Here is a compilation of essays on ‘World Population’ for class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘World Population’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on World Population
- Essay on the Introduction to World Population
- Essay on the Distribution of World’s Population
- Essay on the Features of Population Patterns in the World
- Essay on the Population Structure of the World
- Essay on the Population Problems of Advanced Countries
- Essay on the Moderately Populated Areas of the World
- Essay on the Densely Populated Areas of the World
- Essay on the Problems of Overpopulation across the World
- Essay on the Problems of Under-Population across the World
- Essay on the Views of Malthus on World Overpopulation
Essay # 1. Introduction to World Population:
Human and economic geography are concerned with Man and his use of natural resources. The way in which land, sea, minerals, forests, and water supplies are used varies very much around the world, chiefly because of the wide variation of human numbers, human types and the stage of development of different human groups.
The rapid growth of population is perhaps the most obvious factor affecting present and future national and regional development, but it is by no means the only population problem in the world today. Uneven distribution of population and conflicts stemming from racial, cultural, religious, social or political diversity are problems in almost every country in the world.
In 1977 the total world population was estimated at 4,105 million and by the end of the twentieth century it will have reached about 7,000 million. It is seen that world population is increasing ever more rapidly. This is because it increases in geometrical fashion (i.e. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, . . .), rather than arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, . . .).
Moreover the rate of growth in the last two centuries has been accelerated by the great advances in medicine, hygiene, and nutrition made all over the world. Death rates and particularly infant mortality rates have been drastically reduced so that more children grow up and themselves have families.
But enormous as the world population is, mere numbers do not present a problem if all the people in an area can be adequately fed, clothed, housed, educated and employed. But this cannot always be done and this is why population growth creates problems.
Some of the main difficulties arise because people are not distributed evenly over the earth and because the age and sex structure of populations varies widely from country to country. Only in terms of these factors can we discuss whether a country is under- or over- populated.
Essay # 2. Distribution of World’s Population:
In terms of continents and countries the world’s population is very ill-balanced. More than half of the world’s people live in Asia (excluding the U.S.S.R.) which accounts for only one-fifth of the world’s land area, while North, Central and South America together, occupying more than a quarter of the land surface, have only one-seventh of the population.
The African continent also accounts for a quarter of the land surface but has just over one-tenth of the world population. On the other hand Europe, whose area is only one twenty-fifth of the total, has about one-ninth of the world’s people.
The distribution within the continents is also uneven. In Asia, China alone, with ab out 900 million people, accounts for half the Asian and a quarter of the world population. The Indian subcontinent has a further 710 million people. In Europe too, the population is unevenly distributed. Far more people live in northern and western European countries than in southern and Eastern Europe.
The U.S.S.R. is the largest country in the world and has 259 million people but only a quarter of them live in the Asian section. In Africa and the Americas people are for the most part spread very thinly across the land, leaving large sections such as northern Canada, south-western U.S.A., the Sahara Desert, and the Amazon forests practically uninhabited.
The distribution of population depends to a large extent on the quality of the land itself, which is very uneven. Where the land is well suited to agriculture or there are natural resources for industrial development the population will naturally be larger than in areas where climatic conditions are hostile or where resources are few.
Thus population density, that is the number of people living in a unit area, varies widely. In Singapore there are nearly 4,000 people to the square kilometre (ppsk)or 10,300 people to the square mile (ppsm); in Belgium there are 320 (840); in Brazil only 13 (34) and in Mongolia less than 1 ppsk or 2 ppsm, though even within these countries the population is far from evenly spread.
A map of world population densities shows that while the great majority of the land surface is sparsely or moderately populated (between 0 and 50 ppsk or between 0 and 125 ppsm) some limited areas are very densely populated.
These areas are Western Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the plains and river valleys of China, and north-eastern U.S.A. Smaller concentrations of people are found in the Nile Valley of Egypt, the island of Java in Indonesia and the southern part of Japan.
The factors which lead to high population densities are often complex, but those which restrict population are clear-cut. They are usually climatic factors and, despite modern advances in technology, most ’empty’ areas are never likely to be much more densely peopled than they are today.
Essay # 3. Features of Population Patterns in the World:
The broad features of world population distribution are clearly related to climatic, soil, and other physical factors. This is because such factors regulate the type and amount of crops which can be grown, determining both negative and positive areas for economic development.
But physical factors are not the only ones which affect population distribution. In most parts of the world the basic pattern of population due to physical factors has detailed variations imposed upon it as a result of social, ethnic, cultural or historical factors.
Some of the most important of such factors are the concentration of racial or linguistic groups in limited areas; the dominance of particular religions in certain areas which may in turn affect birth rates or economic development; the way of life of particular population groups which may mean for instance that a large area of land is required to support a relatively small number of people; the history of settlement, which for instance has led to the dominance of the eastern seaboard in North America; and the history of colonization, which has led to the development of some tropical areas, especially those nearest the coast.
