Maurice King, University of Leeds, UK see      Index       References {}

Demographic entrapment

Draft editorial for The Lancet. April 2014 see

Some technical terms see

Population quadrupling,soil fertility decreasing,malnutrituon increasing. What can Africa do?see

Primary Mother Care and Population see


Grandfathers guide to fishing for Lancelots' PDF see Word see This has nothing to do with demographic entrapment, and is merely a convenient place in which to park this webpage.


This website is dedicated to solving, or at least mitigating, this problem !!!  "What happens if there are more people than the land can support ('carrying capacity' exceeded), and there is nowhere for people to go, and they have nothing to exchange for food and other essentials"

       What does happen is the direst poverty, starvation and violence.

       This problem is called 'demographic entrapment', and is massive in Middle Africa! 'Disentrapment' is doing something about it


Figure 1. DEMOGRAPHIC ENTRAPMENT, as explained to the community in Uganda using bananas. A, the land can be any piece of land. B, photons of light energy fall on a banana plant. If there are only a few people, there is plenty to eat. C, problems arise when there are too many people for the bananas. D, if people are fortunate, they can migrate, or they can make exports which they can exchange for imports, especially food. E, for this to happen, there has to be an economy with factories, etc. to make the exports. F, what happens if the community has exceeded the carrying capacity of its land (not enough bananas), and there is nowhere to migrate to, and there are not enough exports, therefore not enough imports, especially food? People either stunt and starve, or they fight one another.


       So what is the solution? The present 'solution' is never to discuss demographic entrapment — to apply the so called 'Hardinian taboo!!!'.

       Why is demographic entrapment so taboo?? For more than 70 reasons. These are its 'Demons' see . A Demon is anything which keeps demographic entrapment taboo.

       So what should be the solution?

       (1) Firstly to lift The Hardinian Taboo, so that the problem can at least be discussed— this is presently proving very difficult indeed!

       (2) To reduce fertility (the number of children per mother) in trapped communities as rapidly as possible.This is an ACUTE EMERGENCY, since mothers in Middle Africa have five children, so that its population is expected to triple by 2050, with some communities (Malawi) having already exceeded the carrying capacity of their ecosystems.

       Most people forget about carrying capacity being exceeded, and assume that all that is necessary is to fill the present massive unmet need for family planning, and all will be well. They forget that, while fertility is falling, the population will still be increasing, so that a community may exceed the carrying capacity of it's ecosystem meanwhile — if indeed it has not already done so.They fail to realise what an ACUTE EMERGENCY Middle Africa now faces.

       What is needed — in addition to filling the massive unmet need for family planning— are 'emergency crash demographic transitions' using 'every relevant instrument in the global culture from the mobile phone to the papal encyclical', to promote by every possible means  the 'crunch (crisis) message' which is "Reduce your fertility or starve".Mercifully this message is remarkably well taken in Africa.How effective it will be is another matter.

       A transition is a change. A demographic transition is a change from high fertility and high mortality (many births and many deaths) to low fertility and low mortality (few births and few deaths)  A 'crash demographic transition' is therefore an extra urgent transition in response to the crunch message "Reduce your fertility or starve"

       Middle Africa now has a choice, Path A with a crash demographic transition, or Path B with increasing starvation and violence, as the Malthusian ceiling is reached and population eventually falls.

        For the unpublished Lancet paper describing this see             


Recent additions

Although my study of entrapment began in 1989, this website was not opened until 1997. Additions have been made over the years, but almost nothing has been removed.As soon as the taboo even begins to lift, I look forward to handing over my labours to other people and institutions, so who will come forward? The field is empty, there is no competition — it is a superb intellectual and humanitarian opportunity

My main activity over ththee last five years has been to try to get the 'definitive paper' lifting The Hardinian Taboo into The Lancet. This has been rejected fouwhenr times with the current fifth one hopefully under discussion.Meanwhile I am preparing a six submission.

The current fifth submission. "Reduce your fertility or starve! A proposal. That Middle Africa be rescued from two corrupt disciplines". see

The rejected Fourth Submission Demographic entrapment: Rescuing Middle Africa from two corrupt disciplines. November 2011 see

Demons, 19 June 2012 see

Demons, November 2011 see [July 9th 2010 see]


Older material before 2011

Population Day Handout, July 10th 2010 see

Precursor of the definitive The Lancet paper' see or in PDF see

GLUK lecture see .

Hubris see.

Emesis see '

The Blessed Vincent act' see


This is the key figure see


        A community is demographically trapped if there are too many people for the land to support [they have exceeded the carrying capacity of their ecosystem], AND they have nowhere to go, AND they have too few goods and services to exchange for food and other essentials. The result is the severest poverty, stunting, starvation, and commonly violence. see

      In 1995, at Wolfson College in Cambridge, I happened to have tea with Jack Caldwell, Africa's most eminent demographer [population scientist]. "How much of [Middle] Africa do you think is demographically trapped?"I asked. "Most of it is, except perhaps Ghana" he replied. "Can I quote you?" "No!" He answered. "Whose interests do I put first, yours or Africa's?" I replied.

       When I reported this to Professor Ofosu Amaah, then professor of public health in Accra, he replied "Why don't you think we are?" This will give you some idea of the SCALE of the problem. Unfortunately, there is much evidence to suggest that Jack Caldwell is correct. see Alarmingly, the population of Mddle Africa. is set to tripple by 2050, with Uganda set to quadruple.

               Demographic entrapment is tightly taboo [the Hardinian taboo] to the two disciplines which should be concerned with it -- demography and development economics-- they never discuss it, and therefore have to be declared gravely corrupt..Mostly, they do so by tabooing the concept of 'carrying capacity' see. Consequently, the UN agencies and NGOs.don't discuss it either.

