Category: Geography

Notes from ‘Slowdown’ by Danny Dorling

This book begins by commenting on the current state of population growth, stating that over the past 160 years our numbers have doubled and almost doubled again; and stating that we will never see such a rise again. This is linked to the title by stating that slowdown (a word first used in the 1890s, meaning to go forward more slowly) affects far more than our rate of population growth. It affects almost every aspect of our lives – because so many of our current belief systems are built on assumptions of rapid future technological change and perpetual economic growth.

I found this book thought provoking, fascinating, and really interesting given the current context.

Key Notes

  • A slowdown in population does not necessarily mean immediate stability, but rather stability to come. Slowdown means that within a century the new global norm will be a slowly shrinking total planetary human population. (Pg. 4)
  • A child born today can expect to live to see the world’s human population shrink – with no disaster needed to bring that about. (Pg. 7)
  • A slowdown is upon us, and this is something to be very thankful for. The alternative- an ever-growing total human population, ever more economically divided societies, ever-greater consumption per head -would be a catastrophe. (Pg. 10)
  • Soon our descendants (or other people’s descendants) will look back at how we are now and ask why we could not see hte transformation that was underway. But, in our defence, it is worth remembering that when you are on a speeding train and the brakes are suddenly applied, you feel that you are being thrown forward. It is only when you look back that you see that you are no longer moving forward as quickly as before. (Pg. 15)
  • Stability does not mean always staying the same. Populations are likely to gently oscillate up and down each generation, more slowly shifting in size after gradually falling for some time following the peak. (Pg. 18)
  • The future rural idyll will depend on urban tourism, not self-sufficiency, but if tourism is well spread out, it need not spoil the idyll. It could even help make reality more like the myth. (Pg. 24)
  • People can easily think immigration is out of control both because they have too little information (“It is too early to say”) and because they are not looking at the information in the clearest way. (Pg. 26)
  • Ridiculous generalisations are repeatedly made concerning the pace of change. We are creating more data than ever, we are told: more information, more knowledge, all swelling in volume at unfathomable rates. Of course there is some truth in this claim, but nevertheless we have not in the past view decades actually discovered significantly more information than over the course of the rest of human history, but this phenomenon mirrors the introduction of new forms of duplication in the past. This time the quantity is much larger, but the shock is not necessarily any grater than before. (Pg. 64)
  • The deluge of new data and new ideas is now slowing down. However I measured it, from Wikipedia page entries to Dutch books to so much else, I have found no time series concerning data that is now still rising exponentially. Everything appears to be decelerating, even if still often going faster than before. (Pg. 85)
  • ‘For way too long the politicians and people in power have got away with not doing anything at all to fight the climate crisis and ecological crisis. But we will make sure that they will not get away with it any longer’ Greta Thunberg, 22 April 2019 (Pg. 89).
  • Between 1913 and 1920, annual global CO2 emissions dropped by 1 percent. The greatest fall had been in 1919, during and in the immediate aftermath of when the deadliest outbreak of influenza the world has ever known spread and the number of young adults fit enough to work in industry was severely reduced. The number shrank through illness more than through death, and because people buy much less when they are not well and earning, demand fell. The flue pandemic hit the young particularly hard, which might help explain why global carbon emissions fell by 14 percent between 1918 and 1919, bu then rose by 16 percent the next year after most of the sick had recovered. Influenza had a far greater effect on industry, production, and consumption than the First World War. (Pg. 103)
  • In October 2018 the IPCC produced a report on global warming. The report confirmed that if the additional carbon added to the additional carbon added to the atmosphere could be kept below 420 gigatons of CO2, then there was a 66 per cent change of keeping global temperature rises below 1.5 degrees Celsius. At the current rate of emissions, that total would be breached by 2013. If the rate of emissions were to continue to increase as it has been doing since 2015, then that limit will be exceeded earlier. In contrast, if action is taken now, the ate by which that limit was breached could be delayed… Climate and ecological protests are one of the few things not slowing down – along with the global rise in surface temperatures. (Pg. 119).
  • Almost everything is slowing down apart from one thing: the rise in temperature of the air around us. Even the rate of growth of CO2 emissions has, within most people’s living memory in some years and in some places been slowing, if not the total amounts of emissions themselves. (Pg. 120)
  • Only within the past five generations have global temperatures noticeably warmed. People born in the years between 1901 and 128 entered the world where on-land average temperatures were just four-thousandths of a degree celsius lower than the second generation. The second generation, people born between 1929 and 1955, experienced five-thousandths of a degree lower than the third generation. Generation X, born between 1956 and 1981, experienced six-thousandths of a degree. Generation Y, those born from 1982 to 2011 experienced temperature rise of fifteen-thousandths of a degree. Generation Z saw in just its first five years of existence an increase thrice as large as that experienced by the fourth. By the time the last members of the fifth generation are born, around the year 2042, the rise is expected to be far higher. (Pg 124-125)
  • By early 2016 it looked as if the global temperature might soon be completely out of control. Sea levels are currently about 130 meters higher than they were twenty thousand years ago. They have risen twenty-three centimetres since 1880 and are currently rising over three centimetres a decade. Increasing extreme weather events magnify the seriousness of ay sea level rise. Melting of all the ice caps and glaciers could potentially raise it by many tense of meters. Just one meter would be devastating for much of humanity. Have we entered a period of very dangerous ‘positive feedback’ as a result of changes that have already happened? (Pg 130)
