This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Joseph Chamie's Excellent Interpretation of Demography as Destiny

One of the most often viewed posts on this blog is the one on the origins of the term "demography is destiny." The phrase has been around since 1970 and may be a bit over used, but with a qualifier or two it is very apt. So, I was pleased to see the way Joseph Chamie, former Director of the Population Division of the United Nations, used it in a recent opinion piece
Most observers would probably not go as far as some who claim “demography is destiny.” Many, however, would likely concede that demography is way ahead of anything else in second place regarding the destiny of human populations.
There are few people in the world who are more expert on the topic than he is, and he lays out the current global situation with precision.
Among the key demographic revolutions underway perhaps first and foremost is the unprecedented growth of world population. The 20th century saw the beginning of rapid growth with the world’s population increasing nearly four-fold during the past century, from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 6.1 billion in 2000.
Nearly all of world population growth takes place in less developed regions. India and China alone account for close to one-third of the world’s annual births, 19 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively. The increase in India’s population is so rapid that it achieves in 10 days the same demographic growth as Europe over an entire year.
I have copied below a figure that he put together from UN data that are essentially the same as in Table 2.2 in my text, but the histogram is more powerful than the table because it emphasizes the way in which the populations of China and India (probably the most populous in history for centuries) have taken off proportionately since the end of World War II:

 Nearly all of world population growth takes place in less developed regions. India and China alone account for close to one-third of the world’s annual births, 19 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively. The increase in India’s population is so rapid that it achieves in 10 days the same demographic growth as Europe over an entire year.
Differential rates of demographic growth are contributing to a New International Population Order. Whereas six of the world’s 10 largest populations in 1950 were more developed countries, today the number is two – the United States and the Russian Federation – and by 2035 the Russian Federation is projected to be displaced by Ethiopia (Figure 1).
He concludes with a comment, the content of which will be very familiar to readers of my book and this blog, that is unfortunately not understood widely enough by the general public:
The revolutionary demographic changes that the world is experiencing are impacting virtually every aspect of human life. Ignoring those weighty consequences and avoiding the needed adjustments to the changing demographic landscapes will significantly impact societal wellbeing. On the other hand, fully acknowledging the revolutionary demographic changes underway and seriously preparing for the anticipated challenges will contribute significantly to improving human existence on the planet.

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