Human and Environmental Impacts 
Human and Environmental Impacts
by Yale / Robert Wyman
Video Lecture 12 of 24
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Date Added: November 8, 2009

Lecture Description


Until recently, the world population has been growing faster than exponentially. Although the growth rate has slowed somewhat, there are about 80 million more people each year and about 3 billion more will be added by 2050 (a 50% increase). Population will probably increase more beyond that. Such growth is unprecedented and we cannot predict its long-term effects. The environmental impact of this population increase is bound to be astronomic. Large populations engender two problems: over-consumption in the rich countries which leads to environmental misery, and under-consumption in the poor countries which leads to human misery. People living in abject poverty ($1 per day) don't limit their fertility. Factory jobs in poor countries pay double that, approximately $2 per day. For population to stabilize, income must rise. If population is to increase by 50%, income needs to double -- we are looking at a tripling of the world economy. The environment is currently overstressed. Can it survive a tripling of the economy?



Reading assignment:


Weeks, John R. Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, pp. xix-xx, 1 and 4-6



Sengupta, Somini. "In Bombay, Public Indignity Is Poverty's Partner." The New York Times, 10 February 2002



Ying, Hong. Daughter of the River



LaFraniere, Sharon. "Another School Barrier for African Girls: No Toilet." The New York Times, 23 December 2005



Deutsch, Claudia. "A Not-So-Simple Plan to Keep African Girls in School." The New York Times, 12 November 2007



Bumiller, Elizabeth. May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons: A Journey among the Women of India, chapter 5




Transcript



February 24, 2009



Professor Robert Wyman: Okay, we are now at the part of the course--we're coming up to fairly modern times, it's been a very breathless run from six million years of chimpanzee evolution through many--few million years of human evolution, and we're coming up to more or less the 1960s, which is the period of the greatest percentage increase in human population on earth ever. So this is the peak of what's called the population explosion and we're going to be talking about that until almost the end of the term now.



I have to tell you a little bit, truth in teaching or something. How I got interested in this topic. When I was just a little bit older then you are now, I did the fairly usual thing of going--putting on my short pants and going around the world, around Asia anyway, with almost no money in my pocket. You all, if you have never done that, you should do it definitely, and after you graduate college is a great time to do it. One of the places I went to was Hong Kong. Now Hong Kong at that time there were huge numbers of people coming out of China. China was still extraordinarily poor at the time, and any time anybody could leave they left, and so Hong Kong was incredibly crowded with very poor people and it's still an incredibly crowded place of course, and migrants are still coming out if they can.



One of the--where were these people going to live? There were hillsides with shanty towns, lots and lots of shanty towns, but also the--it's right on the ocean, it's an island, part of it's an island, so the water is free so many people were living in little sampans, little boats called sampans in--just in the harbor docked sort of almost anywhere. I thought well that's interesting, and one of my friends, I had a number of Chinese friends took me to look at the boats. It was interesting, I wasn't yet really interested in demography but I couldn't help notice that basically every boat had a little girl on it 11, 12, 13 or something, maybe younger.



And then we got invited on the boat, one of the first--one of the boats and people were extremely polite, even the very poor, very polite and a lot of bowing and shaking hands on my part, and they wanted to offer me something, a little bit of tea, a little bit of rice cake, they're just as wonderful as they could be. I noticed that when something had to be done like the tea had to be gotten, or this that or the other thing, it was that little girl that was doing all the work. Okay, so what, that's one the kids, it's good for kids to have some chores.



Then since--they didn't have didn't have television or a lot of entertainment and here was this Westerner and they weren't so used to seeing a lot of Westerners on their boats--I sort of got passed from boat to boat. When you go walking around the world that's a very good, if you go to places where they don't see Westerners you can get passed on very easily--so in boat after boat--and this phenomenon repeated itself, that there was this little girl in every boat and she seemed to be doing all the work. Finally, I asked my friends, what's going on here?



A little hard to get the information out of them, but in actual fact it was a form of shall we say family population control that the--there--this was a non-contracepting population so children just coming and they couldn't support the number of children that they had and they did not value girls very much. What they did is, basically, they sold the girls from one boat to the next boat, and then the little girls were basically servants, again you can use the word slave it you want, but servants in whatever boat they had been sold to, and some money changed hands, of course all illegal because Hong Kong was then under British rules. It's illegal almost everywhere anyway.



They were just working, doing as much work as could be gotten out of them. Well that was very sad, but it wasn't a disaster because everybody was living very poorly. Then later, same trip, with my medical connections, I got to tour one of the big British--Queen Elizabeth Hospital, one of these big city hospitals, it had ward after ward, and one of the things I was taken to see--tuberculosis was a very big problem back then, leprosy was a problem, tuberculosis was a problem.



I did something stupid with leprosy I visited--there was a leper colony on an island off of Hong Kong and they were constructing stuff, and I cannot stand around while people are working and me not so I grabbed a pitch--a pickax and started working with them and of course the pickax is rough. It's made of not terribly well polished wood and there I was banging away with it and it rubs whatever--Leprosy is a bacteria that gets into your skin and the only way to get it is to get that leprosy into your skin, so the lepers had been working with it and rubbing it into their skin and they were rubbing into the wood of the ax and then onto me.