  • It has been obvious for some time to a small group of demographers that the human population slowdown began many decades ago, but just how rapid that slowdown is has been apparent only more recently. This is true when people are counted across the globe as a whole, but the slowdown began even earlier in certain countries and especially when it comes to very low birth rates, within a few cities in those countries. (Pg141)
  • There are four areas of the world we have yet to discuss: the population in the sky which is still rising and reached over 1.3 million people, or two hundred thousand planes, in 2018; the population on ships, which has not been calculated; the population of Antarctica; and the population in space. Antarctica is home to just under one thousand people in winter and just under four thousand in summer. The international space station peaked at a population of thirteen in 2009. (Pg 179)
  • Fertility rates were falling through the 1998-2016 period when viewed as a worldwide total, but between 2001 and 2003, and then 2004 and 2006, they appeared to be falling more and more slowly. However, after 2014, the hesitant trend was no longer evident; the fall in fertility was again accelerating. (Pg 186)
  • A time is coming when rampant consumption will wane’ when it is recognised that wealth does not engender happiness, and that much advertising is designed to create jealousy; when the lives of most people will be improved by better organisation and cooperation, not by more competition; and when now understand that much that is enjoyable is free or virtually free – dramatically more so with the rise of the World Wide Web. Love, friendship, and caring preceded capitalism and will outlive it. Capitalism is a transition, not a steady state. The protesters of 1968 were simply ahead of their time. (Pg 215)
  • What matters most is that our fertility will soon reach two children per couple worldwide: it is already a reality for most people, and the rate is falling even faster and further in the world’s major cities. It may well, for a time, fall below two per couple worldwide for a generation or two or three. After that, we do not know. (Pg 230).
  • Capitalism may well come to an end with a whimper, not a bang. Feudalism came to an end almost everywhere when traders began to arrive and settle, using their capital to invest and their armies to impose. So, too, it is possible that capitalism is already being pushed out from certain parts of the world by governments that use money raised from taxation to invest and employ the rule of law to better the behaviour of the rich. At first, we will not see the change as that much different than what we had before. We may just tell ourselves that certain places have a more protective welfare state and are less entrepreneurial, although invention tends to be higher where there is more cooperation; we may say that these places have more of a tradition of supporting the rights of women, although this is a tradition that was hard won. We might argue that these trends have grown a little more strongly in particular cultures, but then we might also notice that, in general, the areas where these changes are happening are spreading.(Pg 236)
  • Geopolitics is about time as much as space. WE are currently learning more about our distant past than we have ever known. What is it possible for humans to be? Very recently a team of U.S.-based archaeologists working near Lake Turkana in Kenya discovered graves that led them to conclude that five thousand years ago, large groups of people once shared their workload without significant social hierarchy – successfully, generation after generation for centuries. (Pg 264)
  • The global economic slowdown is so great that the rich cannot carry on getting ever richer. In 1950 the worldwide average GDP per person rose by about $156 in today’s money, or by about 4.3 percent. By 2015 it rose by $158, or nearer to 1.6 percent a year – almost three times slower. And these snapshots are taking from the economists high points! (Pg 297).
  • Since live began on Earth, there have been five major mass extinction events. Some six out of seven of all the planet’s species died around 450 million years ago due to global cooling, then about 380 to 260 million years ago three-quarters were wiped out, probably due to multiple causes, including falling CO2 levels and climate cooling. About 250 million years ago there was again very rapid climate change, a five-degree warming, and only one species in every twenty survived. Some 200 million years ago the climate changed again and only one in five species on Earth survived, and then the last of the great vie mass extinctions occurred around 65 million years ago when an asteroid, six to nine miles wide, hit Earth, and three out of four of all species (including almost all of the dinosaurs) became extinct. Today we are just a few decades into the sixth and most rapid of all the mass extinctions. Humanity has had a worse effect on the biodiversity of the planet than a huge asteroid. However, at the very same time, we have shipped more surviving species around the planet than have ever travelled between the islands of the Earth so quickly before, and we may well be doing other things that will accelerate the appearance of new species. We have almost no idea of the repercussions of any of this. (Pg 302).
  • In 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the first powered airplane took to the skies with a wingspan of twelve meters. Today the sky is full of monster planes, the largest objects that have ever flown – and inside them is us. They now transport 4 billion passengers every year, and thus far we show now signs of slowing down in our keenness for air travel, unless we become forced to do so by the introduction of new carbon taxes on flying. These taxes have already been instituted in Sweden and are now proposed for France. I suspect there will be many more in place in other countries before this book is printed. (Pg304)
  • Slowdown means goods lasting longer; it means less waste. It means that many of the things that we currently thinkg of as great social and environmental problems will not be problematic in future. WE will, of course, have new problems – most of which we cannot even imagine right now. And we will, of course, do things we have always done, adn that we did long before the great acceleration began, throughout it, and after it- enjoying friends, fun, family. What do you hope for in the future? (Pg 331)

