Stephen L'Allier

Stephen L'Allier: An Analysis of the World's Population; Spring 2014

An Analysis of the World's Future Population via Hans Rosling

Who is Hans Rosling?

Education and Career

Born July 27, 1948, Hans Rosling is a Swedish medical doctor, scholar, academic, statistician, and public speaker. He is also Professor of International Health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, where he teaches many students using similar methods to those he uses in his famous YouTube videos. Additionally, he is the co-founder and chairman of the Gapminder Foundation, the company which developed the Trendalyzer software. He studied statistics and medicine at Uppsala University from 1967 to 1974, while also studying public health at St. John's Medical College in 1972. In 1976 he became a licensed physician and served as the District Medical Officer in Nacala, Mozambique, from 1979 to 1981 (Watts).

In August of 1981, he discovered an outbreak of konzo, a paralytic disease. He earned a Ph.D. due to his investigations of the disease that followed his discovery. For over two decades, he studied various outbreaks of this disease in remote and rural areas of Africa, all whilst supervising a team of ten Ph.D. students. Rosling's research and studies have focused on other links, both obvious and not, between health, poverty, agriculture, and economic development. Since beginning his career, he has produced many lectures and high-production value videos on population and the prediction of future world population based on health statistics and sociological theories. In addition to pioneering the frontier of population prediction, he has served on many health advisement boards to organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, and several other aid agencies. In short, he is extremely qualified on many topics, especially those pertaining to health and population (Watts).

Impact on the Sociological Field

In an interview with Hans Rosling, Geoff Watts highlights many of the things that make Hans Rosling and his ideas appealing. Though his education focused on health science, Hans Rosling's videos focus on the effects that several factors—including health, economy, and social development—have on the world's population growth. Due to the nature of Sociology and its tight link to Demography, Rosling's studies in population statistics have impacted both demography and sociology heavily. Many regard his analysis and predictions about world population to be leading the way in population analysis (Watts).

Presenting statistics in an entertaining and informative way, Rosling's presentations hold the attention even of those with only the slightest interest in world population statistics. He utilizes technology in order to make detailed, and yet not overwhelming, graphs of statistics. By combining health statistics, population statistics, poverty statistics, and general demographic statistics, Rosling paints a beautiful picture of the various trends the world's population follows. Along with his extremely believable deductions and concrete sources, this method of instruction and teaching accounts for his wide popularity amongst sociologists and the general population. He is known for his distinct features in his presentations—his animations, his charismatic voice, and his stand-up-comedian timing. These aid him in attracting a larger audience, and help to convince demographers and sociologists alike of the validity of his claims. All in all, Hans Rosling has become renowned for his eloquent presentation of valuable information in an extremely simplistic way that anyone can understand (Rosling).

Global Stratification

Global stratification is defined as the system of inequalities between countries. Essentially, it is a theory which separates countries based on classes. The classes are determined by things such as poverty level, wealth, and overall health of the nation. Like many sociological ideals and theories, global stratification theories are divided into two categories: functionalist theories and conflict theories. The major functionalist theories on global stratification are the Modernization theory and the Culture of Poverty Theory. The major conflict perspective theories are the Dependency Theory and the New International Division of Labor Theory. Together, these four theories comprise the gist of sociological theories of global stratification (Monnier).

Modernization Theory

Created by Walt Whitman Rostow, modernization theory was the dominant theory on development and poverty in the period following World War II in rich countries. It provided an ideological explanation for the domination of the capitalistic system. Additionally, it is an evolutionary theory as well. The theory itself states that societies go through various stages of development, the highest of these being the capitalist mass consuming societies. In essence it stated that all Third World countries needed to do was follow the example the West was setting in order to develop their own nations. This applied to both social structures and value systems. In Rostow's theory, there are five stages of development: Traditional Society, Pre-conditions for Take-off, Take-off, Drive to Maturity, and High Mass Consumption Society. The characteristics of each are as follows:

Stages of Development

Characteristics

Traditional Society

Traditional beliefs, limited production, fatality

Pre-conditions for Take-off

New attitude to change, expanding population, entrepreneurial class

Take-off

Development of science, national spirit, national savings

Drive to Maturity

Economic growth becomes normal, increased division of labor

High Mass Consumption Society

Mass consumption, market capitalism

Culture of Poverty Theory

The second theory of the functionalist perspective is the Culture of Poverty Theory. This contemporary functionalist theory was popularized by Charles Murray in 1984 and also includes social Darwinism, just like the theory before it. According to the beliefs of this theory, "the poor remain poor because they are less intelligent, driven, innovative, self-restrained, and yes, less white (Monnier)." Additionally, the Culture of Poverty Theory accounts for the successful people by saying they are less lazy and more talented. Upper-class conservative groups tend to believe more in the social Darwinist theories than those in lower classes, as such belief provides a justification of sort for their privileges.