I did not get--it was really stupid in retrospect but you do a lot of stupid things and I did not catch leprosy, and in fact, by that time most--they had a drug, an antibiotic against leprosy and most of the leprosy bacillus in these people was dead, so it probably wasn't quite as dangerous as it might have been. Anyway, I did not catch leprosy; you can check my hand and so forth. The people there had the old--this is an aside but it's about poverty so I'll tell you. Leprosy affects the nerve cells and it doesn't make--directly make your fingers or nose fall off, but you don't feel wounds, so you don't--because you don't have the nerve cells--so you don't take care of wounds, eventually the fingers get infected and damaged, the damage is kind of constant and parts of you fall off actually. But it's not the leprosy bacteria itself, which only attacks nerves, it's the damage that you're not paying--you're not noticing, you're not aware of. Sorry that was an excursion.



Leprosy was a big thing in Hong Kong at that time, as was tuberculosis and in the big British hospital I went in and one of the things I saw was huge wards, they're big places with--again I saw a ward full of these just pubescent or pre-pubescent girls and they all had TB. Then there was two or three of these wards actually, so a very large number of girls there, and I said what's going on? Then the full story came out. That yes, indeed, there is a lot of selling of the children between boats, and yes they work, and because they're underfed and overworked and TB is rampant, these girls get tuberculosis.



Then what happens is they take them to the health station and the doctors say you've got to build up this girl and they give them milk powder. Milk powder is taken, and what do you think they do with the milk powder? Give it to the boy child, so the girl gets sicker, and then she's getting quite sick and she's brought back, and now she's given medicine, an antibiotic, and guess what happens with medicine? Taken to the market, sold, the money is used to buy rice or milk for the boy children.



Eventually--so TB, as you're probably aware, gets the lungs, it can also get in the long bones of the body, and eventually it infects the long bones and the long bones start--huge amounts of pus builds up and eventually it breaks through the skin, so someone who has a child with this kind of long bone tuberculosis sees basically pus, the skin eventually breaks and the pus starts pouring out, and the parents are terribly afraid and they're afraid for their biological kids, their biological sons especially. As soon as this happens to the girl they just dump her at the British--at whatever the public hospital is and they just abandon them there. What the doctors told me was that the girls are now 13 or 14, the tuberculosis is so far gone that there's nothing they can do. And the girls die.



This was my first introduction to that nexus of extreme poverty, extremely crowded conditions, overpopulation, and I'm not saying the causal relationship between those two is a complicated story which we will get to, but that nexus of--you always see, whenever you see incredibly dense populations you always see this kind of poverty and the kinds of things that people undergo. I was trying to put myself in the mind of a parent, what kind of a situation are they are in, that they sell their daughters to fairly certain death and the situation is as I've described to you.



Even though I saw this as a huge--as a very large phenomenon I've never seen this in any literature. I've never seen an academic paper about it, I've never seen a newspaper story about it, it's not discussed in demographic circles, and some public health circles which I'm aware, it just isn't brought up. I'm thinking to myself, I was not a scholar of this thing, and I said, "have I misremembered this?" You very frequently misremember things, have I blown up, did I see one or two cases and have I somehow aggrandized it. I eventually, after telling the story quite a bit, even in the early runnings of this class, I started doubting that this--that somehow--why such a big thing, why wasn't it shown?



One year I decided: this is the last year; I'm not going to tell this story again because I don't have any references for it. Everything I say I try to--if a student comes to me I can give you a reference and you can see in the notes a lot of things have little references which you probably can't read but if you call me or email me I'll tell you what that little scribble means. Anyway at the end of that lecture, actually it was about two lectures later, because there was an exam coming up right after that. More than in this class, in previous years, students used to come up and we used to spend a half an hour or an hour discussing whatever they want to discuss.



And one girl stayed by the side and then when everybody is gone she came up to me, a little bit shy, and said, "Thank you for telling that story. My mother was one of those girls." What she knew, from her mother, was basically what I had said, but the difference was that this was her biological mother, and this wasn't an abandoned girl. She said she remembered being in the hospital with all girls basically--the mother--I said "Oh my gosh, would your mother come to class and describe what this situation was like?" Yes, the mother was in fact a professor at a college in New Jersey, not Princeton, and she came up here and described it, and again, described it in great detail and more or less as I've described it.



She said that when she was in the hospital, she saw all the other little girls, more or less the same age, same medical problem, and she said, as a little girl she always wondered why their parent--their mother didn't come to visit them, why their parents didn't come to visit them. She was one of the few whose mother--I guess the father, I don't really remember that detail, did come to visit. Well the doctors kind of noticed that this girl had a bio-parent and so they took her out of the big ward and put a lot of incredibly special effort into this one girl and eventually she got the bacteria out of her and survived.



She was--walked like this, missing a hip and had a fair number of sequelae from the bone TB, but she got cured, grew up, managed to get educated, migrate to America, and became a professor at, as I say at a college in New Jersey and had a daughter at Yale taking this course. It's one of the miracle stories but I'm convinced now that I didn't dream this stuff up. That's really my personal motivation, that started of course the motivation for being--doing all this course stuff.



What's the word we describe for this era of the 1960s? The population explosion. Why do we use the word explosion? It's a rather emotive kind of word and it's for this reason, that here is a somewhat fanciful recreation of history, but we know it can't be very much different from this because we know what the--we start knowing what the populations were here, so you put some sort of a reasonable growth rate and populations, its going to look like that. The only thing you can really see is the Black Death, then as we've talked about in this class, starting roughly in the 1700s population just takes off.



You've heard of exponential population growth, and you may or may not know what that means, but what it precisely means is there's a certain rate of growth, a certain percent per year, and each year the population grows by that same percent, 1% a year, 2% a year, 3% a year, but the percentage growth is constant. The numbers of people added every year grows because the base grows, but the percentage added every year is constant, that's exponential growth. In fact, during this period, in fact during most of this period, the percentage rate of growth has been increasing. It increased from somewhere out here of .001% to then 0.01, 0.1 and in this period it went up to 2%, even 3% globally, the whole world population growth rate in this incredible expansion.