Anuk Krakatoa Tsunami, Indonesia

Link to A Level Geography Syllabus – Hazards – Tsunami’s caused by explosive eruptions (OCR).

When: Saturday 22nd December 2018, 9:30PM

Where: Off the coast of Indonesia causing an impact on the Pandeglang region of Indonesia.

Location of the Volcano
Source- Guadian, 22nd December 2018


  • Volcano ‘Anak Krakatau’ erupted which is located on a plate boundary where the Indo-Australian Plate subducts under the Eurasian plate.
  • The eruption triggered an undersea landslide when the southwestern side of the volcano collapsed triggering a tsunami wave.
  • This occurred as the volcano is above a steep submarine slope created by the 1883 eruption.
  • The height of the wave was exacerbated by an abnormally high tide because of the full moon.
  • This has been a site of frequent eruptions since 1827.
Image Source:


  • Wave 20ft high that came 15-20 metres inland.
  • Early warning system did not activate meaning that people were unprepared; this is as they were designed to protect from earthquake triggered tsunami. As this occurred at night people could not see the ash plume and steam explosions and therefore people were taken by surprise.
  • 222 People confirmed dead.
  • 843 people injured.
  • Roads blocked by debris, disruption to water supplies and houses destroyed.

Other Information

This is an area that is extremely tectonically active; there have been other earthquakes and tsunami’s this year. This also comes 14 years after teh Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in which a 9.3 magnitude earthquake killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean. The volcano Anuk Krakatau has been growing since it breached the surface in 1928. There have been several eruptions that have created overlapping cones, the most recent prior to December was in May 2018.

Notes from ‘Prisoners of Geography’

This book is an interesting read that looks at the impact of Geography on global politics; I have made some notes from my reading. However there is much more in the book that I left out of my notes!


The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars the power, politics and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth. Technology may seem to overcome the distances between us in both mental and physical space, but it is easy to forget that the land where we live, work and raise our children is hugely important, and that the choices of those who lead the seven billion in habitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lake and seas that constrain as all -as they always have.

There are numerous examples of how different countries are limited by there geography, for example the author states that “In Russia we see the influence of the Arctic, and how its freezing climate limits Russia’s ability to be a truly global power. In China we see the limitation of power without a global navy.” Or alternatively how geographical decisions in the past impact the future: “The conflict in Iraq and Syria is rooted in colonial powers ignoring the rules of geography, whereas the Chinese occupation of Tibet is rooted in obeying them; America’s global foreign policy is dictated by them” These claims, among others made in the introduction are later discussed in further chapters.


Russia is not an Asian power for many reasons. 75 per cent of its territory is in Asia, only 22 per cent of its population lives there. Siberia may be Russia’s ‘treasure chest’, containing the majority of the mineral wealth, oil, and gas, but it is a harsh land, freezing for months on end, with vast forest (taiga), poor soil for farming and large stretches of swampland. Only two railway networks run west to earth. There are few transport routs leading north to south and so no easy way for Russia to project power southward into modern Mongolia or China; it lacks the manpower and supply lines to do so.


