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.

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Submitted by vishnu_saddikuti on Mon, 08/11/2021 - 03:53


In task 2-> question 2, how is option A correct? It's talking about the child mortality rate about 200 years ago but the passage describes the situation of the child mortality rate in the last 200 years.

Hello vishnu_saddikuti,

I think you are right -- that is not clear. We've changed the wording of the first answer so that it is accurate.

Please accept our apologies for any confusion and thanks very much for taking the time to point this out to us.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Wed, 27/10/2021 - 11:42


World knew that many more challenges in pandemic time. Many countries facing shortage of health system and lack of saving the human. I'm not optimistic about world. As in this article mentions that inequality increases in present times. In my country, according to report 1percent of people occupied 90 percentage wealth of my country. This is very disturbed news. I'm thinking more about it how government not take any action on that. And many political parties benefited from it. this is vulnerable conditions in my country.

Submitted by danisep on Wed, 28/04/2021 - 20:41

With the pandemic some things have changed at least temporarily, Based on one comment which talks about the quantity of food and natural resources that we need to feed 11 billion, I make this question to myself, the world can really provide enough food and water for all that people? and having in mind that mankind is making severe damage to the planet. I don't know what could happen in the future but leaving besides pessimistic news the society needs to change some stuff.

Submitted by Ehsan on Sun, 28/03/2021 - 06:49

human is improving in all fields. He is working on his own brain, his own body, and of course his own soul. he is getting stronger every day. But every day new, stronger, and more mutated problems like the coronavirus are emerging. I think humans can overcome these problems as history has shown several times. I think mental problems are one of the most fundamental human problems. but humans will be able to domain this problem thanks to improving in sciences like psychology. I want to say that human lives with his hopes.

Submitted by jgjuara on Mon, 08/03/2021 - 18:06

Optimism of the will, pessimism of the intellect. The forecast is gloomy, but things can be changed. Although, the problem to address is less related to the quantity of people in the world, than the way we live. Some studies indicates that today is produced enough food to feed our actual population, and others indicates that in order to feed the new 2 billion people to come we need to stop wasting and change the meat based diets.

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Thu, 31/12/2020 - 11:33

Are you feeling happy? That's the bottom line. If any, you can give a little traction to make the world a better place. Let's you and I do! ;)

Submitted by Max Watt on Wed, 30/12/2020 - 18:50

By 2100, are we really going to survive? Maybe for some people. But with all the problems we're dealing with (global warming, pollution, COVID-19 crisis, destruction of the biodiversity...) right now, I don't think so. You may have guessed, I'm clearly not optimistic. By 2100, if the world's population rate stabilize, we would be approximately 9 billion people. 9 billion humans! Can't you see how much are we going to be? We would need two Earth to feed the whole population. Besides, the amount of natural resources on Earth is decreasing so fast that it can't produce a sufficient quantity for a sustainable future, right? If we don't make drastic changes, our future wouldn't be good-looking.

Submitted by cristianj.munozb on Fri, 27/11/2020 - 03:50

Well, currently the World has got a lot of problems anywhere, it doesn’t matter if you are living in a rich country or in a “third world” one, the problems are in the world and we have to resolve the problems of our home, I want to say, the richest countries have their own problems, the economy, the crime, the violence, the corruption, the global warming, the level of the sea, the deforestation, the shortage, the pandemic, the poverty, the unemployment, the resources, the war, and any other problems, but, in the poor and developing countries, the problems are the same, but they seem to be larger, I think it could be for the people’s life condition, I am sure that the rich countries only have more important problems that the rest of the countries. I am optimistic, although there are many problems, we can solve them, we have to join in one world family to do this, it isn’t easy, but is possible; the solution is first in ourselves, each activity or anything that we can do to improve our condition and the context where we live, is an important step to solve the world problems, we only have to try to make change. Please, just try!!!

Submitted by Rush on Fri, 16/10/2020 - 14:49

Thank you Peter for holistic explanation and clear example.

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Fri, 16/10/2020 - 14:08

I think I'm not so pessimistic, because we have abilities to adopt ourselves in a pessimistic situation.... ;)

Submitted by Abdulhadi94 on Fri, 16/10/2020 - 09:37

How optimistic are you about the world? I am very optimistic about the future world for many reasons . First reason is that people will hopefully receive the pure and clean water easily especially people who lives in poor countries. Such as, Africa where it is hard to get it right now . Second thing that makes me positive are people fight for peace all around the world which could reflect positively on our life . Last and not least , the world comes as one country. What i mean is that , wherever you live right now you will feel that you are in your home

Submitted by UK01 on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 18:09

Frankly,ı can't say ı am optimistic for future's world due to our constant consumption and losing our cultures and tradions because of globalization.As ı empahised in first matter,we would prefer consume than produce ,most of people lives for today.They don't think of future by thinking possible problems we could have.On the other hand,we have a few things to be hopeful for future such as renewable energy resourches and other great things technlogy could provide us in the future.But as ı said that it is not certain,they may also have bad effects on us.Like the effect of nuclear power in humanity.In the beginning,human being was so hopeful for the projects regarding with the positive possiblle effects of nuclear power.They thought that ıt could be so useful to fulfil world's energy need.But it was not used for the things it had been produced for,it was a dissapointing for mankind,All we had behind nuclear power were waste of money,and more importantly.lots of civilians killed because of errors in nuclear plants mistakenly and bombing to take an adventage among we can not foresee what will happen in the future.but we can do something for our world such as reduction in consumption and increase in production without forgetting to think of what our invents could cause.

Submitted by Giulia B on Sat, 04/07/2020 - 10:23

I believe that this long time of lockdown has reminded us that the earth is our home and that, first and foremost, we should never forget to respect it. It's time people changed habits radically in terms of care for the environment and for developing countries. I really hope for a better world in the near future. My husband and I are trying to do our best to teach our children the importance of living in a sustainable environment, starting from practicing recycling at home, for instance. If we all do something , in our small reality, we will do big steps toward the right direction.

Submitted by wawl234 on Fri, 12/06/2020 - 11:44

Even though there are lots of problems, I'm trying to be optimistic because I can also be a part of this solution -everyone can be- and If I don't believe that everything will be better ,I can't try for it and the world can not be better. So although nothing changes, at least I will be done my part in this world.

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Tue, 19/05/2020 - 20:39

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

Submitted by amit_ck on Sat, 14/03/2020 - 05:51

“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?

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

Submitted by Steve Zarv on Tue, 28/01/2020 - 05:48

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.

Submitted by Tajbibi Shamim on Sat, 14/12/2019 - 18:41

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.

Submitted by MAG22 on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 11:02

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?

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 16/10/2019 - 07:17

In reply to by MAG22


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

Submitted by om mariam on Sun, 01/09/2019 - 21:25

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.

Submitted by Eon on Thu, 29/08/2019 - 15:11

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, Eon

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

Submitted by jbirir on Tue, 20/08/2019 - 01:39

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

Submitted by Marcos Jardim on Fri, 09/08/2019 - 15:52

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.

Submitted by Amany Elashry on Tue, 23/07/2019 - 08:37

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.

Submitted by Walid on Tue, 16/07/2019 - 13:18

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.