As you can sort of see again, in this somewhat schematized graph, that the incredible rate of growth has slowed down a little bit and we'll talk about what that means, but it's still growing outrageously, or they project that it should slow down. This is--we are now at about 6.7 billion so some of that graph is a projection. You can call this kind of population growth hyper-exponential where the rate, not only does the growth get faster in an exponential way, but the rate of growth itself grows so it's hyper-exponential growth.



Now there's a--the whole issue of population growth is very politicized, some people don't think that we should pay--there's no problems, some people think we shouldn't do anything about it, some people think it's too politically sensitive to say anything about it, and in this discussion one of the things you hear is, oh the world's population has been growing for a long time, we've been able to cope with it, our economics is wonderful, and we've industrialized, the population has been growing, and people have been getting richer and that is certainly true since Malthus wrote, the population has multiplied many times and yet these mass, mass starvations have not happened.



In fact, not only, as the population has grown, people have gotten richer. They say, we've coped with this in the past we can cope with it in the future. The problem is that this is unprecedented. That we don't really have any significant length of history for something like this, so anybody who tells you that they have--that they know what's going to happen in the future is just ignorant and this is absolutely and just unknown territory. Unknown territory doesn't mean, I'm not saying there's absolutely going to be a disaster, or it's absolutely going to be fine, it's just that we have no way of predicting basically anything with a population growing like that.



Up until a few years ago basically nobody predicted all the environmental--for instance nobody predicted all the environmental problems that we're having now, that came essentially out of the blue. Now this is a schematized thing, here's kind of a more cartoonish, even more cartoonish, but it doesn't go quite so far back so it's a little bit better data here, and again, showing the same thing. This was--you're here this was drawn in 2004, we're now in 2008 [spring 2009] and we're about 6.7 so in just the four years since this was made we're still on this trajectory; nothing very unexpected has happened.



Here is the U.S. Census Bureau projection, updated December 2008, so it's as recent as you can find. For what's happened--they do 100 years and you may notice three billion, four billion, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and it just keeps going and out at the end they're predicting a little bit of fall off but one doesn't know. By 2040 they're expecting nine billion people and still growing. There's no--you've heard a lot about Europe and Michael Teitelbaum gave you a lecture on the low population growth rates in Europe, in Japan, and in quite a number of countries in the world and that's correct that the population growth is extremely unbalanced in the world.



The developed countries are having zero to at most 5% of the increase, they're growing at .1%, whereas, some of the poorer countries are still growing at 2% or 3%, so I'll show you a minute that basically all of this growth is in the poorer countries where they're least--have the least resources to cope with this amount of growth.



Now here is the population change in millions and we'll see that that has basically been growing. This is where we are now, it basically grew up to 1990, it's fallen off a little bit here, and then it's predicted to keep growing for another few years and then it's predicted to go down here. I emphasize--guess work--this was not on the original. This is data, we have fairly decent reason, but again this error bar is on here and we don't know what error bars--how big they should be and this is really guess work.



The guess work is not too bad for the near future because the women who are going to have these children are already born, they're already close to maturity, we know that fertility rates generally don't change all that fast although I will show you plenty of exceptions to that in the lecture. You can maybe more or less believe the next dozen years here or something like that and then you make various projections, and I'll show you those projections can be almost anything because we don't have a very good basis for that. The near term projection that the number of people added every year is going to go up is probably pretty accurate because it's very near term.



Now, again, the optimists take that data, that here is the number of people added, you see it has been going up, it's kind of jiggling around, and it may or may not decline in the future but because the base has been growing, because the population keeps growing, if the same number of people are added every year then the percentage increase goes down. So when you hear a lot of optimism about the population situation, what they're talking about is that the peak RATE of growth here in the 1960s has come down as a percentage of the base. As you just saw, since the base is growing the number--actual number of people added has not changed all that much.



Again, we're growing, the world is growing something 1.25%--1 to 1.5% a year currently and the guess work is--and the hope is that will continue down. In fact, this continued decrease is based on some pretty optimistic assumptions. We may get time to talk about them later but, fertility has been falling. If you presume that fertility has fallen as far as it's going to fall and now it's going to stay constant, so the most conservative projection is constant fertility. Whatever we are at now that's the way it's going to be, then you don't get anything like this, you get a huge takeoff. This presumes that fertility will keep falling until people have two children per family and fairly rapidly. That's a nice guess, a nice prediction, but we really have essentially no decent theoretical basis to presume that.



Now here is the one number you should really keep in your mind, this is right up to date, this is the Census Bureau 2009, this gives you the world events and it just--for being kind of cute it breaks it down to how much is the increase each year, month, day, you can do it down to the second and notice--and I gave you these numbers last time as ratios as per 1,000 this is the number of births per year 135 million and the number of deaths 55 million, so that's the difference, that's the population growth rate 80 million people. That's--I think that's one of the key numbers to just keep in mind, round it off, 80 million that the increase every year on earth now is 80 million and it's been roughly that for quite some time.



The maximum here was something like 90 million, not quite 90 million, and now we're just about 80 million. When people say the birth--everything's coming down, things are getting better, we're going to come to a soft landing, well what we actually know is the difference between 87 million and 80 million with large and unknown error bars so it might not be a decrease at all. I mean we just don't know. Nothing drastic has happened to engender such optimism about the future of human population, although you will hear that over and over, and over again.



