GLOBAL POPULATION GROWTH IN ONE HUNDRED YEARS
Illustrated by countries, 1950, 2000 and estimated for 2050
Why Poverty is unlikely to be history and why solutions are unlikely to be free trade in commodities, migration, or migrant workers in industrialised countries sending back income to their homelands, and why stabilisation of populations may come too late, as populations are already exhausting resources. The actual population figures explain why growth rates that look harmless, like 2.6% for Mali, are actually grenades.
These tables are compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base. 4-26-2005
For each country, further demographic data from the Data Base include Births and deaths per 1,000 population, rate of natural increase (percent), annual rate of growth (percent), life expectancy at birth (years), infant deaths per 1,000 live births, total fertility rate per woman, midyear population estimates and average annual period growth rates, and for each decade 1950 to 2050, population by age and sex.
Population pyramids. The bulges in these pyramid structures for the youngest generations explain the explosive growth and why the population estimates for 2050 are often so high. For example, 40% of the population of Bolivia is reported to be under 15. However, the lack of adequate censuses means that many of the figures contain guesswork or are estimated from samples.
The figures tie in closely with the data compiled by William Stanton (qv) except that he is pessimistic that the estimates for 2050 may be brought down by predictable Malthusian catastrophes.
Population densities are affected by deserts, mountains, barren soils and adverse climates. Australia and the Sahara for example, are mostly desert and semi-desert.Egypt is mostly uninhabitable, but huge populations crowd around the Nile River.High population densities are adding to environmental problems and reducing quality of life: in growing megacities, and are increasing socio-economic problems in countries such as the Gaza Strip (3204 persons per square km) Bangladesh (865), Nauru (525), and even the Netherlands (468), and England (382) where the traditional lush countryside and woodlands of Southern England are giving way to housing.Figures from Stanton, 2003. The Rapid Growth of Human Populations 1750-2000:Histories, Consequences, Issues, Nation by Nation. NI: Multiscience Publishing Company Ltd.
Comment: On the world scene, the degree of population decline predicted in the West from its 1950 figures seems hardly to be worried about, compared with the degree of population increase in the rest of the world, and indeed, in some countries such as UK and the Netherlands with year 2000 population densities of 382 and 467 per km2.
Some questions about the graphs
1. Are they valid?
The figures have been compiled from the US Census Bureau’s online International Date Base as at April 2005. Where census data are unavailable, some estimates may be more guesswork than others, but the general directions are clear. If the data are related to population estimates of 1800 and earlier (eg see Stanton), the growth is shown to be even more dramatic. The total world population 250 years ago is estimated at 600 million.
The projections for 2500 are based on age-structure pyramids, not included here. In countries where 40% of the population are under 15, for example, high growth rates can be expected, unless there are some humane or inhumane factors that bring surviving family size down sharply. Immigration is also a factor in the West.
2. The relation of percentage growth rates to actual population change. The bigger the population, the larger the real size of a percentage increase.A smaller percentage increase can have a larger effect than when the population was smaller.
3. Most people do not know the different sizes of the countries of the world. Why not?
4. How population size is related to available and future resources.
Population densities seem relatively small in some countries, but rainfall, deserts, mountains and other barren areas can mean that much apparently empty space is uninhabitable bar a scientific miracle. Some breadbaskets and other sources of food are losing their fertility – eg Montana in USA. Climate change may not improve the situation.
5. The theory of demographic transition, that as people become more prosperous, they will have fewer children.However, the graphs show that the greatest population increases are in countries that are becoming poorer, in large part often because resources cannot cope with the increase.
6. The theory that an ageing population must be disastrous. Children in fact make more demands on the working population than the ageing. Unemployment is a problem with modern technology.The ageing today are healthier and able to contribute greatly to society, including in childcare. The average time of helplessness before death is two years, regardless of age. At some stage keeping a population younger – ie growing- must stop, or there is population catastrophe. Who are the interests that push this theory, and why?
7. What are the interests that benefit from continued population growth? They are a mixed lot.
8. Why is it difficult to get publicity for figures of population growth and family size – for example, during the Make Poverty History campaign?
9. The relation of struggles for resources, internal conflicts and social disorder to Darwinian stresses of unsustainable population increases. Stanton argues that humanitarian values flourished in the West over the last 250 years because the West overall was prosperous and controlled sufficient resources to have quality of life. These values decline with Darwinian struggles and fears.
10. What could be done with greater awareness that the population issue is not solved., and that 3 billion more people by 2050 is half as much again as we have already, with most of the world poor and many hungry.