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.


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Profile picture for user Ramiro Solana

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

Thank you for the explanation. Now it makes more sense. But in that case that means that improvement in health system causes the falling of birth rate, doesn't it? As I understand it should be vice versa.

Hello Alexa87,

Yes, according to the article, an improvement in health care contributes to the falling birth rate. The reasoning is that if more children survive birth and childhood, then women give birth to fewer children, which of course means the birth rate goes down.

The idea is that in very poor places where there is little healthcare, many children die during birth or within the first 10 years of life, which often means that parents have more children since there is such a high chance that they will not all survive childhood.

Hope that makes sense.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user Hennadii

Submitted by Hennadii on Wed, 01/12/2021 - 14:44


How optimistic am I? It depends on the latest news I've heard. Just kidding ))
Honestly, I'm a kind of optimistic person. I'm not wearing the pink glasses but, I think, being pessimistic is even worse than that bad could happen in the future. Actually, I try to be realistic. I know we have some problems: war, poverty, ecology and so but we also do our best to avoid armoured conflicts, we work to give people better education and health care, we try to reduce pollution and save wild animals from ourselves.
So we all may be quite optimistic now.
Even now, when the World is still shocked about the global pandemic there are a lot of examples of humanity all around the world. People help each other to hand with this disaster and our medics - there are true knights of nowadays. So brave, so helpful!
I mean, it's too early to relax but we are far away from panic and collapse.
Just stay calm, take care of yourself and your family and friends, wash your hands and clean your teeth, make exercises (both physical and intellectual), have a good 8-hours sleep every day (at least 7) and, of course, learn English ))

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