Now as I showed you, this graph that we are here at the--actually here to 6.7 billion and all of the projections show it to continue to increase. Again the rate of increase gets fuzzier and fuzzier as you go further out in time, but it will increase, and the projections are that by 2040 will be nine billion and still growing. We're adding a billion at 80 million a year we're adding a billion every 12.5 years. If it falls a little bit we'll add a billion every 13 years or every 14 years and that's to keep in mind when you think of those numbers, that's a billion people every 12, 13, 14 years, pick whatever number you like, and think of, everybody's green.



Anybody green in this class? Anybody not green? Are you environmentalists? Yes, who's an anti-environmentalist? Hooray! One, Two. Well I'm going to return to this theme but this can't be repeated enough times, think of the environmental footprint of a billion extra people every dozen or so years, a billion extra people. Now add up all the environmentalism, all the achievements of this wonderful environmental movement. It's a wonderful thing, but it pales in comparison that it's just we're playing a losing battle with the environment. As long as we're growing at a billion people in so many years we are not going to solve the environmental problems no matter what we do, it's just too great an increase of people.



Yet, environmentalists generally never talk about human population; it's too politically dangerous to talk about that. Hence in this course one of the very few in the country or anywhere in the world that really hits--talks about population straight on. Why do we--why are we--why is everybody projecting that the population is going to keep increasing there? It's simply you look at the age structure and something like half of the world's population is under 15 years old, i.e., just coming in--I'm sorry 1/3 of the world's population is under 15 years old and so just coming into reproductive ages and we know that for the next--they will come into reproductive ages and then be of reproductive potential for the following 30 years and we know that this increasing number of now 10 to 15 year olds will be coming into reproductive ages will keep the population increasing.



It's certain that it will increase although the rate of increase and how it changes is certainly less certain. It's under almost any kind of reasonable assumption the population is going to grow another several billion people. Again, we're in unprecedented territory, most people think the earth right now is incredibly stressed and it is environmental things, situation, and now add another couple of billion people to that in the near future and see what's going on. Since we don't have crystal balls--the students usually ask me the question, 'what's going to happen?' I always have to say, 'I left my crystal ball in my closet.' I didn't bring it today, I do not have a way into the future, but anybody who tells you they know what's going to happen in the future, and especially if they're going to be optimistic about it, is a very blind kind of person.



You've all heard discussions of the population problem and it's really two different problems. The first problem, which in the West we're very cognizant of, is over consumption by rich people. A good fraction of the world is what you should definitely call rich and they consume like crazy, and a lot of what we consume is frivolous like Hummers and great big--some little person driving this great big SUV that they never carry anything heavy and they certainly don't have to drive over logs or something which an SUV is actually good for. The over consumption depletes the world's resources, increases pollution, destruction of habitat, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, so environmental misery is largely caused by rich people consuming profligately, unnecessarily and profligately.



The other side of the coin is poverty, the world is definitely split and the split is getting wider between poverty and over--people who over consume - and their problem of course is under consumption and they lead to all of the problems of poverty which I have discussed in Hong Kong and I don't have to tell you very much about what the problems in the world of poor people are. We have these two opposite problems, what I call environmental misery and human misery, and they're both very largely the result of too rapid population growth that we might, in some utopian scenario, eventually be able to cope with, say the population levels that we have now, maybe. But, at the rate of growth it's obvious just looking around you that our technology, our economy, our governments, have not been able to cope with this so far.



It's very interesting as a political note that there are these two faces of the population problem, the environmental problem and the people misery problem, and it's amazing how people focus on one or the other. There's people like--work in planned parenthood and various feminists and women's organizations, they're interested in people misery. They always talk about poverty and its attendant problems. Then there's the environmentalists and they're worried about trees and the survival of animals, and forests, and nature and both are of course very important and very good causes to work on, but it is absolutely mind boggling how rarely you find anybody that's sort of, is really in any way, concerned about both problems, or in any way realizes how population is the centerpiece of both of these problems.



Let me talk just a little bit about over consumption and who's the number one bad guy in over consumption? We are. So here's the story for--some of the story for the United States. This is the growth of the United States population from 1900 to 2000. We in 1900 had about 75 million and in 2006 this--so in 2006 we passed 300 million people and that's a quadrupling that our population has quadrupled in that one century. We were almost like an underdeveloped country in our population growth rate.



That is up to the--almost current, and here is again the latest Census Bureau thing from--again this was--just got it out of the computer last night actually, the latest numbers, that here's the standard--one of the standard things is give you 100 year time frame, currently they're using 1950 to 2050 and we are, as you know, right about here and here is the U.S. population growth rate and just almost a perfectly straight line. There is no prediction that the U.S. is going to slow down in its population growth rate, we are growing at about three million a year, currently that's 1% of a year, and because of natural increase that's births over deaths of people already in America, plus immigration, we're just going here.



In our population growth rate, it's about 2/3 births over deaths of citizens already here and about 1/3 immigration. Of immigration, the guesses are that it's about 2/3 legal and 1/3 illegal, obviously the illegal is an enormous guess, the absolute number, the percentage of anything that it is, if you look at how they come up with these numbers it's really 'seat-of-the-pants.' We don't know very much about the magnitude of illegal immigration but it's an enormous political issue.



Now on the consumption side, of course we consume so much, and again numbers vary kind of wildly but the range of numbers are that an American consumes something between 20 and 40 times what a person in a developing country will consume. If you multiplied our three million population growth a year by a consumption factor of 20 that's equivalent--a population growth of 60 million poor people and so if you do it that way it looks like that our population growth is as damaging to the resource and environmental situation of the world as the whole rest of world put together, and that's just considering our population increase not the population base which is also consuming at this great rate.



