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


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

I think the situation is not the same in all countries, for example many countries in Asia has built a strong economy and some of them became a super power.having their vital role in global economy, while the matter is the opposite in most of Africa and middle east where triple destructive of war, poverty and corruption destroy these countries leaving halve of the population to desperate and the other immigrated to wealthier countries pursuing better life away from their own lovely homes in a journey that may cost their lives.Unfortunately the governments which cause all these disasters still holding the power with the same primitive mentality.

Hi Team,

I notice that in this website the percentages are often written like '20 per cent' instead of '20 percent'. I thought earlier that the latter one was common. I'd like to know if the former one is a formal expression.

Thank you so much in advance.
My best,


Hello Eon,

Both 'percent' and 'per cent' are correct. The one-word form is more common in the US, which the two-word form is more common in the UK.



The LearnEnglish Team

I am very optimistic and I don't let everything reported in the media change that.

I am totally optimistic about the world. Before knowing about internet and going out of studying, I have been pressed full of propagandas, hatred, conspiracies and wars by books and lectures which have made me hate western countries like enemies and love Max-Lenin philosophy like light of lives. Thanks to internet and some English, I have had chances to read 'real information' on 'left side' websites about the world, the western countries and my country that have helped me open my eyes to understand things not being similar to what I've known. What the books had written and teachers had said about the western countries were much worse than what they really were: democracy, freedoms, transparency and prosperities. They even have helped us a lot to eradicate poverty. It's a shame when they've tried to help us, we still have been taught to hate them, like a bad prejudice. The more I know about the world, the more I am optimistic about it, because, simply, I was covered by a veil of secrecy and hatred by my stupid communist boys trying to keep all of us under their control. Under these boys' regime my country is extremely like pessimistic circumstances in a book called "road to serfdom", that's the reason why getting out of it more is helping me more be optimistic.

Without a shadow of a doubt, this text is one of the best I've ever read. We are so aware that poverty can bring so many bad things to the world, we have to play our role and try to stop it from growing.

This article is one of the best articles that I have read in this website. I am not optimistic at all about the world. There so many problems that face bthe world either environmental or political. For examples, Acid rain is a catastrophic issue that may destroy forests, food chains and all creatures on the Earth. All governments all over the world should co-operate to struggle this problem and it's reasons. Wars due to political problems are depressing factor.For examples, Syria and Yamen have become breading ground for insects, diseases and poverty. Millions of refugees are immigrating each day to search for a shelter or a safe country that may accept them. Large numbers of people are out of control, with out papers and with out hope.

Actually, this article is one of the most interesting article that I have read in this website, yes, one of my continues concern is the poverty in the world and rising crime rates in addition to the worst threaten issue which is the corruption , I strongly believe that corruption is one of the most dangerous holes in our global ship which is contributing in our sinking or drowning if we don't stop this issue or reduce it at least. let us spread the world about this serious problem and let us start from our self to maintain discipline and being commitment by lows and rules and integrity.