Many sociologists agree upon the errors with social Darwin theories. The first is that they tend to believe ethnocentrically. They believe the Western civilizations are the highest form of civilization and that the poorer nations should attempt to emulate them. Secondly, they do not consider the fact there could be multiple models of development, depending on various factors within each individual nation. Thirdly, they seem to be naïve in believing that nations do not affect each other. Monnier uses the example that newly formed nations of Africa and Asia must deal with the results of colonialism and every nation have global interdependencies that influence each other. Finally, the notion that every society will converge under a single type of social structure is proven false by the truths of the differences between nations (Monnier).

Dependency Theory

Dependency Theory, the first of the conflict theories, is a collection of social science work that came out of the peripheral countries during the 1960s in order to explain the consistent and persisting poverty/lack of development that was occurring in such countries. In the United States, economist Andre Gunder Frank popularized the theory. Dependency Theory centers around the continual exploitation of low-income nations by the richer nations. Colonialism is the type of exploitation most mentioned. Rich countries colonize the poorer ones in order to raid their natural resources and do so by providing labor to the mass population and having a monopoly on the nations income. At least, this is what Dependency Theory believes colonialism is.

As colonialism began to be seen as more and more negative throughout the 19th century, the movement of decolonization began. Progressively, more and more colonies were dismantled and nations were given independence. However, former colonial powers began to regain power through behind-the-scenes methods such as using international corporations—World Bank and the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund are the three major ones. The three organizations that control many colonies now are, unsurprisingly, controlled by core countries (Savur).

New International Division of Labor Theory

New International Division of Labor Theory came about as a result of increased communication and transportation between nations. Rich nations began to realize that they could use peripheral and semi-peripheral nations were excellent places to create factories for their large organizations. Land was plentiful, labor was cheap, and resources were easy to find and cost-efficient. This created a division of labor. A core country designed a product, obtained the materials from a peripheral or semi-peripheral nation, sent the materials to the factory in another peripheral or semi-peripheral nation, where they were then assembled and shipped back to the core country. This has become the norm over the last four decades, and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. The factories used are called EPZs and do not follow labor and environmental standards and are located in low tax or tax free locations (Monnier). A video of the truth about working in an EPZ can be found below.


The Risks of Overpopulation

Extinguishing the World's Resources

Several of the global stratification theories revolve around the obtaining of natural, non replenishable resources. If played out to an extreme, these theories in and of themselves could cause a permanent extinction of these material. However, this risk only becomes increased if the world population is too large. Sociologists have for a long time believed that overpopulation will occur, and that one of the first issues to be dealt with is the inevitable extinguishment of natural resources necessary for life. This would lead to the inability for life to continue as is, and an even more powerful separation of classes would occur. Only the richest of the rich would have any resource they wanted, while the rest of us would slowly sink towards poverty. The dangers of overpopulation are vast, but the natural resource problem it creates is one of the largest issues and creates several others (Wise).

Famine, Poverty, Death

In addition to the problem overpopulation poses to natural resources, it would also create a space issue eventually. Some parts of the world are already so dense with humans that there is hardly enough room for everyone to survive, let alone live comfortably. Systems that nations have in place that provide comfort, security, and privacy, begin to fall apart. Entertainment such as television, books, Hollywood, and the Internet, will cease to continue as each person begins to fight for their survival. Slowly, famine will occur. The livestock and crops that exist will not be enough to provide for the entirety of the human population. As necessary items such as food and water become more scarce, the prices will rise, and the value of every currency worldwide will become lower and lower until money has no value.

As famine occurs and money loses value, a higher percentage of the population will reach poverty level within the societies of the world. Slowly, those in poverty will begin to die off, as only those with enough power will be able to obtain food, water, and shelter. As to what happens next, that depends on the amount of natural resources that still exist. If the necessary-for-life natural resources still existed, just not in vast amounts, the population could stabilize itself after enough people died from poverty. However, if natural resources were truly extinguished, the remaining humans would be living on borrowed time. Although unpleasant to think about, overpopulation is important for everyone to consider, as awareness of the potential dangers may help to prevent it beginning in the first place.

