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World Populations and Development
1.)The Neolithic and Industrial Revolutions
The two changes in the use of the earth’s resources that had the greatest effect
on the world population were the neolithic and the industrial revolutions.
The neolithic revolution (a.k.a. agricultural revolution) was a change in the
way of life of our ancestors. It took place about 8000 years ago among various
tribes in Asia and the Middle East. It included a transition from foraging and
hunting to the domestication of animals (most probably starting with the dog)
and to farming. Tribes settled in fertile areas and formed agricultural
communities many of which grew into villages and cities. This relatively stable
way of life and the more reliable food supply (and surplus) led to the
development of new professions, to labor specialization and ultimately to the
stratification of these societies. Improved conditions of life led to somewhat
longer life spans. Nevertheless population growth remained low due to high
infant mortality rates. The impact of the neolithic revolution was not as much
on immediate population growth (even though it did have a long term impact on
population growth) as on the material and spiritual development of the human
race. It is widely regarded as the beginning of civilization. Industrial
revolution was another process of change. It was the process of substituting
muscle power with machine power. It took place in the 18th century in Europe
and is still happening in many parts of the world. In many characteristics it
has been similar to the neolithic revolution: it increased production, it led to
the use of resources that had been mostly unused until then and it improved the
overall quality of life. It also led to changes in the structure of society.
What was different, was its impact on population growth. It was quick and easily
noticeable. Advanced sanitation, hygiene and medicine led to longer life spans
and declining death rates, with the birth rates remaining high. This resulted
in a high rate of population growth that still continues in many countries. The
information revolution is the process of change that began in the second half of
the 20th century in the developed countries of the world. It is the process of
substituting “brain power” with “machine power”. It leads to increased
production and has the potential to create a more even distribution of the
world’s population on the surface of the earth. It also has the potential to
decrease the differences between the less developed and the highly developed
nations of the world. Then again it also has the potential to increase those
differences. It causes changes in the structure of society. Many of its impacts
are still to be experienced.
Thomas Robert Malthus, an English economic thinker published a theory in 1798
concerning the relationship between population growth and food supply. He said
that population always increases exponentially, while food supplies increase
only arithmetically. He advocated that moral restraints can not be implemented
on the scale of the whole population because most individuals are will seek
their own pleasure ignoring the global impacts of their actions. The growing
population will therefore put a strain on the limited food resources that will
lead to wars, famine and disease, decreasing the population thus restoring the
equilibrium. I think it is obvious that the first part of his theory, while it
does apply to certain countries, proved to be completely wrong on a global
scale. There is no world-wide calorie deficit. The “food supply increase to
population increase” ratio is substantially higher in the developed world than
in the less developed countries. On a global scale, current food supplies do
exceed the needs of the world’s population, but they are not distributed in a
way that benefits the whole population. Fortunately international programs aimed
at achieving a better distribution of food resources do make an impact in
decreasing the calorie deficit, and it is quite likely that the inhabitants and
the leaders of the developed nations will eventually come to the conclusion
that it is better to “share some” than to risk loosing all. So, even where moral
restraints don’t work, common sense just might have a chance.
3.)Population Growth, Demographics
A.) In the early prehistoric times (1 million years ago) there were no more
humans on the whole earth than in a modern American town (such as Provo). For a
long time the growth rate was slow. The difficulties of obtaining food, the
lack of sanitation or advanced medicine, the living conditions in general meant
short life spans (20-25 years in average) and a high death rate. Even the
largest communities (tribes) rarely exceeded 100 people.
B.) The neolithic revolution about 8000 years ago meant that tribes began to
domesticate animals and plant food crops. Tribes settled and developed into
larger communities. The reliable food source and relatively peaceful existence
led to the development of many new professions and inventions. It also led to
the division of society into different classes (peasants, artisans, rulers,
etc.). The continuing process of advances in technology led to faster
population growth and by the time of Christ the world’s population numbered more
than half of the current population of the USA.