We are--indeed it is certainly correct that we are a tremendous strain on the environment and resources of the earth, and as I showed you it's not getting better, our population is just increasing. You have to balance against that that a lot of our population growth is of course people coming in from other countries so that it's not, in some sense, Americans who are getting richer but its poor people coming in and getting richer. You can play these numbers in all different ways and we'll talk about the politics in a moment.



The U.S. Census Bureau used to say that we will reach--that the U.S. population will reach 300 million by the year 2050. We reached that number 44 years earlier than the Census Bureau thought, and we are still growing and now the Census Bureau says there is no sign of stabilization at all. They cannot give you a number at which they think the U.S. population will stabilize, because as far out as anybody can project, there's no reason to believe that stabilization is in view.



Now some of the argumentation is that again people--this is a very political issue and half the people say, 'it's all those poor people that are over reproducing, can't they learn some self control?' Then you have people saying, 'all those Americans and Japanese that consume like crazy, can't they use some self control?' It's an extremely sterile argument that goes on and on and people don't think beyond two or three sentences into that argument.



As I'll tell you, if you do it out numerically the increasing damage is more or less equal and it depends more critically as Americans usually blame ourselves that we're the problem, there's a very kind of--I don't want to use the word racist but a very Euro-Americo centric argument because the presumption is when it says, well we're the consumers and--all the poor people, we don't have to worry about, is that they will stay poor. It's a Western assumption that poor people are going to stay poor and they're not--not only are they not consumers now, but they're never going to be consumers. And that is just nonsense.



We've seen how the Chinese have come up enormously, the Indians have come up enormously, the Indonesians have come up enormously, everywhere in the world these vast numbers of poor people are now starting to be serious consumers. I think the CO2 production in China I think has just outpaced the United States, but I didn't look that up recently, and so there are equal problems, so if one gets out of one's head the idea that poor people are going to stay poor forever, which is a pre-globalization idea--now a worker in China can compete with a worker in America and eventually there's going to be some leveling.



I think the proper thing is, if you think there are too many people on earth, for either human misery issues or environmental misery issues or both, any birth you should consider more or less equal. Preventing a birth in America, in Japan, and Indonesia, everywhere that in the not too distant future these people are going to be more or less equal and we'll see in next lecture what the people themselves want with respect to this thing. I hope after this course that none of you get involved in the sterile argument of us versus them, it doesn't get you anywhere.



In the world as it is today most of the--almost all of the population growth is in the poorest countries. Again statistics are pretty bad, there's something like 95% of population growth in the world is in the poorest countries. As you know, new people need schools, they need healthcare, they need a place to live, they need jobs and all of this takes money, takes capital, and that's what the poor countries are missing, they don't have the capital, they usually don't have the technological expertise, they don't have often the quality of government that can cope with these enormous problems so it's the places that are least capable of coping with a population increase that are in fact saddled with it.



The magnitude of this growth is incredible. As far out as we can project the poor countries are going to have to build a city equivalent of one million--a city to cope with a million people every week for the next 45 years which is as far as we projected. If you look at--you know the big cities Shanghai, Beijing and China, just pick almost any name and go to an almanac and you'll see there's so many mega million cities in China that--cities even that I've never heard of, when you look up their population, they're in the millions and a place like New York with seven million people is nothing. Sweden, where I lived in Sweden for a while, has like seven to eight million people. New York City has seven to eight million people, cities in China that's a small town almost, and India's not far behind.



People in the United States generally don't have much of an idea of what poverty really looks like. One of the best descriptions of this comes from Bill Ryerson who is going to be a guest lecturer later, and he describes flying into Bombay, and this is again a few years back but in this period of extreme population explosion that we're talking about. He goes to the airport, and the airport is way outside the city as all airports have to be, and by the international flight schedules they come in early in the morning.



He starts driving in and almost immediately, at the airport, he starts seeing poor people begging, on the street you see shanty's that people are living in. When he comes into the denser places people start begging and you see very commonly a mother holding an infant, and you can look the infant is clearly nearly dead, and the mother's 'please give me something, anything so that I can keep this child alive until tomorrow,' and there's one after the other, after the other and it gets denser.



And then the sun comes up and it gets warm, India's generally a rather warm country and there's all these jitney's and motorbikes, and trucks, small trucks putting around and they don't have good catalytic converters, those are expensive because a lot of them have platinum in them, so they produce a lot of pollution and the air gets very thick with this black smoke very early--black soot whatever you want to call it in the early morning so you're not breathing fresh air. And then of course they have no toilets around, and you're going to read some articles about what that means, and so very soon the stench of human waste--you're on a main street going into the main city, the stench of human waste comes up at you and it smells terribly and more and more beggars and it's just absolutely heart wrenching description of what's going on.



And then you think that here are millions and millions of people that will never have a real house, they live in some cardboard shack somewhere. They'll never have a real job, they'll never probably go to the bathroom in a toilet, and they may never even breathe a breath of fresh air, so poverty is really a very, very serious kind of situation and you can go to lots and lots of cities in the world and see similar kinds of descriptions.



Now to do the numbers on this poverty, so we compare it to the United States, so General Motors before its recent demise. These numbers are three or four years old, so they pay wages to the workers, then they have health benefits which you've read about as very high because they pay them for the rest of their life and they pay pensions, so when you add all that up how much lifetime they're going to pay for a worker and divide it by the number of hours the worker works, it comes out for General Motors was $80 an hour and that was somewhere near a maximum for union wages, not counting like airline pilots who get an awful lot more than that. The upper middle class--that's blue-collar workers at GM--the upper middle class people mostly in this room are going to be earning an awful lot more than that.



