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


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Average: 4 (23 votes)
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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

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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

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.

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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.
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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.