C.) The different rates of population growth in various areas of the world, the
different levels of development (nomadic vs. civilized) and the differences in
the availability of resources led to numerous migrations over the centuries. -
Asian tribes moved to the west and south (5th century BC – 16th century AD); -
Europeans colonized large areas of the Americas, Australia and the Pacific
region, India and Africa; – African slaves were bought and taken to the Americas
and to Arabic and Turkish areas; – Russians “colonized” the eastern reaches of
Eurasia. By the 18th century the world’s population numbered about the same as
the current population of the whole American continent. (Heavy population
decrease occurred during the Black Death in Europe and South-Eastern Asia.)
D.) In the 18th century AD, technological development finally reached a level
where it became possible to substitute muscle power with machines in many areas.
A virtual chain reaction of inventions began. Increased production, advances in
medicine and other areas resulted in increased life expectancy and decreased
death rates with the birth rates remaining high. This led to noticeably faster
E.) Finally in this century the developed countries experienced a decline in
birthrates and thus a slowing population growth. Many countries of the world,
mostly the less developed ones have not yet achieved this stage. Most of
today’s highly developed countries were able to exploit the resources of the
less developed nations of Africa and Asia long enough to give time for the
impacts of the higher standards of living, longer life spans and abundant
resources to change the attitude of these nations and result in decreased
population growth. The less developed countries of the world have no other
nations to exploit. Most often the improvements in technology simply lead to
population increase that “eats up” the fruits of the improvements, making
further development and investment nearly impossible.
It is especially important to understand that we all live on the same planet.
Cooperation and assistance to the developing nations are usually cheaper than
another set of missile defenses…
Europeans traveled to America, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. These
were the migrations that were the most important of this period. They allowed
the ever growing population of Europe to find a new habitat. These migrations
resulted in European dominance of these newly colonized territories and spread
the fast pace of technological development experienced in Europe to all the
continents (although in varying degrees).
The migration of Europeans to the Americas was soon followed by a flow of
African slaves (as many as 20 million) who provided cheap labor. African slaves
were also sold in Arab and Turkish areas.
The eastward migration of Russians is also to be noted. The interaction with and
the “colonization” of territories east and southeast of Russia (Siberia,
Caspian region, Caucasian region, etc.) ultimately led to the formation of a
much larger empire.
5.) Stages of Demographic Transition
“Demographic transition” is a process of population change that can be divided
into four stages.
a.) Before the industrial revolution the majority of the world experienced low
life expectancy, high birth rates and high death rates resulting in slow
b.) Western Europe entered the second stage with the onset of the industrial
revolution in the 18th century while other parts of the world entered it later,
when they, too had either made technological advances or the benefits of
industrialization were introduced to them by more developed countries. This
stage is characterized by longer life expectancy, high birth rates and
declining or low death rates, resulting in a high and continuous increase in
c.) With changes occurring in the “value” of children as opposed to their costs
many industrialized countries have entered stage three. It is characterized by
long life expectancy, rapidly declining birth rates and low death rates,
resulting in slow growth rates, similar to the rates in the first stage.
d.) Some industrialized countries have progressed even further and have entered
the fourth stage. It is usually characterized by long life expectancy*, low
birth rates and low death rates, with the birthrates sometimes falling below
the death rates, resulting in minimal population growth or no growth at all and
sometimes even a population decline.
Countries in the second stage of demographic transition experience great
difficulties in technological development because improvements result in larger
population that automatically negates the benefits of those improvements. Many
of these nations make great efforts to educate their people about the benefits
of small families and the negative impact of large families.
6.)Comparing the 5 most populated countries of the world; birth/death rate,
- Among the five most populated countries of the world India has the highest
birth rate, while the birth rate in Africa is an average 50% higher than in
India. – Among the five most populated countries of the world India also has the
highest death rate, while the death rate in Africa is an average 20% higher
than in India. – Among the five most populated countries of the world Indonesia
has the lowest life expectancy; life expectancy in Africa is almost the same as
in Indonesia. – Among the five most populated countries of the world China has
the lowest per capita income; more than half of the African nations have a per
capita income lower than in China. The average, however, is about twice as high
due to a few mineral rich countries.
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