Until now China has never been a naval power- with its large land mass, multiple borders and short sea routes to trading partners, it had no need to be, and it was rarely ideologically expansive. Its merchants have long sailed the oceans to trade goods, btus its navy did not seek territory beyond its region, and the difficulty of patrolling the great sea lanes of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans was not worth the effort. It was always a land power, with a lot of land and a lot of people – now nearly 1.4 billion.

[The reason for the Chinese control of Tibet] is the geopolitics of fear. IF China did not control Tibet, it would be always be possible that India might attempt to do so. This would give India the commanding heights of the Tibetan Plateau and a base from which to push into the Chinese heartland, as well as control of the Tibetan sources of three of China’s great rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong.

China has locked itself into the global economy. If we don’t buy, they don’t make. And if they don’t make there will be mass unemployment. If there is mass and long-term unemployment, in an age when the Chinese are a people packed into urban areas, the inevitable social unrest could be – like everything else in modern China – on a scale hitherto unseen.

Western Europe

Western Europe has no real deserts, the frozen wasters are confined to a few areas in the far north, and earthquakes, volcanoes and massive flooding are rare. The rivers are long, flat , navigable and made for trade. As they empty into a variety of seas and oceans they flow into coast lines which are, west, north and south, abundant in natural harbours.

Greece suffers due to its geography. Much of the coastline comprises steep cliffs and there are few coastal plains for agriculture. Inland are more steep cliffs, rivers which will not allow transportation, and few wide, fertile valleys. What agricultural land there is is of high quality; the problem is that there is too little of it to allow Greece to become a major agricultural exporter, or to develop more than a handful of major urban areas containing highly educated, highly skilled and technologically advanced populations.

Geographically, the Brits are in a good place. Good farmland, decent rives, excellent access to the seas and their fish stocks, close enough to the European Continent to trade and yet protected by dint of being an island race – there have been times when the UK gave thanks for its geography as wars and revolutions wept over its neighbours.


Africa’s coastline? Great beaches, really, really, really loverly beaches, but terrible natural harbours. Rivers? Amazing rivers but most of them are rubbish for actually transporting anything, given that every few miles you go over a waterfall.

As long ago as the fifth century BCE the historian Herodotus said: ‘Egypt is the Nile, and the Nile is Egypt.’ It is still true, and so a threat to the supply to Egypt’s 700-mile-long, fully navigable section of the Nile is for Cairo a concern – one over which it would be prepared to go to ware. Without the Nile, there would be no one there. It may be a huge country, but the vast majority of its 84 million population lives within a few miles of the Nile. Measured by the area in which people dwell, Egypt is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The Africa of the past was given no choice – its geography shaped it – and then the Europeans engineered most of today’s borders. Now with its booming populations and developing mega-cities, it has no choice but to embrace the modern globalised world to which it is so connected.

The Middle East

The Middle of What? East of Where? The region’s very name is based on a European view of the world, and it is a European view of the region that shaped it. The Europeans used ink to draw lines on maps: they were lines that did not exist in reality and created some of the most artificial borders the world has seen.

Groups such as Al Qaeda and, more recently, Islamic State have garnered what support they have partially because of the humiliation caused by colonialism and then the failure of pan-Arab nationalism – and to an extent the Arab nation state. Arab leaders have failed to deliver prosperity or freedom, and the siren call of Islamism, which promises to solve all problems, has proved attractive to many in a region marked by a toxic mix of piety, unemployment and repression.

In impoverished societies with few accountable institutions, power rests with gangs disguised as ‘militia’ and ‘political parties’. While they fight for power, sometimes cheered on by naive Western sympathisers many innocent people die.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan can agree on one thing: neither wants the other one around. This is somewhat problematic given they share a 900-mile long border.

Pakistan is geographically, economically, demographically and militarily weaker than India. Its national identity is also not as strong. India, despite its size, cultural diversity, and secessionist movements, has built a solid secular democracy with a unified sense of Indian identity. Pakistan wis an Islamic state with a  history of dictatorship and populations whose loyalty is often more to their cultural region than to the state.

With India, it always comes back to Pakistan, and with Pakistan, to India.


How do you solve a problem like Korea? You don’t, you just manage it – after all, there’s a lot of other stuff going on around the world which needs immediate attention.