On the other hand is the poverty level which for a family of a mother, father, and three children is defined as $24,000 a year, that's the 2006 number, the official U.S. number which is $13.35 a day per person, that's the poverty level as officially defined in the United States. Wal-Mart, a worker, a sales associate earns $6.10 an hour or $12,000 a year--$6.00 an hour--is $12,000 a year they are below poverty level so the next step UP for a Wal-Mart worker is the official poverty level.



When you go to developing countries you have to cut--to get any idea of a scale you have to cut the Wal-Mart wages by at least a factor of four. Wal-Mart makes its pants in El Salvador and the pants sell for, in this particular article, on this $16.95 in their United States stores, and how much do you think the women in El Salvador get to make the pants, per pant? 15 cents is the wage level that they get for it.



The UN reported that about half of the world's workers, which is about 1.4 billion people, earn less than $2.00 a day. The average wage, the median wage in the world is something like $2.00 a day. That's per wage earner, not per family, not per person, but per wage earner and that then has to be divided among however many dependents that person has.



I've told you that what the U.S. sets as its official level for poverty, every country in the world of course gets to decide its own level of what poverty is, and the official poverty level in the poorest ten to 20--poorest 20 countries is $1.25. You're only poor if you earn less than a $1.25 per capita, per day. In both China and India the official poverty level is closer to $1.00 a day and this is at 2005 prices, again statistics are always a couple of years behind things. In rich places like Latin America and Eastern Europe $2.00 a day is the more appropriate poverty level and that is for all the developing countries, $2.00 a day is the median, their own self-defined poverty level.



Within each country and each region there's great inequality of course in income, so about 1/3 of the people in Latin America are living on less than $2.00 a day, 2/3 of the people of Pakistan live on less than 2/3--$2.00 a day, but more than 58% of the population in Kenya lives on less than $1.00 a day; Brazil 25% of the people on less than $1.00 a day; the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa 44% of the people on less than $1.00 a day and it's not only these traditionally poor countries, but in Romania, after the Soviet bloc fell apart, 40% of the people live on less than $1.00 a day. Indonesia had a government work program so that people could get some kind of work and laborers got $0.75 a day for five hours of work a day, that's $0.15 an hour.



I don't know how much time it takes to sew Wal-Mart pants but maybe an hour, probably less but--so $.15 an hour is a wage that for many people in a place like Indonesia, which has a lot of oil, it's not overall necessarily a poor place, $0.15 an hour for an hour's work; $0.75 a day and that's much more than they can get working--getting agricultural jobs around where they live.



Here's a description from Zambia, a nine-year-old boy, Alone Banda, his job is to be beat rock fragments into powder. He doesn't have a hammer, he found a large steel bolt from some construction site, he found a bolt, he grips in his bare hand and pounds the rock with it. He takes raw rock, takes a bolt that he found and pounds with it and he can fill--it takes him about a--in a week he can fill about half a bag with this powder which is used for construction and he gets about $1.50 for the half bag and it's used for making concrete in Kenya for instance.



Children start working at five or six--we saw--we talked about Charles Dickens who so much of his writing was about children going to work at age seven, while seven is old, they go to five and six and they work as prostitutes even at that age; minors, construction workers, pesticide sprayers, all the kinds of dangerous and miserable jobs. In Sub-Saharan Africa there's something like 48 million children 14 and younger who are working, and four years later it says, by 2004 it had increased by 1.3 million, so the number of children working at these poverty level jobs is increasing because the whole population is increasing and so forth.



This is the poverty rates around the world and just compare--this confirms the numbers that I'm telling you that these are the headcount in number of millions, the percent below poverty line at $1.25 a day, less than $2.00 a day, and if you take out China, China is still one of the poorest places when you add in all the peasants, it doesn't get--it gets some--actually China makes it worse, when you add in China you have a higher percentage at these poverty levels, same for whatever poverty level you want to work. These are the appropriate poverty levels for developing countries.



Now, again you have the same two ways of describing this--the absolute number of people in this kind of poverty is growing up, so as the whole population grows the number people in these levels are growing up, yet there has been economic progress in the sense that, as a percentage of people, the poverty numbers are going down, so there's more people in poverty, but there's a lesser percentage of the total population in poverty. Again, you can, depending on your political orientation, you can describe this as an increasingly bad situation where more and more people are in this kind of poverty, or a situation that is getting better because the percentage of people in poverty is going down.



Now the miracle--so you've all heard of the economic miracle in East Asia especially. Anybody come fairly recently from China? None of the students come from China. Well the average income, and again, income how you define--of course the Chinese don't earn dollars so when you express it in dollars there's a translation and the best way of doing it is what's called PPP, purchasing power parity. One way is to use the official exchange rate, how many--they earn so many Yuan and how many dollars can they buy with that Yuan? That exchange rate, as you know especially in China, is manipulated by the government and is not a real number.



A number that makes the Chinese income look more favorable and is closer to a real number is what they call purchasing power parity. You say how much does a sack of rice cost in China, how much does it cost in the United States, and you try to use a basket of commodities appropriate to what the people in that country actually use and say how much would that cost in dollars so you can have a parity. On that kind of a level, a Chinese peasant on average earns a $1.00 a day. The person--a $1.00 is the average income in the Chinese peasant family.



The jobs in the modern sector, which means one of these manufacturing jobs, and they migrate to some city, they live in these dorm rooms where they're just stacked like cord wood, and they basically have no free time and they're--it's a miserable life but they double their income. The economic miracle in Asia is when people go from $1.00 a day to $2.00 a day, and there's hundreds of millions of people, you add up China and India, hundreds of millions of people who are desperate to earn $2.00 a day; it's a doubling of their income. When you read these horrible stories, horrible to our ears, of how, especially women, moving into the big cities Guangdong, Canton or any of the big cities, how they're living and the conditions they're working under, remember it represents a doubling of their income and it's so much--they can send most of that back to their home village and home villages are all living on this kind of income.



