Don’t Panic: the Truth About Population

Thu Nov 7, 9-10pm, BBC2

‘Hello, I’m Hans Rosling. I’m a statistician. NO NO NO NO DON'T SWITCH OFF.’ As if we would, Hans. The urgency with which the Swede (best known for his BBC series 'The Joy of Stats') introduces this show is amusing but unnecessary. Not only have the Beeb been addressing the issue as part of a series on global population, but books like Stephen Emmott’s recent bestseller ‘Ten Billion’ have made this uncomfortable truth unavoidable of late.

The angle here is that Hans – like Corporal Jones from ‘Dad’s Army’ – doesn't want us to panic. Using the same jazzy visuals beloved of Peter Snow around election time, Rosling summons up scatter graphs with his hands like the world’s most boring ‘Harry Potter’ character. More informative however are the results of what Rosling calls ‘the great British ignorance survey’. It turns out that our views of average family sizes or literacy rates around the world are deeply out of step with the facts. Whatever could have warped our global outlook? (We’re looking at you here, Daily Mail).

It’s one of the few attention-grabbing ways that Rosling penetrates the issues at hand. But the bottom line is that stats are involved – so be warned.