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Thread: Population matters

  1. #1

    Population matters

    Population Matters
    by Wise Young, Ph.D., M.D.
    3 June 2007

    Having spent the past year in Hong Kong and China, one consistent and annoying fact overwhelms all other perceptions and that is the number of people in China. Everywhere you go, there are not just seas of people but oceans of people. The food, the sewage, the energy utilization, science, and knowledge base are all correspondingly huge, many times those of any other country in the world. In a country like China, probably over a million people live with spinal cord injury. The numbers of anything and everything are huge and getting bigger. For example, 90% of the people in China now have insurance coverage with 50% co-pay. Even at this level, the Chinese medical market is now larger than the U.S. and Europe combined.

    So, it was quite interesting when I encountered by chance the following figure showing the populations of the countries in the world. The populations are depicted in different size squares, clustered by continents. Thus, North and South America are to the left. Europe is in the middle left with only Russia having a population with than 100 million Africa is in the lower left with only Nigeria having more than 100 miilion people. Asia has six countries with populations exceeding 100 million: China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Japan, and Bangladesh. They eclipse the rest of the world.

    http://www.xist.org/img/world_relative.gif

    This picture is quite thought-provoking. While we intellectually know that China and India have over a billion people each while the U.S. and all other countries with over 100 million people add up to less than either one, the magnitude of the difference is difficult to appreciate emotionally. The most striking aspect of this chart is not how big China and India are but how small all the other countries are by comparison. Some are almost invisible. Shown in a pie graph, Asia alone now has over half of the world's population. Europe, North and South America combine to account for only a quarter of the world's population.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...stribution.svg

    China and India individually are larger than the larger than ten next largest countries. For example, if all ten other countries with populations of a hundred million or were to merge (USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, Japan, Russia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Mexico), they would not exceed the populations of China or India. Asia not only has the most people but the highest rate of increase, as shown in the following graph. Asia is now dominating the world's population and will continue to do so in the forseeable future. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi..._evolution.png

    By 2050, the world will have close to 9 billion people and Asia will have over 5 billion of those people. Africa, despite the decimation of its population due to AIDS, hunger, and genocide will be the second most populous continent with close to 2 billion people. North America and South America have declining or stabilizing populations and will be a distant third at about 1.2 billion. Estimates of the number of human beings who have ever lived on earth range from 45-110 billion. If we assume that about 100 billion people have lived on the earth, about 5% of those people are now living. Another way of illustrating is the population over a 10,000 years. Almost all the growth is concentrated in the last 1000 years. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...tion_curve.svg

    The world's population growth spiked about World War II, from 1.4% to nearly 2.0% per year. The first baby boom peak can be seen in the late 1950's. This was followed by a second boom in the late 1960's. The world population growth has been steadily declining since and is now increasing at the rate of 1.2% per year. However, we should not be complacent. Even at the rate of 1.2% per year, the number of people being added to the world is enormous. Since 1995, over 100 million people were added to the population per year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_p...te_of_increase

    At the present, the distribution of patent filings worldwide is very uneven. A small number of countries accont fo rthe majority of patent filings, both by residents and non-residents. Applicants from Japan and the U.S.A. are the largest filers of patent applications,followed by large industrialized European states, the Republic of Korea, and China. This is changing as Korea and China are filing more and more patents. In 2005, 1.6 million patent applications were filed. Japan is the most prolific, followed by the USA, Korea, and then China, as shown in the following graph

    http://www.wipo.int/ipstats/en/stati...port_2006.html

    What are the implications of all of this? First, China and India are and will increasingly dominate the world, not only in terms of wealth production and energy use but also knowledge generation. The dominant countries of the 20th Century (i.e. USA, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) will lose their leadership positions in almost every human endeavor from industry, agriculture, and energy generation to science. Second, the United States as the wealthiest country with the largest consumption will be overtaken, probably by China, which is already the third largest economy and growing at the rate of more than 10% per year. The growth of the economy in the United States is much smaller at 2-3% per year. At this rate, China may overtake the United States by 2020. Third, an increasing proportion of the world's scientific and technological achievements will be pouring out of Asia. Already Japan has become the most productive generators of intellectual property (as measured by patents) per capita. The balance of power is shifting dramatically.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 06-03-2007 at 11:13 AM.