Why the 'Overpopulation Bomb' May be Defused

Evidence Indicates Population Decline Rather Than Increase

For a long time, a steady increase in world population and development of nations led many analysts, statisticians, and demographers to believe that the world would eventually overpopulate itself, perhaps sooner rather than later. However, Hans Rosling and recent researchers believe the population may in fact begin declining rather than continue increasing. In 2012, the world population hit 7,000,000,000 people (Siegel). The world was already being stressed by a population that stretched its limited supplies of energy, food, and water. However, an often overlooked detail is the time it took to achieve the seven billionth person on Earth. It took 13 years to go from 6 to 7 billion people. Previously, the next billionth human had always come at an increasingly quick rate. The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, 5 billionth, and 6 billionth took 123, 33, 14, 13, and 12 years respectively. The 7 billionth was the first to take more years than the previous billionth (Wise).

Though the difference of a single year seems small, it is not being taken lightly by experts around the globe. In fact, along with other factors, it is causing experts to believe the total population on Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of those currently alive (Hager). Shortly after, it will fall. Jeff Wise mentions this is a counterintuitive notion in the United States, "where we've heard often and loudly that world population growth is a perilous and perhaps unavoidable threat to our future as a species." However, in other countries, population decline is a very popular and well-known concept and truth. Many countries have a fertility rate beneath the 2.1 births per woman required to sustain a population, let alone increase it. The pattern is not only well-documented, but well underway—over half of the world's population is reproducing beneath the replacement rate (Wise).

Hans Rosling's Steps to Population Stability

In his lectures, Hans Rosling covers many topics, including the fact he believes that the world population will stabilize and begin declining. He provides insight into why birth rates are so high in developing countries. One of the main reasons is due to high child mortality rates in Third World countries (Rosling). Because children die so often, mothers have many children so that some will survive. Secondly, poorer nations and families need many children in order to do enough labor to provide for the family. The more children, the more labor can be done, while at the same time the more food and shelter needed. Thirdly, in most developing nations, women are not in the labor force and are stuck at home because they lack the option of joining the labor force. Fourth, most undeveloped nations have no access to family planning tools that those in core countries have. And lastly, many developing nations lack the quality of food and water richer countries have, and certainly do not have the medicine or healthcare needed in order for the majority of children to survive (Rosling).

Rosling lays out four simple things that each nation needs in order for the birth rates to decline.

  1. Children survive.
  2. Many children are not needed for work.
  3. Women get education and join the labor force.
  4. Family planning is accessible.

These steps alone will lower the birth rates to a more normal 2-3 children per woman instead of drastically high averages of 7-10 babies per woman. Rosling's videos below expertly show how nations and societies have developed in the last two hundred years, giving a look into the various factors of population growth.


The first video gave an overview of the world population trends of the last two hundred years, while video two goes in-depth and Hans explains the science behind it.


Nations Continue to Develop and Advance

Hans Rosling believes that the world's population will stop its incline as underdeveloped nations begin to develop. In his presentation on global population growth, box by box, he points out that in the last 50 years, over 4 billion people have been added to the earth. He uses an analogy that as nations begin to become more advanced, the poorest people begin to climb the ladder of success. First they seek a steady shelter and source of food. Once they've achieved that, they save their money for a bike so they don't have to walk everywhere. Then, after using a bike for transportation, they save for a motorbike. Shortly after, a car. Some are content with a car, but most people eventually want to take a vacation, and begin to use airplanes for travel. This is what has happened to many people as their nations have developed. They have gone from poor to successfully rich. The issue, Rosling points out, is that the poorest two billion in the world are still just as poor as they were in 1960 (Rosling).

While Rosling speaks of nations as a whole being on the "bike" level or the "airplane" level, he also notes that nowadays, there are people within each nation on each of those levels. This is the world we have today. However, he projects into 2050. He indicates that already developed countries with emerging economies already have birth rates between two to three, access to family planning, and many jobs. On the other hand, the poorest two billion have extremely high birth rates, and "there is nothing – but a nuclear war of a kind we've never seen – that can stop this growth from happening (Rosling)." Only when the poorest two billion get out of poverty can they successfully climb to the level of the other five billion. Rosling states that from 1960 to 2010, many people escaped poverty as their nation developed and children began surviving. This was due to an availability of food and water, hygiene, medicine, and available jobs. In the end, then, it comes back to the symbiotic link between increased medicine, family planning, food and water, and the decreased birth rate of women.

