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The wicked problem of human demography: a growing issue

This video covers a basic description of global demography
Hello, and welcome to step two. This is the first step in week two, the Wicked Problem of Human Demography. And really this is about giving you the context of global population and human impacts on the environment. And really, we’re just going to talk about global populations today and a little bit about not only how many of us there are, but where we live. And I want to give you a sense of the scale of the issue. Now, humans are not bad, humans like any other animal require resources, and because we have technology and we’re quite clever, we use a lot more resources per human than any other animal really does.
And so, the problem is not humans per say, it’s just that there are so darn many of us and the solution is not going to be to get rid of humans, we’re going to have to find something else. And that’s why it’s a wicked problem ‘cause humans aren’t bad, it’s our impact on the environment that’s a problem and the carrying capacity of our earth. So to begin, let’s just have a quick look at how many of us are there. And when I checked in July, 2021, there are about 7.8 billion people on earth. Which is interesting ‘cause when I checked in July the year before in 2020, there were 7.8 billion, 7.7 billion of us on earth.
And in that time we added about 81 million people in just one year, we added 81 million people to the population of earth. Now, I’m from Australia, about 25 24 million people, that 81 million people is like adding three Australia’s worth of people to the world. Now that’s a huge number. And I think even at, that’s just a 1% growth rate and I’m going to say this again throughout this talk, but small percentages of large numbers are still large numbers.
You can see here that in just one day there was 103,000 people added to earth and that’s a sum of 177,000 births and 74,000 deaths.
When you subtract deaths from births, you get a population growth rate of 103,000. If deaths are greater than births, that would be a population decrease, but everyday population increases. And this is data from a really interesting website called Worldometer, which will give you this information. Quickly it’s worth noting that China and India are the world’s most populous nations. And that because the growth rate of India is higher than the growth rate of China on annual basis, India will soon surpass China as the world’s most populous nation. Now just because there’s a lot of people doesn’t mean they’re all closely packed together. One of the things that I’m showing here on the right-hand side is population density.
Now the population density is simply the number of people living in a country divided by the area in square kilometers of that country. And for a country like Bangladesh, which is quite small, but has a lot of people, 164 million people. The population population density is the highest in the world with 1,265 people on average living in every square kilometer. Now that’s very crowded. In Australia with 25 million people and an entire continent to live on, that is the population density is about three people per square kilometer. Now, what does that look like? It’s not three people living in every square kilometer of Australia, it’s actually 80% of Australians live in five cities, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.
So we’re all packed into these tiny little cities, even with an entire continent to live on. And Darwin’s up there in the top end. There’s a few people up there too. Now notice that our population has been growing steadily over the last 70 years, but also notice that our annual population growth rate, the percentage of new people we’ve added each year has declined. And that’s actually gone from about 3% to about 1%. And these population figures include births, deaths and immigration and emigration. So it’s not just births and deaths, it’s a lot of other factors as well. But I point this out because I want to contrast this with Bangladesh. Now, Bangladesh is an incredibly densely packed country.
Lots of people still living in cities, very urban population. And I’ve put Queensland here, our Southeast Queensland on the right-hand side here for scale, and these maps are both at the same scale. So you get a sense of the difference in population density between Australia and populated country like Bangladesh with a small area. And I put Bangladesh here because Bangladesh is close to my heart. I traveled in Bangladesh. And while I was traveling in Bangladesh, my bus rolled off the road and I was very fortunate, very lucky that, there’s lots of people there. Number one, this was actually on a rural road and right after the bus crash, hundreds of people came out to have a look and to help.
And they helped and it was lovely because I didn’t really know even where I was. I knew I was on a bus from one city to the next, but when the bus rolled off the road, I was completely helpless. Didn’t speak Bangla. And the people who came out took care of me and they took me to the next bus stop and put you on the next bus to where I needed to go. And I put this picture in here to remind myself and to remind others that every single person in that 7.5 billion people is important and is a human and it is really worth consideration.
And so I just want to put this in here, when we’re thinking about human population and demography, we always have to ground that discussion and those thoughts in the fact that every person counts.
So I’ll just conclude here. If we look at the yearly growth rate for the world as a whole, you’ll notice that over the last 70 years population growth rates have been declining. And I think this is actually a good news story because it means that while the world environment is still being pressured by population growth, that population growth is less than half what it used to be. Now, again, it’s bigger numbers,
it’s still a lot of people every year that we’re adding to the world, but it’s not the problem that could have been if we maintained our annual growth rates of 2% per year. So it’s still a problem, but I think it’s one that we can manage. And I think it’s one that we can eventually find solutions to. So with that, I’ll leave you there. The next step, we’ll ask you to go through some calculations for population growth rates, pretty straightforward, pretty fun. Cheers.

We will begin examining the wicked problem of human demography by discussing the global population.

Watch as Dr. Nathan B. English examines how many of us there are, where we live, the trends of global population growth and discusses the impacts of global population.

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