Population Explosion!

A quick and simple business game

Paper chain of people

The United Nations has predicted the global population will shortly reach seven billion , and reach nine billion by 2050, with almost all of the growth occurring in poor countries, particularly Africa and South Asia. To feed them "we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000. More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet." said the World Wildlife Fund's Jason Clay.

Food and oil prices are rocketing due to increased demand and the Earth’s resources are diminishing at an alarming rate. Wars are predicted to break out in Africa and the Middle East in future over rights to water supplies.

At long last world leaders have decided to act. A special United Nations working group has been convened to recommend a solution. You are part of this group.

Here are the solutions which have been proposed by the various delegates


In China, the one child per family rule has been a success in stabilising the population and the Chinese delegate would like to see this rolled out across the world.

The American delegate says that genetically modified crops are the solution widespread growth of these could increase food production by up to 30%.

The UK delegate suggests that the world’s population turn vegetarian. Incomes are rising globally especially in the developing economies. As people become better off they eat more meat. As it takes ten times as much land to produce an equivalent amount of protein from meat sources as from crops, this would have a major impact on population. It needs 7 kg of grain to produce a kilogram of meat, and 4 kg of grain to produce a kg of cheese or eggs. The French delegate vehemently opposes this.

The Russians see free and widely available contraception as the solution, but this would meet major opposition in Catholic countries and large numbers of people would not use the contraceptives.Palm Oil Tree

A another delegate has suggested that all land not at present used for food production, such as palm oil plantations and nature reserves should be turned over to food production. She estimates that this will lead to a 45% increase in food production.

The Brazilian delegate has suggested that improving the world’s living standards is the way forward as the richer people get, the lower the birth rate becomes.


As a group you have only 25 minutes to decide which one of these to recommend as over 7,000 babies will be born in this time.

Only one of these solutions can be proposed.

Paper chain of people


Of course, there can be no single solution to this problem. But here are a few considerations.

Some of these solutions are short term and will simply buy time until the population has expanded even further. These solutions include vegetarianism, genetically modified crops and turning palm oil plantations to food production. So these solutions, whilst useful, are not final.

This leaves us with one child per family, contraception and raising living standards, the final one of these is perhaps the ideal solution but would cost huge amounts of money and is probably not realistic.

More funding for family planning programs would help to control population growth, especially in developing countries. There has been little investment in family planning in the past but this is probably the most viable way to minimise the population explosion.

Running this as a group exercise with students

I normally use 25 minutes for the game and then about another 15 minutes for feedback.

I have about two thirds of the each group doing the exercise (say 6 to 8 people maximum) and then one third of the group (about three people) sitting round the edge taking notes using the observers' form at www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/teamwork.htm#Observer

It can be great fun running two, three or four groups in the same room and writing the solutions proposed by the various groups on a board, so they can compare their conclusions.

At the end of the exercise I ask the participants to feed back first, then the observers and then myself: usually, by the time the participants and observers have aired their views, there isn't that much you need to say yourself!

I emphasise that feedback should be positive and constructive! Not "Debbie was hopeless!", but "Debbie made some very useful contributions but her voice was a bit quiet. I couldn't hear her very well, so she needs to raise her voice a bit in future."


A paper version of this game is available here that you can print out to use with your own students. Please do not remove the copyright information at the end of the page.

This case study is copyright of the University of Kent Careers and Employability Service. We are happy for you to link to this page but not to copy it without our permission. Contact Bruce Woodcock for details.

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