North Korea is a poverty-stricken country of an estimated 25 million people, led by a basket case of a morally corrupt, bankrupt Communist monarchy, and supported by China, partly out of a fear of millions of refugees flooding north across the Yalu River. The USA, anxious that a military withdrawal would send out the wrong signal and embolden North Korean adventurism, continues to station almost 30,00 troops in South Korea, and the South, with mixed feelings about risking its prosperity, continues to do little to advance reunification.

The geography of the peninsula is fairly uncomplicated and a reminder of how artificial the division is between North and South. The real (broad-brush) split is west to east. The west of the peninsula is much flatter than the east and is where the majority of people life. The east has the Hamgyon mountain range in the north and lower ranges in the south. The demilitarised zone (DMZ), which cuts the peninsular in half, in parts follows the path of the Imjin-gang River, but this was never a natural barrier between two entities, just a river within a unified geographical space all too frequently entered by foreigners.

Latin America

Latin America, particularly its south, is proof that you can bring the Old World’s knowledge and technology to the new, but if geography is against you, then you will have limited success, especially if you get the politics wrong. Just as the geography of the USA helped it become a great power, so that of the twenty countries to the south ensures that none will rise to seriously challenge the North American giant this century nor come together to do so collectively.

The River Amazon may be navigable in parts, but its banks are muddy and the surrounding land makes it difficult to build on. This problem, too, seriously limits the amount of profitable land available.

The Arctic

The effects of global warming are now showing more than ever in the Arctic: the ice is melting, allowing easier access to the region, coinciding with the discovery of energy deposits and the development of technology to get at them – all of which has focused the Arctic nations’ attention on the potential gains and losses to be made in the world’s most difficult environment.

the Arctic Ocean is 5.4 million square miles; this might make it the world’s smallest ocean but it is still almost as big as Russia, and one and a half times the size of the USA.

There currently are at least nine legal disputes and claims over sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean, all legally complicated, and some with the potential to cause serious tensions between the nations. One of the most brazen comes from the Russians: Moscow has already put a marker down – a long way down. In 2007 it sent two manned submersibles 13,980 feet below the waves to the seabed of the North Pole and planted a rust-proof titanium Russian flag as a statement of ambition.

Perhaps the Arctic will turn out to be just another battleground for the nation states – after all, wars are started by fear of the other as well as by greed; but the Arctic is different, and so perhaps how it is dealt with will be different.




Population Articles

uk population

Map of the UK Distorted by Population

Why does Singapore have such a low birth rate? (article)

Why is China Relaxing the one child policy? (article – economist)

What do different countries give people for having babies (article – pro-natalist)

Applying to Read Geography at Oxford

On Saturday 22nd February I was luckily enough to attend a ‘Geography Subject Day’ at Jesus College, Oxford. The college had put together a fantastic programme that included a great mix of different information. The tutors explained some of their research as well as talking about the admissions process.

Below are some notes from the session; these are my notes and there may be errors and inaccuracies.

Geography Admission Statistics (for entry in 2014)

  • 322 applications in October 2013, 77 places available. Success rate is 24%.
  • Aim to interview approximately 3 candidates for every place (university policy).

Tools used to Evaluate Application

  • UCAS form (including academic reference)
  • Thinking Skills Assessment – this is used to deselect rather than to select. Used to get rid of approximately bottom 20%. It is not used in a systematic way after selection for interview. Though tutors have noticed a correlation between TSA score and interview performance.  (more details about the TSA can be found at [MUST register by October 15th; taken in school]
  • Interviews for 64% of Geography applicants – used to find out how applicants think, not what they have been taught.

Personal Statements

  • Reason why the subject choice
  • Work Experience
  • Gap year information is useful if relevant to course.
  • Students put more stress into it than is necessary.
  • Extra curriculum activities are interesting but not part of the decision making process; admission is purely on academic basis.
  • All personal statements are put through plagiarism detection software – any plagiarism and candidate is not interviewed.

Academic Reference

  • In addition to usual content should give information on support reds and personal circumstances.
  • UMS scores are useful (but not required); and they are not a fundamental component.
  • Do not write to the college separately; unless there are special circumstances.

Written Work – not required for Geography; however it is in some subjects.