  2. #2
    Over a million people with SCI in China? Billion people in general?

    The next time I think my flower strewn, tree filled, park plentiful, tennis court populated neighborhood feels too crowded, the next time I wish to retreat to the cabin and the surrounding woods for more green, fewer people, I'll remember the more populated areas of the world.

    I have it far better than I had a clue.

    This goes beyond the visual, far beyond the aesthetic and the need for quiet, for less busy-ness.

    How are we feeding so many people in this world? Are we? How are all the billions of people on this planet fed? What do they eat?

    Wise, what's the average home like for a small family in China given the mind staggering numbers of people? How much space? What conditions? Sufficient water and sanitation?

    Think I'll take a look with Google Earth for a view from above.

  3. #3
    Huge numbers of people are crowding into the cities. The numbers of people are almost beyond comprehension and most international estimates of populations of cities in China are wrong. For example, according to the http://worldatlas.com/citypops.htm and their list of large cities in the world, the top 20 cities are:

    1. Tokyo, Japan - 28,025,000
    2. Mexico City, Mexico - 18,131,000
    3. Mumbai, India - 18,042,000
    4. Sáo Paulo, Brazil - 17, 711,000
    5. New York City, USA - 16,626,000
    6. Shanghai, China - 14,173,000
    7. Lagos, Nigeria - 13,488,000
    8. Los Angeles, USA - 13,129,000
    9. Calcutta, India - 12,900,000
    10. Buenos Aires, Argentina - 12,431,000
    11. Seóul, South Korea - 12,215,000
    12. Beijing, China - 12,033,000
    13. Karachi, Pakistan - 11,774,000
    14. Delhi, India - 11,680,000
    15. Dhaka, Bangladesh - 10,979,000
    16. Manila, Philippines - 10,818,000
    17. Cairo, Egypt - 10,772,000
    18. Õsaka, Japan - 10,609,000
    19. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10,556,000
    20. Tianjin, China - 10,239,000

    In my opinion, this list does not reflect the large number of cities in China that have populations of over 20 million people. China has an acknowledged population of 1.321 billion people (Source). Let's say that half of the people in China live in cities, i.e. 660 million people. That means that China must have at least 33 cities of 20 million or more. The list is out of date and most Chinese cities have grown substantially even in the time that I have been visiting China since 1999. Finally, the boundaries that one draws around cities are quite arbitrary. For example, New York City is really a conglomeration of several large cities, including Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Yonkers, as well as affiliated suburbs such as Westchester. Worldatlas says that the New York city population is 16,626,000. The population of New York also depends on the time of day. During the workday, the population of Manhattan probably doubles to 5 million, with only half of the people living in the city itself. I have visited most of the cities on this list. In my opinion, none of them can compare with the megalopolises of China in terms of people, buildings, and activity.

    Beijing. In 1999, when I first went there, Beijing had an official population of 12,780,000 with a municipality land area of 16,807 square kilometers (6,484 square miles). The urban city has only 87 sq. kilometers (33.6 square miles) and an additional 518 square kilometers (200 square miles) of “urbanized areas“. The population per square mile is 1971 persons/square mile and the average household size is 3.21 persons. Only 69.2% of this population is considered “urban“ (Source). In 2007, I was told that the official population is about 14 million. However, it feels much bigger than it was in 1999. Beijing has concentric rings of highways going around the outskirts of the city. In 1999, they had just completed the third ring. Today, they have six rings and the third ring is well inside the city. I typically stay at a hotel in the third ring rather than go into the city center because it may take 1-2 hours to get across the city during the day time.

    Shanghai. In 1999, Shanghai had an official municipality population of 13,053,700 million, occupying a land area of 6,344 square kilometers (2,449 square miles). In the Huangpo district in the center of town, the population density is 54,868 persons per square kilometer or 142,343 persons per square mile. However, if all the land is considered, the population density is 2,057 persons per square kilometer or 5,329 persons per square mile (Source). In my last visit there, I was told that the population of Shanghai is about 16.7 million with 13 million in the urban districts (Source.

