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Global Population Growth

Colloquium for the Global Leadership Program, Macquarie International

Paul Mason

on 8 November 2016

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Transcript of Global Population Growth

Global Population Growth
World population reached 7 billion in 2011 with over 50% of people now living in urban centres. Despite only covering 2% of the earths’ land surface, urban areas are responsible for 70% of the world’s carbon emissions. Understanding how world population has soared from 600million during the time of Christopher Columbus to over 7billion today is integral to mapping our future.
Part 1: Global Population Growth

Prior to the development of agriculture some 11,000 years ago, there were less than ten people/100 km2. You could walk for days even weeks without meeting another human. Today, in some of the world’s most dense urban centres, there can be as many as 130,000 people/1 km2. With unprecedented levels of growth, is the sky the limit?
Through an interactive group task, students will learn about the major events and developments that have catalysed and sometimes sequestered global population growth. From the advent of agriculture to the invention of the latest technologies, students will actively engage in a task-directed activity that raises awareness of the issues surrounding population growth.
Part 2: Population Growth in the Developing World
Urban populations are increasing much faster in developing countries than in more developed regions. Brazil is considered to provide insights into the likely future of urbanisation in other parts of the developing world. Taking Brazil as a case example, students will consider issues of poverty, pollution, and population growth in the developing world. With rising sea levels, escalating fresh water shortages, and a higher risk of epidemics, the world‘s poorest communities are the most exposed to the consequences of global warming. Positive action can counter these stark forebodings.
In a guided discussion, students will be invited to share their knowledge and observations about population dynamics around the world. Using focus questions, and lateral thinking tasks, students will be encouraged to think of constructive measures to address complex issues. For example, what can Brazilian soap operas do about overpopulation?
Part 3: Population Growth in the Developed World
Australia is known by many as the mining country. In 2011, more than half of Australia's growth in GDP came from mining investments. In addition to mining, Australia is a major agricultural producer and exporter. Yet, with only 1% water across the continent, low nutrient soils, and escalating salinity, Australians might ask, “Are we exhausting our agricultural land faster than our non-renewable resources? If Australia was self-sufficient and self-sustainable, how many people could the land support?
Students will brainstorm sustainable pathways to Australia’s future. What short-term changes do we need to promote and implement? What should be on our list of long term goals? More than just cultural awareness, how can we effect cultural change?
Mason, P.H. (2010) 19th and 21st Century Brazil: Population growth, urbanisation & pollution in the developing world [Brésil au XIXème et XXIème siècle: Une étude sur la croissance de la population, de l’urbanisation et de la pollution dans le monde en voie de développement], Neo, 3, pp 1-27.
Paul's Population picks:

150 years since the Origin of Species (Darwin 1859):
At the dawn of the Anthropocene, the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus, a clergyman, mathematician and Fellow of Jesus College, published An Essay on the Principle of Population, As It Affects the Future Improvement of Society (June, 1798).

Malthus drew one simple conclusion:

The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison to the second. By that law of our nature which makes food necessary to the life of man, the effects of these two unequal powers must be kept equal. This implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the difficulty of subsistence. This difficulty must fall somewhere, and must necessarily be felt by a large portion of mankind.
Population Boosts?
Population Checks?
late marriage
infant mortality
agricultural technology
developmental toxicants
hormone disruptors
acid rain
ozone problems
fossil fuel emissions
Global warming
nuclear power
birth control
urban planning
civil engineering
Non-renewable resources
Fresh water
Fragile Ecology
Climate Change
Tyranny of Distances
Introduced species
Land clearance
Marine overfishing
Population policy

The Mining Country

In your lifetime

Is the SKY the limit?

By 1920:
30,000 Australian aboriginals remained

Prior to European Settlers:
Conservative estimate: 400,000
Top estimate: 1,000,000

Australian Aboriginals

Over 24 million humans

Aerial surveys reveal that there are at least 57 million individuals of the four largest species

Full transcript