               There more than 50 reasons for the taboo it's 'Demons' see

               Mercifully, demographic entrapment is not taboo in Africa, where 'The crunch message' reduce your fertility or starve is acceptable. see Where it will get to is for the future to decide.    The population scene in Africai is in a critical and alarming state.A mathematician colleague referred to it as being 'quasi-impossible'. The challenge is to separate the 'quasi-' from the 'impossible'.see


"DON'T TAKE TABOO!! FOR AN ANSWER "see . This was originally written for the Chairman of the Court of Governance of London school of Hygiene in the hope that he would lift the taboo in the school and 'discorrupt' it .

The population scene in Africa quasi-impossible,see speeding a crash demographic transition. see 'quasi This is the definitive paper in preparation. It has been three times rejected by The Lancet. However, the hope is that it will eventually appear in influential print, because until it does, it will have no effect on the taboo.



Introduction. I am a doctor, and an'old Africa hand', having worked there 20 years .starting in 1953.

       In 1989, after I had returned to England to teach at the University of Leeds, I came across the problem of communities in Middle Africa exceeding the carrying capacities of their ecosystems-- too many people for the land to support. . This immediately struck me as being very sinister indeed, so I have been following it up ever since. . In 1990 Jack Bryant, a distinguished American, told me that it was called 'demographic entrapment'. Exceeding the carrying capacity of one's ecosystem is no problem, if one has somewhat else to go [somewhere to migrate to], or if one's community has sufficient goods and services to exchange for food and other essentials. But what if it hasn't? The result is the deepest poverty, starvation and often violence.see



       For the open letters to Sir Bob Geldof, and the Comission for Africa, see

       Most people seem to understand instinctively what is meant by the term "demographic entrapment" and don't need a definition. The term "disentrapment", which is what to do about it, was missing and had to be invented.

       The disturbing fact that large parts of middle Africa, and perhaps even most of it, are demographically trapped is totally taboo to demographers, to development economists and to the UN agencies - who never mention it, and who try to forget that it ends in starvation and violence!

        To recognise that demographic entrapment unfortunately does exist radically alters one's view the world, and particularly of Africa, since - if the parts of the South have to reduce their fertility, if necessary to one child only, to avoid starvation and violence, the North will be expected to reduce its resource consumption - and its contribution to global warming!! (The argument of Demon/Angel 3) see.

        To recognise that demographic entrapment does exist requires a "paradadigm shift" in ones view of the world in the true Kuhnian and sense of that term. We are now facing a "clash of paradigms" - the paradigm that entrapment does exist, versus the paradigm that it doesn't.see

        When paradigms have clashed in the past, and there are some excellent historical examples, they have usually done so as the clash of personalities - the person clinging on to the old paradigm, fighting desperately to uphold it against the person bringing in the new one - and neither protagonist ever changing his mind!.

        I find myself in the unhappy position of trying to bring in the new paradigm, while Sir Richard Jolly, Professor Emeritus in the Institute of Development Studies in the University of Sussex, finds himself in the even less happy position of trying to defend the old one. As to where our arguments have got to at present, see. For his earlier arguments see and see.

        Why then is entrapment so taboo? For at least 25 reasons which are called its "Demons", following the passage in St Mark "There are many Demons !" For example, severe demographic entrapment may require 1-child families, as in China. Their many problems are Demon 6 - are they better or worse than starvation and violence? The Chinese thought they were better.

        To recognise entrapment, and shift ones paradigm, requires that one overcomes all 25 Demons in oneself simultaneously!, or is at least prepared to discuss them. This requires great mental effort, great compassion for the trapped, and a great love for the world, particularly Africa.

For the index (presently rather out of date), see.  

For the basic thesis and the terms used see.

The taboo on demographic entrapment is the most extreme example of the so-called "Hardinian taboo" whereby we humans taboo our population problems see.

For An Alternative Commission for Africa, see

For Demons in general see.

For the racist Demon 23, see and see

For Demon 21 - a key Demon - in great detail see, in less detail see.

For the entrampent of Africa as a whole, see of Rwanda, see, for North Kivu see, for Vanga see. For Vanga in French see

For Genu robustum ("bloody good knee") see

For Figure 'X' see

For the 'The Population policy lockstep' see

For "end-stage of the child survival revolution" see

For The Lancet being editorially corrupt see

For Unicef and "child survivalism" see.

For Malthus see

For "Global warming scares me stiff !!" see

For Andrew Green rallies to Sir Richard's support, see

There is a book on this website called Primary Mother Care and Population see

Lady M, a Lady from Mars, who takes an empyrean view of Earth's population problems, occasionally visits this website, see


        A community is demographically trapped, if, under present economic and technological constraints, it exceeds: (a) the carrying capacity of its local ecosystem (too many people for the land to support), and (b) there is nowhere for people to go, and (c) the economy produces too few exports to exchange for food and other essentials. What happens then is abject poverty, stunting, starvation, and population-driven violence.

        A community is also trapped, if, because its population is increasing, it is expected to be in this unhappy situation before long.

TIME is critically important - a subsistence community exceeding the carrying capacity of its ecosystem, before it reaches replacement fertility (two children only) and before economic development has linked it to the rest of the world.

Most important - for the technical notes on this definition see

PRIMARY MOTHER CARE AND POPULATION, Fully Politicised Definitive Edition

Chapters 2 and 28 discuss demographic entrapment, the rest are obstetrics and family planning.

Cover, Prelims, Dedication, Foreword, Preface Link

Table of contents Link

'The Population Demons' Chapter 29 pdf Link. html link (best)

Ordering Primary Mother Care and Population pdf Link

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Maurice King

Honorary Research Fellow

The University of Leeds

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0044 (0)113 2304441