Investment Manager James Tuson discusses an every growing population in an ever shrinking world.
There are few presenters who readily stick in my mind who have had the ability to convey an interesting and enjoyable message about a potentially heavy-to-digest topic. Two stand out. Ian Bremmer and his discussions on geopolitics is the first, the late Hans Rosling on demographics being the second; who challenged pre-conceived perceptions on demographics, population growth and poverty. If you are too weary to continue reading, I commend the following: https://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-end-poverty/
I have the good fortune of having a sister who lives in Australia. Good fortune I hasten to add, not because I don’t get on with her – far from it – but good fortune because it allowed the opportunity to embark on a rather pleasant two week jaunt around the world’s smallest continent. Our adventures briefly took us to the sunny, northern town of Port Douglas; a sort of ‘Salcombe-on-Barrier- Reef’, where the boat reigns supreme and the people convey a certain ‘well-to-do’ manner all wrapped up in a ‘no-nonsense’ Queenslander attitude. Having delivered us back to dry land one evening, our friendly skipper of the local mangroves tour regaled, with only slightly diluted hubris, how the weather was set fair at 26°C and sunny until October. It being only April, I began reflecting on the typical British summer I would be flying back to and contemplating how anyone can start a piece on demographics, only containing my jealousy at the slightly sobering sight of a 12 foot croc eyeing us up from across the shore. “Would you ‘Adam & Eve’ it?” I thought, “Would you Adam & Eve it?”
Wherever it all started, the current global population picture is straightforward. We are a growing population in what feels like an ever-shrinking world. What Gapminder, a Swedish foundation set up to challenge misconceptions about global development, argue for is a shift in the pervading 1960’s world view – which sees a small number of rich developed countries and large number of poor developing ones and not much in between – to one which recognises that the last 50 years have seen a transition where huge swathes of the developing world and their populations have been lifted out of poverty and become educated, wealthier and healthier. This has resulted in a global population picture where the gap between rich and poor may be as big as ever, but the largest numbers of people now live in an emerged middle-income country.
So how do populations boom? As the health and wealth of a country and its people grow, it enters successive phases of a process called ‘demographic transition’, seeing a shift from one stable population level (characterised by a high birth rate & high death rate) to another stable population level (characterised by a low birth rate and a low death rate). In between these stages the population soars. Globally, we are in between these two stages and experiencing rapid growth, with more than twice as many people on the planet today as there were in 1960. World population has never doubled this quickly before and, as fertility rates fall, is unlikely to ever double again with the UN forecasting total global population capping out around 11 billion in around 2100.