Sunday, October 12, 2008

global population, my front porch, and cup of reheated coffee.

So, I have to write a paper in my geography class about this article from Foriegn Policy magazine written in like, 2001... and I have been trying to write it all weekend. Everytime I sat down to finish reading the article (with pen in hand to make notes) I fell asleep. This afternoon, I knew I HAD to finish it, so I laid down on the couch with pen and paper and tried again. Sleepy & bored. Hubby is outside cutting our ridiculously tall grass (alas, school makes yard-work time basically nonexistant!) and it's such a beautifully breezy autumn day, that I found myself a bit jealous. I went and found my favorite slipper socks, an old band hoodie from my days as a piccolo player in the Wildcat Band, and grabbed my laptop. Here I am. Feet propped up on a chair, breeze in my hair, and Blogger on the screen. God, I could kiss whoever invented Wireless... All that aside, I figured talking this population phenomneon out in the unformal, unrestricted form of my blog would help me flesh out what I need to for my paper. That's why I blog after all, right? So... here goes...

We hear on the news and read in textbooks constantly about our population growth. Places like India, Pakistan, parts of Asia, and especially Africa are experiencing population explostions. Quite literally. In fact, this population growth is so sudden (in terms of world history) that the growth chart of our planet looks something like a straight line until the agricultural revolution, when the ability to sustain ourselves through the ability to farm shifted us from a nomadic lifestyle to one more stable, thus allowing enough food to be grown and enough stability to allow for more children to be born (and survive) and thus the line on our growth chart rises, like a small hill. Up until this point, our world population had spent 1200 years a a stagnant 300 million. This upward climb continues until the 1750s, when the Industrial Revolution caused our population to grow even more, due to the fact that technology and machinery allowed us to produce more food more quickly and suuport more people worldwide. The line on the chart rises a bit more. It kind of looks like the line on the treadmill when you have the incline turned on. Then, somewhere around 1950, the little "hill" becomes a mountain. The line on the chart literally looks like a vertical line, rather than a horizontal one like before. Based on this chart, our world population grew from about a billion people in 1800 to 6 billion and some change in a period of just 300 years. Talk about a growth spurt! With figures such as these and constant attention on the need to conserve and reduce our consumption levels, it seems counter-intuitive to worry about a decreasing population, right? Wrong. Actually, according to the article I'm reading for this class, the population is now "imploding," if you will. These popualtion growth brought on by advances in health and technology, have caused death rates (mortality) to decrease in modern countries. That means that if you live in Europe, Canada, the US, Japan, or other well-developed nations, you can expect to live to a ripe old age. At the same time, however, across the globe, families are becoming markedly smaller. People are having less and less children, especially in these developed nations. What this is creating is what the writer of this particular article calls "subreplacement regimes." In theory, in order to "replace" our population, each man-and-woman pair need to produce 2.1-2.5 children. The .1 part is supposed to cover infant mortality and deaths in childhood, but to make life a little easier, we will just call it 2. Naturally, this is supposed to work itself out insomuch as some people have 0-2 children and others have 3, 4 or more. What's happening though, is that world-wide, more and more people are having less and less children, causing the population have drastically less people between the ages of 0-15 and many more people between the ages of 15-65 (working age people) and 65+ (thanks to health care). This means that when these older folks eventually die, they will not be "replaced" by their children. If this trend continues, their children may have none or only one child and then, the population shrinks even more. This phenomenon shrinks our developed nations. Meanwhile, lack of heath and fertility education in places like Africa cause the population areas like these to be very young. High birth rates and high death rates mean that there are many young people, but few live very long lives. To keep countries like Japan and Italy from decreasing in population, there would have to drastically large waves of migration from places with high fertility rates. Migration on this scale would change the face of the globe. Races and cultures would change globably. The question boils down to what caused this dramatic global desire to decrease family size? I believe (totally just my semi-educated opinionm here...) it is a combination of natures way of regulating hereslf in addition to the cultural change in modern nations were women are waiting longer to bear children in order to do other things for herself. The longer a woman waits to have children (tick, tock, tick, tock.. right, ladies!?), the less children she will be able to have over the course of her life. I think this has caused the family size to shrink, and less modern nations have mimicked this lifestyle choice. Another big question this whole phenomenon poses is what this will cause in relation to consumption of natural resources. It has long been said that we are playing a dangerous game in terms of our consumption. We create so much waste and garbage, that some cities even have to ship their garbage out of town because they produce so much, I don't even have to discuss the shortages of water and gasoline we've experienced in the last thirty years and the consequences we've faced as a result. Over a long period of time subreplacement regimes could, indeed, continually decrease the population to dangerous levels... but will it get that far? I doubt it. Hopefully, lowering our populations globally will result in less consumption and level out at point where we can sustain our current lifestyles comfortably. What will actually be the case? As the writer of the article so perfectly stated figure that one out and "your nobel prize is in the mail."

If you just read all of this, I appreciate the attention, but to be honest, I just wrote about this article to get all theses ideas about subreplacement regimes, the population explosion, migration, and all the other nuts & bolts of population geography into sentences.
I'm going to try and shape what I just wrote out into a paper (ekk, it's due Monday!) before Hubby finishes mowing the yard... He's half way there, right now... then we're gonna carve our pumpkins and make dinner! I'm pretty excited.

BTW, only 3 days of class until falllllllll break!!!!!! :)

Happy Fall!

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