The state of the world

The state of the world

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

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.


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.

Task 1

Task 2


Worksheet88.63 KB

Language level

Average: 4 (24 votes)

Submitted by cas-aswy on Tue, 16/07/2024 - 14:13


I really believe that the world bases on balance, so I think that thanks to all the bad and crazy things that happen, there will then happen as many that are good and beneficial.

Also the violent news are the ones which call more attention, so it’s obvious that (as they objectively happen) there are as many kind acts that nobody shows.

So I’m quite optimistic, we should care more about the environment, the nature is very strong and resilient though, I think our planet will survive if we act now.

Submitted by jmajo on Thu, 29/02/2024 - 14:56


I’m not completely optimistic in general, looking at the global heath issues we passed in the last 
three years, where some people used big companies to get richier than they where before the
global pandemic, but people need to think and reflect about their own local interests and take 
actions to achieve them, like protect their own resources, consume local products and try to avoid 
money loans, despite all that I truely believe we live in a better world compared to what it was 
200 years ago according to the history.

Submitted by javy lopez on Fri, 12/01/2024 - 20:24


I really think that my mind is too optimistic for the situation we are experiencing, since we are in difficult times but there are also positive things about advances in medicine and technology.

Submitted by edgar Leyva on Thu, 11/01/2024 - 16:48


What I really think, the world faces various challenges, but there are also positive developments in areas like technology, healthcare, and global cooperation.

Submitted by Vitaliy128 on Mon, 25/12/2023 - 11:44


Hello there! It's truly fascinating to witness the continuous advancement of our world. Each passing year, humanity forges ahead, creating cutting-edge technologies that not only significantly impact our lives but also serve as powerful solutions to pressing challenges. These innovations play a pivotal role in propelling our global community toward prosperity and development. It's inspiring to see how the relentless pursuit of knowledge and innovation contributes to the betterment of our collective future.

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Submitted by Ramiro Solana on Tue, 05/09/2023 - 21:53


I am optimistic but that does not mean that it will be easy to improve the quality of life of all humanity in the near future. The challenges facing humans change with time and geography: although underdeveloped countries still face historical problems such as extreme poverty, health and war damage that developed countries have already solved, now we all face the new threat of change climate.

Submitted by Risha Pratiwi on Sun, 01/01/2023 - 01:04


i am optimist enough regarding the future of the world if the leader in the west do not make problem with other countries by taking advantages from their weaknesess. In fact that still a lot of people who die just because they wanted to sustain their life. And people in the other world just neglected them and pretend to not knowing what is going on because media in television or internet seems just show what their country politically wanted to show and hiding the truths about humanitarian crisis just because it is not profitable for them. poverty could be eradicated as they hope but as long as humanitarian crisis still growth it will be just a dream.

Submitted by meknini on Sat, 16/07/2022 - 21:37


As people begin to be aware that survival is n their hands not others, they're bound to look for ways to remain alive thus this will bring about global peace. Although now we could still see famine in regions where poverty is still in abundance, they're less catastrophic then in the past. Crimes involving mass deaths are either due to conflicts that lead to civil war or mass migration for economic reasons not so much as crimes on the street. Desperate people fleeing their countries to seek for betterment hire smugglers to bring them to greener pastures and the highly dangerous journey that they undertake across deserts and wilderness is one of the main causes of untimely deaths. If steps are undertaken to stop this, we will be living in a better place. Hopes of better economic future and assurance of safety would likely bring a halt to this. This could only be done when nations band together to assist each other by sharing wealth and distributing them to those in dire need. I believe this is happening now and is picking its pace as more are involved in eradicating poverty.

Submitted by Alexa87 on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 21:51


Hello! Can you explain please, why in the task 2 question 3 the right answer is `poverty`? Thanks in advance

Hello Alexa87,

I think the answer most clearly lies in this sentence from the article:

 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.

This means that less poverty is associated with falling birth rates. The opposite of this idea is that more poverty is associated with rising birth rates.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team