    Chongqing. In a recent trip that I made to Chongqing (a city that you probably have never in heard of in China), I was told that the “city district“ of the Chongqing has 32 million people. This would make it the largest city in the world but world-atlas gives it a population of 3,8918,000 which is probably just downtown Chongqing. Like Beijing, Chongqing is considered a “city district“ that has provincial status. According to a summary of the city in February 2007 (pdf source), Chongqing has 31.6 million people and 82,000 square kilometer (31,000 square miles) or 378 persons/square kilometer or 979 persons/square mile. With such a low density, one might not consider the whole area a “city“ but this is really the land that supports this particular city and its population. The city is the center of the life of almost everybody who lives in the city district.

    By the way, I have coopted the Greek word megalopolis for cities with populations exceeding 20 million. What kind of resources are needed for megalopolis? Although the Chinese generate much less waste than the average U.S. citizen, the waste produced by 20+ million people alone is mindboggling. Let me discuss the situation using Chongqing as an example because I think that they may be more representative the rest of China than Beijing and Shanghai. In Chongqing, each person produces only 0.24 kg of waste per day (less than a pound per day). Despite this low rate of waste production, the city of Chongqing generates 7,500 tons /day of waste (people), 35,600 tons/day iof industrial waste of which 1228 tons is hazardous waste. Their landfill capacity is only 3000 tons per day. So, as you can see, they generate more waste than they have the capacity to handle.

    Water utilization is a major problem for all large Chinese cities. Chongqing sits at the head of the Yangtze River, the third largest river of the world and the largest river in China. This river system supplies the water for 19 provinces with a population of 430,000,000 people (Source), including 22,000,000 million hectares of agricultural lands, accounting for over a quarter of the agriculture of China. The Chinese is completing construction of the Three Gorges Project which will dam the Yangtse river system and generate 18.2 million kw/hour (the largest hydroelectric power source in the world). Water use in Chongqing is highly regulated with strong enforcement of laws because the per capita water availability is only a third of the national average for China. They estimate that they will have an annual 1.8 billion cubic meter water shortage by 2010 for maintain growth of Chongqing GDP by 10% per year. Thus, Chongqing alone can use up most of the water of Yangtze before it goes downriver to the other 19 provinces serving 460 million people.

    China has always had abundant water resources but these resources are being used up a rate that cannot be sustained. for example, China historically is a country of lakes. As recently as 1995, it had 2300 lakes with areas of over 1 square km and a total of over 70,000 square km of lakes. Along with 86,825 reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 413 billion cubic meters, China should have about 746 billion cubic meters of fresh water (Source). These resources are being decimated by overuse (Source). For example, according to Janet Larson, in China's Hebei province, overpumping of groundwater has resulted in the loss of 969 of the province's 1052 lakes! Several months ago, I was in Lijiang, a beautiful mountainside city in Yunnan Province. They used up so much of the ground water that their biggest lake dried up last summer. This was the first time this has happened in history. The city officials were so alarmed by this, they passed stringent regulations forbidding people to pump well water from depths of greater than 16 meters.

    In summary, I think that most international sources are underestimating the sizes of cities in China. It takes a lot of 20-30 million cities to add up to 1.3 billion people. In my opinion, if we define cities as population centers that include all the people who make their living from a city district, this would probably result in China have about half of the top 20 of the world's largest cities. Beijing and Shanghai both have 15-16 million population while a city district like Chongqing has 31.6 million. Such enormous populations place enormous strains on the environment. Even when the average person generate less than a pound of waste per day, the waste production is considerable. If industrial waste is included, the amount of waste produced exceeds all planned capacity for landfill or other mean to storing waste. Likewise, water utilization is a huge problem. Despite sitting at the head of the largest river system in China, they have shortfall of water of 1-2 billion cubic meters of water per year to maintain their economic growth. They are facing serious shortages and are having to make the choice between growth or irreversible damage to their environment.

    Quote Originally Posted by LaMemChose
    Over a million people with SCI in China? Billion people in general?

    The next time I think my flower strewn, tree filled, park plentiful, tennis court populated neighborhood feels too crowded, the next time I wish to retreat to the cabin and the surrounding woods for more green, fewer people, I'll remember the more populated areas of the world.

    I have it far better than I had a clue.

    This goes beyond the visual, far beyond the aesthetic and the need for quiet, for less busy-ness.

    How are we feeding so many people in this world? Are we? How are all the billions of people on this planet fed? What do they eat?

    Wise, what's the average home like for a small family in China given the mind staggering numbers of people? How much space? What conditions? Sufficient water and sanitation?