World Population Trends

Statistics

World Population Growth Rate Percentage

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2011

2012

World

1.3

1.25

1.23

1.17

1.14

1.14

1.14

1.17

1.19

1.13

1.09

1.1

Population Growth

World Population Birth Rate Percentage

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2011

2012

World

22

21.37

21.16

20.43

20.24

20.15

20.05

20.09

20.18

19.86

19.15

19.14

Birth Rates

World Population

2000

2002

2004

2006

2008

2010

2012

World

6,080,671,000

6,233,822,000

6,379,158,000

6,525,170,000

6,706,993,000

6,768,181,000

7,021,836,000

World Population

World Fertility Rate

 

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2011

2012

World

2.8

2.73

2.7

2.65

2.62

2.6

2.59

2.59

2.61

2.56

2.46

2.47

Fertility

The World Factbook 2013-14. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

What the Graphs Mean

The first graph demonstrates the fact that over from 2000-2012, the growth rate of the world has steadily declined. This indicates that, as has been stated, while the population continues to increase, the speed at which it increases is steadily slowing down. Graph two provides an explanation as to why the population growth rate is declining: the birth rate percentage is declining around the world. In fact, it has declined nearly three percent since the start of the millennium. The third graph supports the notion that the world's population is still growing, though at a slow rate. Last of the graphs is the graph that shows the world fertility rate, which is perhaps most important of all. The average fertility rate around the world was 2.8, whereas in 2012 it had decreased to 2.47. Due to the average death of children in developed nations being one in every twenty, the fertility rate necessary for population sustainment is 2.1. Clearly, 2.8 would therefore increase the world population. Likewise, 2.47 children per woman would also increase the population, though at a much slower rate. The continued decline of the world fertility rate is a vital step of avoiding overpopulation (Rosling).

Conclusion

In conclusion, overpopulation is now believed to be an unlikely scenario if the world continues on its current path. As nations continue to develop, more children will survive. This is the key to the world's population stabilizing. When children survive, the other important steps begin to fall in place. Less children are necessary, and therefore less are born. Survival of children also indicates a more hygienic and healthy society within each nation, which shows that a nation's healthcare has become more advanced and widely available. All of these are important in the sustaining of any population, and protecting the world from overpopulation. However, it should be said that the world could still be overpopulated. Though trends indicate nations will continue advancement and become healthier, unpredictable things such as natural disasters could threaten such advancement at any moment. With that said, the likely scenario is one where the population bubble bursts, as Jeff Wise keenly notes in his article "About That Overpopulation Problem." As time progresses, sociologists and demographers will continue to study patterns and trends of world population and the dangers and likelihood of over- and under-population will all be monitored carefully. In the meantime, though, it is comforting to know that many of the smartest people alive believe the world will work out a way for life to continue well beyond the lifetime of even the youngest humans in the world today.

Works Cited

Hager, Mary. "How 'Demographic Fatigue' Will Defuse The Population Bomb." Newsweek 132.18 (1998): 12. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

"Historical Data Graphs per Year." Index Mundi. IndexMundi, 2013. Web. 13 Mar. 2014.

Monnier, Christine. "Theories of Global Stratification." Global Sociology. PBWorks, 2 Sept. 2009. Web. 9 Mar. 2014.

Rosling, Hans. "Global population growth, box by box." Video. TED. TED Conferences, LLC., Jun. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

Rosling, Hans. "Religions and babies." Video. TED. TED Conferences, LLC., Apr. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.

Savur, Manorama. "Sociology of Conflict Theory." Social Scientist, Vol. 3, No. 12 (July 1975): 29-42. Social Scientist, 1975. Web. 1 Mar. 2014.

Siegel, Laurence B. "Fewer, Richer, Greener: The End Of The Population Explosion And The Future For Investors." Financial Analysts Journal 68.6 (2012): 20-37. Business Source Complete, 2012. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.

The World Factbook 2013-14. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2013.

Watts, Geoff. "HANS ROSLING Animated about statistics." BMJ: British Medical Journal Vol. 339, No. 7714 (25 July 2009): 198-199. BMJ, 25 July 2009. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.

Wise, Jeff. "About That Overpopulation Problem." Slate Future Tense. The Slate Group, LLC., 9 Jan. 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.