In Origin of Species, Charles Darwin described how a population explosion occurs and called the time of population explosion “ favourable seasons”, he was not to know it, but such circumstances arose for his own species at around the time of his own birth. However, the favourable seasons for human population growth were not experienced favourably, with times of great social dislocation from small scale enclosure to global colonisation. Now those seasons are over, we have experienced the first ever sustained slowdown in the rate of global human population growth. This has been the case for at least one human generation. However, we are not just slowing down in terms of how many children we have, but in almost everything else we do, other than in the rise in global temperatures that we are recording and that we have to live with. It can be argued that there is even a slowdown in such unexpected areas as debt, publishing, and in the total amount useful information being produced.
If this is true – that humanity is slowing down in almost everything that we do – what does this mean? What measurements suggest that slowdown is true? And if so much is still rising, albeit at slower and slower rates – is that such a great change? Finally how might the slowdown impact on economic thought. In many ways economics was the science of the great acceleration; a science that makes most sense when markets are expanding and demand is rising. What kind of an economics is needed in a world where enormous and accelerating growth has stopped being the normality?