  • Approximately 70% of candidates invited to attend for interview (approximately 64% for Geography).
  • Interview dates are published on-line (different for each course); food and accommodation provided by first choice college.
  • Tutors are looking for:
    • Academic ability and potential (important they have not peaked at school).
    • Subject knowledge and skills – but don’t need to know everything.
    • Commitment and motivation.
    • Willingness to engage in tutorial systems – need to be able to contribute to tutorials.
    • Ability to handle new material and to relate it to existing knowledge.
  • Specifically Geography Tutors are looking for:
    • independent thinking.
    • Ability to follow an argument.
    • Comprehension.
    • Problem-solving.
    • Spirit of enquiry.

Choosing Colleges
Students should not look at application statistics when applying for colleges; candidates are selected for interview on a university level; then some reallocation of applicants to colleges takes place.
Interviews in Geography

  • 2 interviews with a pair of interviewers, each lasting 20 minutes.
  • Interactive -as in a tutorial situation.
  • Designed to see how candidates respond to new information.
  • Candidates are given an article to read 20 minutes before each interview (this is the case in Jesus collect but not necessarily  the case for every college).
  • The interview will start with questions to settle and ease candidate in; this may be a very open question e.g. ‘tell me about the place you live?’, or refer to personal statement.
  • May use very complicated diagrams to see candidates thinking process.
  • It is perfectly acceptable for candidates to stop and change mind; or to ask for clarification.
  • It is important that candidates show their thought process by thinking out loud.

Typical Offer

  • Standard A’Level ofer is A*AA, the A* can be in any subject taken.
  • IB Standard offer is 40 points.
  • Students would be crazy to do 4 A’Levels; however if they do the university reserves the right to specify which A’Levels the grades are in (e.g. may choose to discount a subject).
  • Doing 4 subjects does not mean that students can drop a grade.

Students can find more information about applying here:

What to Expect when No One’s Expecting – America’s Coming Demographic Disaster


This book was an interesting look at the demographics of the United States, however the author also touched on the wider issues of population dynamics and used other countries as examples. I will recommend this book to my sixth form students, and it would be appropriate for students studying both A’Level and International Baccalaureate Geography. The book is readable while at the same time having a secure factual underpinning.

The book opens with this quote:

Demography is the key factor. If you are not able to maintain yourself biologically, how to you expect to maintain yourself economically, politically, and militarily? It’s impossible. The answer of letting people from other countries come in … that could be an economic solution, but it’s not a solution of your real sickness, that you are not able to maintain your own civilization.

– Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, 2012

  • The author looks at the historical shift in American fertility. In 1800 the fertility rate for white Americans was 7.04. The earliest reliable data for black Americans in the 1850s puts it at 7.90-. By 1890 the fertility rate for whites had fallen to 3.87; while blacks had only fallen to 6.56.
  • In 1960s America the combined total fertility rate was 3.1, in 1980 it was 1.8, and then to 2.12 in 2007, falling to 2.01 in 2009. However this rebound was largely driven by the high fertility of immigrants.
  • The decline in American fertility rate is the result of a ‘complex constellation of factors’. The decline in church attendance, the increase of women in the workforce, the laws mandating car seats, and reform in divorce statutes. None of these changes were designed to drive down population however they have had that affect.
  • In 1936 64% of Americans said that three or more children were ideal, today only 33% of American’s think that. In practice actual fertility is lower than desired fertility.
  • Total fertility varies across the United States, Utah had a TFR of 2008, whereas Vermont had the lowest at 1.67.
  • Due to demographic momentum you don’t see the effects of fertility decrease until the last above-replacement generation dies.
  • As a society ages the level of entrepreneurship and inventiveness decreases. Older citizens necessarily seek less risky employment and investments.
  • Fertility correlates with income. The poorest families, wiht annual incomes under $20,000 have the second highest fertility rate, 2.038. The higherst fertility is found amongh lower-middle-class families, those with incomes between $35,000 and $49,000, they have a TFR of 2.052. As you slide up the scale fertility drops.
  • One of the biggest predictors of fertility is woman’s educational level. If a women does not have a high school diploma the TFR is 2.45; whereas for a women with a Bachelor’s degree it is 1.63.
  • The abortion rate also has an impact on Fertility, for White Americans abortion lowered the fertility rate by 0.08 or 4%; for Black Americans it lowered the fertility rate down by 0.34 or 13%.
  • Research by an Australian researcher, Vegard Skirbekk, stated in the 14th century the wealthy were having as twice as many children as the lower classes, by 1600 elites were bearing only 25% more children. The trend lines crossed in the Western world in 1750, and then reproduction of elites never went below that of the working class.
  • If current fertility rates remain constant in Europe the total population of the continent will go from 738 million in 2010 to 482 million by the end of the century.
  • It is difficult to predict what is going to happen in the future because since the industrial revolution there is no model for a country experiencing a sustained, structural shrinking of its population.
  • In the US the Social Security Administration predicts that by 2034 the ration of workers to retirees will be 2.1 workers for each retiree, today it is 2.9, in 1950 it was 16.5.
  • Abortions and the availability of abortions also plays a role in a countries population; there have been 53 million abortions in the United States since 1973; there have been 37.9 migrants in the same period of time (both legal and illegal).
  • By 2050 China’s population will be falling by 20 million every 5 years, and one out of every four citizens will be over the age of 65. (goes to explain why last week they announced their population policy would be relaxed)
  • The author concludes with ways to increase the fertility rate:
    • Reducing social security taxes for parents with children; remove them for parents with three children under the age of 18.
    • Eliminate the need for college or make college more conducive to couples with families; for example BYU provides family housing.
    • Increase the number of people going to church. (although this is a simplification of the authors argument).