When we talk about poverty--we will later talk about population in China - you must realize that basically all of those workers who now have access to moderately decent education can compete with us. There's very few jobs that we can do and they can't do, and so we at up to $80 an hour for a blue collar worker are basically in competition with someone who's very happy--and they grumble, people working for GM grumble, and in some of their conditions the grumbling could be quite fair--but they're in competition with people earning $2.00, that wish they would earn $2.00 a day.



In places--this is not only our competition but jewelry making, very labor intensive--of course countries with low wage rates attract very labor intensive jobs and hand making of jewelry is a very labor intensive job. Sure enough, Bangkok was one of the centers of jewelry making, and because it was the center and it requires a fair amount of skill, the wages actually rose in Bangkok for these jewelry makers and they got up to $8.00 a day for a jewelry worker in Bangkok. Guess what happened? All the factories moved to China, they're back down to $2.00 a day, a saving of 75% on your labor costs; of course they're going to do it.



Not only in China, but Mexico, all the maquiladoras, the border between Texas and California and Mexico has a lot of factories and because of various trade laws they can assemble things and just ship them across the border with low trade tariffs and everything, and they have been nearly wiped out with jobs moving to China. Now of course, for a while anyway, conditions were getting a little bit better in China so the jobs moved to? Anyone reading the newspapers? Who's now competing with China? India, at a high level, but Vietnam, Cambodia, places that are even poorer than China are now even taking jobs away from China.



In Romania, which is one of the poorest countries in Europe, the wages average about $83.00 a week, so $10.00 or $12.00 a day. When they got into the European Union what did the Romanian workers do? They moved out to France, Germany, England to get the higher wages that are available there which left a lot of jobs unfilled in Romania where they get $12.00 a day as I've just said. What did the Romanians do? Imported Chinese, who worked for less and filled the jobs, there's an unlimited number of peasants in China that would love to work in Romania under almost any kind of conditions, and they leave their husbands, their children, everybody is left home usually under the care of grandparents who are too old themselves to work.



Keep that in mind, abject poverty is a $1.00 a day, the economic miracle is $2.00 a day. Okay, what does living look like in these places? We've been talking about Bombay, and Shanghai, these are big places that everybody knows about. You'll never guess where this is and you've probably never heard of it. This is the capital of Mauritania. How many know where Mauritania is? Good, it's on the Atlantic coast of Africa. I should remember to always make a slide--geography map slides but I didn't. It's on the Atlantic coast it is--the capital is a place called Nouakchott. Nouakchott is over there somewhere and this is the suburbs of Nouakchott and what it is is desert it's--all of Mauritania is basically desert, until it rolls into the ocean in which case it becomes an ocean.



In the desert all these people live in shanties of any kind of construction material that they can find. The national government, the city government does not have the resources to deal with these people at all, so they get no sanitation, they get no policing, they get no water, there's just--these are called unplanned communities and they sort of basically don't exist. What are they to the government? They're a source of problems because very poor people, who have nothing to lose, revolt every so often. They say you've got something, we don't have it, we want it, why is the government not doing anything for us, so this is a source of social discontent, and the shanty towns are around every big city in the world are great sources of social discontent.



What you see here is a road, and I've just said they basically don't have roads. What happens is that the military in each of these countries wants to be sure to be able to control the people, so every so often they send in a bulldozer, you can sort of see another road here off to the right. Let me get a better one of these--they just come in one morning and the people are asleep in their shanty's because they don't have any jobs. And very early in the morning they just hear this rumble and they walk outside to find out what it is and the bulldozer is two minutes away from their house and they just go down and knock out anything that's in the way. If you happen to be in the path that the military bulldoze knocks down, well sorry, sorry, that's gone, and then the soldiers can go into these situations.



The point being that these enormous dense populations, which we associate with Calcutta or Bombay, or Shanghai, Canton, are in fact almost everywhere in the world now including this--this is where Nouakchott meets the Atlantic Ocean. Here's the Atlantic Ocean there, and what do they live on? Well they live on fishing and each of these little things here, if you can see, is a fishing boat, a little boat that they row out and fish. Look at how many boats there are, all trying to get an occasional fish and that's not a terribly rich fishing ground of the world. It's very close to the equator and there's no big upwelling of nutrients, there's not a great big fishing down there. This is how the people have been competing with each other for the few fish that are out there.



Now--so that's the desert and here is the jungle. This is Brazil in a place that you may have heard of Serra Pelada, peeled mountain or naked mountain, anybody who has heard of it or seen pictures of this before? One--a couple of people, it's very well known, so if you travel in Brazil all the big cities again have shanty towns where people are desperate for some kind of a job. Every so often a truck rolls through and says, I have some jobs, and people just pile in, and I've watched it, and they don't ask how much, where am I going, what's the kind of work; a job is like a magic word, it's like manna from heaven, they jump in the truck.



Well one of the places you're taken to is this place, and this place is way in the middle of the jungle, like 1,000 miles from Rio or Sao Paolo and what it is, it's a mountain that they found gold in. Normally if you've seen like mining in the western United States they have these steam shovels which have a bucket as big as this whole room probably, and each drag of the bucket pulls up hundreds of tons, I don't know the actual numbers. In Serra Pelada, human labor is cheaper than to buy a steam shovel. What each of these little dots are is a person.



