Thursday, January 3, 2013

World Demographic Development and Food Supply

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

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...

4.) Migrations

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

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 population.

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.

1 comment:

  1. The information revolution is the survival warehouse management team process of change that began in the second half of the 20th century in the developed countries of the world.