21st Century Challenges – Feeding the 9 Billion

9 billion

Last night I attended a discussion entitled ‘Feeding the 9 Billion’ at the Royal Geographical Society; this is part of their public engagement series ’21st Century Challenges’. This is the fourth talk I have been too as part of this series, all have been interesting and engaging with a carefully selected and interesting range of speakers.

The speakers were:

  • Jay Rayner (Chair) – Food critic, presenter and author. @jayrayner1 Jay Rayner’s book is entitled ‘Greedy Man in a Hungry World’
  • Tim Wheeler – Professor of Crop Science, University of Reading University Website
  • Peter Smithers – Entomologist based at the University of Plymouth University Website
  • Edd Colbert – Campaigns Coordinator, the Pig Idea @eddcolbert

Jay Rayner

  • Issue is the fact that our current world population is 7 billion increasing to 9 billion by 2050, by 2030 we will need to produce 50% more food on the same amount of land.
  • In 1975 the average Chinese adult ate 10kg of meat a year, now they consume 45kg of meat a year and that is predicted to rise to 69kg in 2030. This is significant when the figures are multiplied by China’s 1.1 billion population.
  • To put these figures in perspective at its peak the average adult in the United States consumed 83kg of meat a year, though that figure is now dropping.
  • There is the increasing commodification of food and price spikes.
  • Jay presented the argument that the Arab Spring in part happened because of food price rises and the inability of governments in the Middle East to subsidise and control food prices.
  • In Rwanda 40% of the population are either mentally or physically stunted due to malnutrition.
  • A subsistence farmer may end up selling food into a market place due to high crop prices to afford other living essentials, this may mean that his family suffer malnutrition as they end up eating low nutrient foods.

Tim Wheeler

  • 3.6 billion tonnes of food is produced per year. There is enough food produced to provide every person on the planet with 2,700 calories per day. However there are 850 million people undernourished and 1 billion people have micro-nutrient deficiencies.
  • Technology has lead to this place and taken people out of hunger. However by 2050 the world’s population will have reached 9.2 billion which will require 70% more food.
  •  In addition the future will present the challenges of the expansion of urban living and the middle class, there will also challenges from climate change and resource security.
  • There is no technology silver bullet.
  • However Tim presented 5 challenges that might play a part in increasing food production.

Scuba Rice

  • Traditional rice can’t survive underwater, therefore large amounts of rice are lost to flooding each year.
  • Scuba rice can live underwater for 17 days compared to the 7 days of normal rice.
  • Scuba rice is currently grown by 100,000 farmers across India; however there is a target to have 18 million farmers growing it.
  • For more information see this DFID case study I found while writing this blog post here.

Eradication of the Cattle Plague Rinderpest

  • Kills 95% of the cattle it comes into contact with.
  • Vaccine was invented in 1950 and a heat sensitive vaccine that could be used more widely was invented in the 1980s.
  • Declared eradicated by the World Organisation for Animal Health in 2011.
  • For more information see this Science Article here. (subscription required – if you are one of my students ask me for a copy).

Planting Masangu Tree (Faidherbia Albida)

  • This tree is unique as it holds its leaves during the dry season and drops  the leaves during the rainy season.
  • Crops can be grown under it.
  • This increased yields in Zambia from 1.3 tonnes per ha to 4.1 tonnes per ha.
  • Currently there are 160,000 farmers in Zambia growing  crops under the trees.
  • For more information read this article.