    Think I'll take a look with Google Earth for a view from above.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 06-03-2007 at 12:56 PM.

  4. #4
    Banned adi chicago's Avatar
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    east love sunrise and procreation...west love money and sunset.
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  5. #5
    What are the implications of all of this? First, China and India are and will increasingly dominate the world, not only in terms of wealth production and energy use but also knowledge generation. The dominant countries of the 20th Century (i.e. USA, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) will lose their leadership positions in almost every human endeavor from industry, agriculture, and energy generation to science. Second, the United States as the wealthiest country with the largest consumption will be overtaken, probably by China, which is already the third largest economy and growing at the rate of more than 10% per year. The growth of the economy in the United States is much smaller at 2-3% per year. At this rate, China may overtake the United States by 2020. Third, an increasing proportion of the world's scientific and technological achievements will be pouring out of Asia. Already Japan has become the most productive generators of intellectual property (as measured by patents) per capita. The balance of power is shifting dramatically.
    That'll never happen Wise. The West is hyper sensitive about and threatened by non western population growth. A bird flu epidemic will conveniently decimate the Asian population well before any power shift occurs. I think it's naive to think that the West will idly sit by and watch as they slowly lose control of the global market. The anti-China propaganda machine has already started.

    http://www.newsdaily.com/?feed=TopNe...d=china&page=3
    http://www.newsdaily.com/?feed=TopNe...d=china&page=4
    Last edited by antiquity; 06-03-2007 at 04:02 PM.

  6. #6
    What I'm wondering is this: Given the very crowded conditions in the most populated of cities, in what kind of average square footage do most people live? It cannot be good for people to live in such compressed numbers in what must be such compressed places or am I biased?

    While I grew up in the metro area of Memphis, I'm wondering if my concerns are based upon my personal feelings. Have my thoughts and feelings about the desire and need for room become a bias as I've grown to love wide open spaces?

    I'm wondering if people who have always lived in uber crowded conditions, in high density populations, feel a need for more room, for more space? Is it acquired or innate to want room, trees, greenery, the outdoors and less people, fewer manmade structures?

  7. #7
    Wise, very interesting post, thanks.

    No doubt, the Earth cannot support such human population levels. I cannot imagine another couple of billion people, on top of the already staggering numbers existing today, having to live with less than $1 dollar a day. And don´t forget the lucky hundreds of millions more that will be living the high-life between $1 and $2. Over 29,000 humans die currently PER DAY due to the effects of hunger. This nightmare number will continue to grow year after year.

    The ever increasing disparence between the wealthy and the poor is going to expand...and the social and economic problems will dwarf current conditions. Fresh water will be harder and harder to cultivate, let alone food.

    We need a quantum shift in how we generate our energy...and more Mr.Spocks to get us there
    "So I have stayed as I am, without regret, seperated from the normal human condition." Guy Sajer

  8. #8
    Senior Member Tom's Avatar
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    I'll chip in a couple things, but the more I think into it the worse my headache gets

    China and the US are approximately the same size in area. The United States has 8 or 9 cities with populations exceeding 1 million (city only). The LAST time I heard, China had 56 - FIFTY SIX! That's one for each and every state in the Union and we'll chip in a couple extra for Alaska and Hawaii too! The largest city I've ever visited is Houston. drove close to Chicago, but never in to town, so that doesnt count. Either way, both cities are vast seas of concrete, cars, skyscrapers, and everything else. Espescially cars! But Houston, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, all the big cites mostly in the South I've been to are pretty much podunk towns compared to what Wise describes.

    Think of it this way - American high school football is as far as i know a unique institution. No other country in the world has anything like it. Its a powerful example of our identity, particularly if we grew up in a small town.
    China and India don't have any such insitutions, and so many people who actually DO live in small towns don't feel any particular identity. THeir concepts of personal space are completely different. i would hazard a guess and say that being from a village and moving to a big city is simply a matter of degrees - its crowded, dirty, grubby, just like a rural village only writ large. But your concept of personal and neighborhood identity is probably nonexistent. you live in your own circumscribed world, for better or worse.

    In summary, we have a separate concept of rural versus urban, where in China, EVERYTHING is urban. That make any sense? Or, should I drink more before tackling stuff like this?

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