What it is? This is a pit and they're digging in the mud there, they carry the mud up--the sluicing is up here on the top where they have--sluicing is--gold is heavier than soil so they take, basically mud, dump it into someplace, water runs over it, washes away the mud, and anything that sticks down falls heavy in little flakes or tiny nuggets of gold; that's the primitive way of doing gold mining. Just flow water over mud and there's very, very low concentration you get a gold flake there.



What do these people--how do they work? This is--they go down, then climb--these are wooden ladders, and another part they climb down the ladders and they have burlap sacks on their back, the cheapest kind of sack, and they go down and with very primitive implements or maybe their hands, they take the earth from the bottom of the pit, they put it in these packs, they put the pack on their back and they climb up the stairs and dump it into the sluice apparatus and then go back down. That's their whole life. There are miserable wages, they can't leave because they're in the middle of the jungle, they have no way of getting back to any kind of civilization. The companies do indeed provide prostitutes for them. This whole village is full of prostitutes which are the women that come out the same situation. Send a truck around and say they have jobs for women, they jump on with little or no questions asked.



How is the whole thing kept under control? By soldiers with guns or paramilitaries with guns, and here is moderately typical, one of the workers has not even the clothes on his back, and there's huge numbers of them and they are kept in control. In this particular instance the things were looking like they were going to go out of control. Again, this is all around the world you'll find situations like this.



Sometimes I talk about--everywhere in the world. If you go up to Mt. Everest--we've got--what are the ends of the earth? There's the deserts, there's the jungles, and there's Mt. Everest and I just copied down some statistics on Mt. Everest, how much population there is in the world. There's--up high, and I used to mountain climb a lot, a single footstep can require eight breaths, you take a step you pant eight times, and people like me it would be a lot more than eight times. On one particular day, and standard in the couple of months that you can climb it, there's 500 climbers waiting to climb up Everest.



The place is just littered with dead bodies, it's littered with oxygen bottles, I mean Mt. Everest is kind of a congestion zone, it looks like Grand Central Station that have been sort of cleared out of people on many days. There's 120 dead bodies littering the top of Mt. Everest, so population has gotten so extreme that it's not only the big cities, it's basically everywhere that you look people are.



Let's just conclude today with a little bit of future guessing. We know that fertility--so now we have most of the world at a very high fertility rate, population going gangbusters. Now can we dream up a scenario where this gets better? It may get better, it may not get better, things may get worse until there's some incredible crisis or things may stay as they are now, or things may coast to a soft landing, we don't know. Let's draw ourselves a scenario for the soft landing situation. One of the things that we know is that there's very, very poor people, these $1.00 a day people don't limit their births and the exact reason for it we'll discuss later. A lot of it has to do with education, that they don't--a lot of things about how their bodies work they don't understand, so they're afraid of modern contraception, a lot of issues which we will discuss.



We observe around the world that some increase in standard of living has to take place for--before people start being willing and want to limit their fertility. Let's take the minimum situation, let's say someone gets one of these $2.00 a day jobs and that's--then they start thinking differently about themselves in the world, they may be in the city where they get some education, some awareness of what's going on in the world, they want to limit their population so let's say that we go from $1.00 a day to $2.00 a day, that's incredibly optimistic that $2.00 a day is sufficient but you'll see what--where I'm going. That's a doubling of income of the poor people.



Again, something like a third of the people on earth are in this $1.00 to $2.00 a day range, so you double their income and all of sudden miracles happen and population stops growing, not real, way overly optimistic. Another thing that we know is that when incomes around the world rise the poor people have the smallest rise and the rich people have the biggest rise. If the small people are doubling their income, what is the average of the whole world doing? It's going to be much then doubling. Again, you can pick--I'm sure economists have these numbers, I don't have them, you can pick whatever you want. If in order to raise most of the world from $1.00 a day to $2.00 a day you need to double their income and does the whole world rise by more than 2 times maybe 3 times, but we can pick any number that we want.



I've told you two facts, that the population of the world is for sure going to increase by something like 50% before, if, and when it stabilizes. We can sort of see ballpark a 50% increase coming. Now, but this average standard of living has to at least double, and probably triple or quadruple, or again pick almost whatever number you want, so at the minimum of doubling the world's per capita income, 50% more people are doubling the income means a three--that the gross economy, well it has to triple because you have 1.5 time as many people, each earning twice as much, that's a tripling of the world economy. If you want to say that the world--that to double the income of poor people you have to triple the world economy, then that's three times more or four and half times as much.



Basically we're looking at a optimistic scenario for the future where we come to a soft landing and then in order to come to a soft landing we have to have the economy of the world increase by a factor of three, by a factor of four, four and a half, five, six, somewhere in that range of numbers. Now technology--the improvement of technology allows us to grow our income with--a somewhat less than proportionate increase in resources, and again, you can make a wild guess about how much technology will improve in the future so that we can double our income without quite doubling the drain on world's sources or the amount of pollution we put it into, or the amount of carbon dioxide we put into it.



We're looking at this enormous increase in order to come to a soft landing, we're looking at this at least a tripling of the world economy, and something like a tripling of the pollution in the world, the carbon dioxide in the world, the use of resources in the world. Most people believe that we're at the limit of what the earth can cope with in terms of the economy, which is basically how much we're taking out of the earth. We're at the limit right now but with population we're not going to have a soft landing unless we triple that, at least minimum triple that. That's the significance of this population issue that can the earth cope with the tripling of the economic activity on it? I left my crystal ball home so you're going to--you are definitely going to find out the answer to that question. Okay, next time we will continue.



[end of transcript]

Course Index

Course Description


This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analyzes with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.



Course Structure:

This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 75 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2009.

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