Providing Insurance to Farmers

  • Commercial insurance providing insurance to farmers in Kenya / Ethopia against the risk of loosing livestock to drought.
  • Farmers pay a premium and then if there is drought the insurance will pay out.
  • It is expensive to farmers but has paid out in 2 of the last 3 years.
  • More information here.

Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato

  • Very rich in the nutrient Vitamin A.
  • 100g of this variety provides a child with 100% of their daily requirement of Vitamin A.
  • Replaces a crop traditionally grown anyway and appealing to farmers / consumers at local markets.
  • More information can be found in this report.

Peter Smithers

  • Insect protein is a potential solution for the coming problem.
  • There are 1.25 million species of insect, 4 – 12 million species of insect to still be discovered. 1,900 species are regularly eaten around the globe.
  • Vital in food production; insects pollinate and help process waste.
  • 2 billion people currently eat insects as part of their regular diet.
  • Insects are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals.
  • In 2008 the UN-FAO began to investigate eating insects as a solution to the coming problem. They published this report in 2013.
  • Peter then gave a number of varied examples of insects being eaten currently and the fact that actually there are probably insects in many of the foods we eat already, we just don’t know it!
  • He talked about how much more efficient insects are compared to cows. To produce 1kg of beef would require 10kg of feed and 24 months to reach maturity. This is compared to 1kg of crickets which would require 1.7kg of feed and only 1 month to reach maturity. This is predominantly because insects are more efficient as they don’t produce heat.
  • There are however a number of challenges before insect farming for food production could happen on a large scale. In addition there is the problem of people being put off by what they look like.
  • However Peter mentioned a group Eat Ento; which are presenting insects more like Sushi which is making them more appealing; see their website

Edd Colbert

  • Edd is from the The Pig Idea. and he explained what they are doing and how this could be a wider part of the solution for the growing food problems.
  • The idea is to use domestically abailable food waste to feed pigs.
  • Since 2001 and changes in law very little food waste is fed to animals; instead animals are fed on grain and food waste is disposed of.
  • Edd introduced the food waste pyramid:pyra
  • One of the key advantages of feeding waste food to pigs is it keeps it in the food chain.
  • We waste millions of tonnes of food a year and import 40 million tonnes of soy to feed animals.
  • 37% of food production goes towards feeding animals, yet we only get 11% back due to the inefficiency of eating meat.
  • The Pig Idea is feeding pigs from waste food in London (tofu waste, whey, vegetables and brewers grain) and aims to feed 5,000 people with the resulting pork.
  • “You are what your meat eats”


The last 30 minute of the event where dedicated to questions. I did not record all of the questions; however I did note down some interesting points.

  • In Japan food waste goes to an industrial monitored plant and converted into a yoghurt based food. This provides consistent nutrition for the animals and allows the process to be monitored for food standards.
  • It is safe to feed pigs meat as they are naturally cannibalistic; this is not true for other animals such as cows.
  • In Las Vegas buffet waste goes to feed pigs on a pig farm.
  • We don’t know what the impact will be of large scale farming of insects on water stress. However changing the way we feed animals will use less water.

Please note these are my notes from the event and there may be errors.

The series website can be found at: ; the next discussion in the series is Big Data, Big Impact? on Thursday 21st November at 7pm.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

I discovered these graphs from a tweet by Jon Walton:


I will be using (some) of these for teaching AQA AS Geography Unit 2 this September.

When researching the quote “Lies, Damned Lies, and statistics” for this post it seems that the origin is slightly uncertain. It is first used by Mark Twain though he attributes it to Disraeli (19th Century British Prime Minister); however there is no known record of Disraeli saying it.

It is important for students to be critical when analysing data; this is particularly true when using software for data analysis  Just because you can make a graph showing the relationship or make a map showing the relationship it does not mean there is a real relationship. It is important to consider the theory behind the claim.

Click on the graph below to be taken to the website with more graphs on. (I am not sure I will be using the third graph in my teaching though).

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 21.36.49


This tweet from Sue Cowley is on a similar vain:


China’s One Child Policy (in Graphical Form)

China’s one child policy is a topic that is frequently used in Geography lessons; it is however a much more complicated issue than simply limiting people to a single Child. Since the policy was introduced there have been a number of refinements and has been relaxed. One of the challenges I face when teaching about this issue is

This is a useful info graphic that looks at the policy. Click the image for a larger version.

Original Source: