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).
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 http://www.eat-ento.co.uk/.
- 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:
- 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: http://www.21stcenturychallenges.org ; the next discussion in the series is Big Data, Big Impact? on Thursday 21st November at 7pm.
An article in the Economist which will be useful for Geography Teaching.