poverty is often down to the lottery of where you're born. Also, we still face huge problems of our own making, particularly environmental ones like global warming, and wealth and natural resources need to be distributed more fairly. But not all the news is bad news, whatever the TV and newspapers might say.



Language level

Advanced: C1


Am very optimistic sooner the world would become a better place for mankinds' inspite of the flaws around it.

“Tea and beer, two of the nation’s favourite drinks, fuelled the revolution.”

What does it mean fuelled the revolution here?
Power provided the revolution or something else?

I think it means accelerate.
Those things accelerate the revolution

Hello amit_ck,

This is an idiom. When someone works on a task for a long time and eats or drinks a lot of something we can use this idiom. For example:

She wrote her novel in a single month, working late into the night, fuelled by coffee and her favourite biscuits.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter

It's conceivable that the mass media has currently being showing the world's worst side taking it for granted that it is what is needed in order for us to be aware of the worldwide situations. Yet I still find the world thriving enough to rethink my judgement over my perception of it.
There's a downside that we can't dismiss though, which lies in the distinction when we draw the line between first world issues and third world ones. Is ironic how the countries that developed promptly have been plunging into other issues mostly with regard such resources that have allowed them to thrive the most. Just to put China as one of the other numerous examples, it's just matter to take a look at what its industrialization have brought about, being one of the most polluted countries, high rates of deppressed people, let alone the technology scope, it's now developing technologies to control their citizens' lives in order for the government to have more control.
I don't want to sound pessimistic but it's a problem that is being less debated and even less taught because it sounds flat-out technofobic but where it's outbreak is steadily drawing near until we realize it's already late.

And with this writing I say goodbye to this page, it's been a really good source for me to improve my English and after one year taking advantage of all its resources I can say that it's been worth it.
Thanks to the British Council team in advance because of it's great labour to deliver this material in order for us to learn and improve from it.

I agree with you, Steve. I get your point. :)

The world is not so bad but for the news and political control. The 20% rich have access to better education and better information channels, while the poor are brain washed into being happy in their deprived condition. Spread of knowledge and free teaching of skills to under privileged groups will level up them with the 60% middle batch. Besides, good amount of taxation will bring down the 20% rich to the middle level. All in all We can live in a less
competitive world.

Good day

I'm wondering shouldn't we say, in the third paragraph, improvements in health and technology meant 'that" fewer... instead of meant fewer?

Hello MAG22,

When the verb 'mean' is followed by a clause, we can include 'that' or omit it. For example, both of these are grammatically correct:

This meant costs were higher. OK

This meant that costs were higher. OK


However, when 'mean' is followed by a noun or noun phrase, we do not use 'that':

This meant higher costs. OK

This meant that higher costs. NOT OK



The LearnEnglish Team