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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Visualizing the Source of World Population Growth

Max Roser at Oxford University has done an amazing job of pulling together huge amounts of data and creating visualizations that can help us better understand the world at a glance. "Our World in Data" includes much more than demographic data, but in a sense everything about the modern world is embodied in the graph below, which traces the path of child mortality from the 18th century to the present. The increasing survival of children is the single most important cause of population growth, and it is bound up with the same aspects of the scientific revolution that created the modern world. The discoveries of antisepsis, vaccines, antibiotics, oral rehydration therapies, along with methods for ensuring clean water, adequate sewerage, and things like the use of bed nets, have been the combined forces behind keeping children alive in unprecedented numbers. But, equally important has been the sharing of those discoveries and technologies around the world. 

As it turns out, though, we value longer life much more than we value the limitation of offspring that is required to keep a balance with nature when the death rate goes down. The science that has gone into birth prevention is also amazing, but sharing it has not been as high on the world's agenda as sharing the death prevention technology.

1 comment:

  1. THANKS for the chart and the reference to the data. This sounds fantastic - I will definitely take a close look.

    Yes Professor - you have hit upon one of the enormous ETHICAL dilemmas of the 21'st century. We do indeed value the lives of children, and we have taken enormous steps to guarantee their survival. Unfortunately, what we cannot DO is to guarantee the survival of teenagers and adults during the next few decades. This is the GREAT ENIGMA of the Anthropocene Era.

    Pete Pollock, Redondo Beach, CA