by Karl Sharro

Yesterday a report was published by the National Academy of Sciences warning that even major wars and catastrophes won’t curb population growth. Good news, you might think, we are resilient as a species, but of course that’s not the version that the media will go with. Naturally it’s too good an opportunity to miss for another round of scaremongering about human population growth. There’s nothing that gets western media, in particular, giddy with excitement as the prospect of disasters brought about by population growth.

But how best to illustrate a scary story about human population growth? For some time now I have noticed that those stories are never illustrated with pictures of white people, the convention seems to be that brown people or non-white people in general are more photogenic to illustrate the threat of overpopulation.

Let’s take a look at how this particular story was illustrated:

  • The Independent went for ‘brown people boarding a train’: (from Bangalore).
The Independent
The Independent
  • Not to be outdone, The Guardian also went for ‘brown people on a train’, from Sri Lanka this time.
The Guardian
The Guardian
  • Canada Journal used the same picture as The Independent, for some reason this genre of brown people and trains appears to be particularly apt.
Canada Journal
Canada Journal
  • Newsweek reinforced this theme with yet another image of brown people and trains, from Bangladesh this time:
Newsweek
Newsweek
  • And the BBC opted for a picture of a single Indian baby, (Nargis, the 7 billionth baby):
BBC
BBC
  • And here are a few more examples from the recent past:
    The Guardian again, from Nigeria:
The Guardian
The Guardian
  • Brown people:
CNN
CNN
  • More brown people:
Church and State
Church and State
  • Clearly, photographs like this are not scary: (white people at music festival)
Daily Mail
Daily Mail
  • Or like this: (white people at religious gathering)
The Guardian
The Guardian

As @BazBake notes on twitter ‘Ironic since it takes 11 developing world FAMILIES to match 1 developed world family regarding resource consumption’

This piece was first published at Karl reMarks and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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Karl Sharro is an architect, writer and commentator on the Middle East. He is a Director at PLP Architecture in London and co-author of Manifesto: Towards a New Humanism in Architecture. He has practiced architecture in London and Beirut, and taught for five years at the American University of Beirut. He wrote a chapter on Density vs Sprawl in the The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated.He also wrote a chapter entitled ‘The Visionary City’ in The Lure of the City: From Slums to Suburbs

He has spoken on a range of issues such as art, architecture, urbanism and politics. He appears regularly on the BBC and other media outlets. He presented his argument for open borders in a TedX talk in London in 2011 and an argument for removing planning constraints and allowing people to build whatever they want in BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ broadcast. Find him on Twitter: @KarlreMarks

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