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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.

2.)Thomas Malthus

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

population growth.

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

population growth;

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,

lifespan, income.

- 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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