Moreover modern developments such as rural resettlement, the introduction of new farming techniques, industrialization, the drift to the towns, and changes in the standard of living, are all leading to changes in the population patterns of many countries.
It is not possible in this book to cover the population pattern of the whole world in detail, but by dealing with some countries as examples the comparative roles of basic physical features, economic and social factors can be better understood.
(i) People’s Republic of China:
China has the largest population of any country in the world but its average population density is only about 75 ppsk (200 ppsm). Compared with countries such as the Netherlands (average density 410 ppsk: 1,601 ppsm) or Japan (310 ppsk: 800 ppsm), China does not appear particularly densely peopled.
However, average densities can be misleading where there is a very uneven spread of population, for about three- quarters of China’s population is concentrated in only 15 per cent of the land area. The most densely settled region is in the east, while the western half of the country is still under-populated. Moderately populated districts are found on the fringes of the densely settled regions.
The physical background to this pattern is fairly clear: the eastern plains and river valleys, including the North China Plain, the Chang Jiang (Yangtze) basin, the Sichuan (Szechwan) basin and the Xi Jiang (Si Kiang) basin, offer ideal conditions for agriculture, with adequate monsoon rainfall, good soils, flat land and water for irrigation from the large rivers.
As a result rural population densities are sometimes as large as 1,000 ppsk (2,500 ppsm). During the long history of settlement in eastern China only the inherent richness of the land has enabled the population to expand to such proportions. The long tradition of dense settlement has led to the development of many towns and cities which must originally have served as markets and administrative centres, but have now become industrial centres.
The existence of sixteen or more cities with over a million inhabitants helps to raise population densities in the eastern region; but in terms of the total population urbanization is not very important, for only about one-sixth of the population lives in towns.
In the surrounding uplands and foothills the poorer agricultural opportunities, poorer accessibility and difficulties of irrigating the steep slopes have led to more moderate population densities. Moderate densities are also found in the more favoured areas of the generally negative western provinces.
In the interior provinces of Xinjiang (Sinkiang), Gansu (Kansu), Qinghai (Tsinghai), Tibet and Inner Mongolia, where densities are generally less than 1 ppsk (3 ppsm), physical factors such as a cold continental climate, aridity, high altitude and inaccessibility have militated against intensive agriculture. The best form of land use is some form of herding.
This extensive type of agriculture is practiced by the Tibetans, Uighurs, Kazaks, Mongols and Kirghiz who inhabit the area but does not support large numbers of people. The region is, however, capable of greater development than has hitherto taken place.
The contrasts between China proper and the interior are not all due to physical factors however. The sparse population of the interior is partly the result of the traditional way of life of the herders, for in recent years the growing of crops and the exploitation of mineral resources has led to an increase in population density.
In the more densely peopled regions, too, social factors have helped to create overpopulation. People could have moved westwards into the empty areas and relieved pressure on the lowlands, but partly because the people of China proper are of true Chinese or Han race while the outer territories are peopled by other ethnic groups, and partly because the unfamiliar conditions would have meant the evolution of new forms of agriculture, this has not taken place on a large scale.
Recently, however, planned colonization of the interior has been encouraged by the communist government. Pressure on land in China proper would also have been less, had industrial development taken place earlier, causing many people to migrate to the towns. To some extent this occurred in the 1950s and early 1960s when emphasis was placed on industrial development.
Despite government attempts to reduce the ‘drift to the towns’ this inevitable movement from the overcrowded countryside continues. The present population distribution pattern of China is the result of a combination of physical, social, historical and economic factors.
Present changes are due to the breaking down of traditional attitudes and the rational planning of economic development but it remains to be seen whether this will significantly alter the long-established pattern.
Canada also has marked disparities in its population distribution pattern. Over 90 per cent of its 23 million people live in a narrow belt not more than 320 km (200 miles) wide, immediately north of the U.S. border, leaving the vast Northlands practically uninhabited.
Even within the settled belt there are marked differences in population densities for the western coast, the Prairies and the Maritime Provinces are only moderately peopled while the St. Lawrence lowlands are more densely peopled.
The small total population of the country means, however, that nowhere are there the extremely high densities found in China. The main basis of this pattern is the physical background. The cold climate, permafrost, short growing season, rocky terrain and poor soils of the Northlands means that except in certain favoured areas, agriculture is not possible.
The Northlands do have some physical advantages, such as rich mineral resources, coniferous forests and swift-flowing rivers for the generation of H.E.P., but none of these need a large or permanently settled population for their exploitation.
The only permanent inhabitants of the region are Eskimos and certain Indian tribes, who have adapted their way of life to the harsh conditions and have traditionally, depended on hunting and fishing, neither of which supports a dense population.
The Northlands are not the only negative area as far as settlement is concerned; the Rocky Mountain ranges are also sparsely peopled. The climate in the mountains is severe, the slopes are steep and rocky and accessibility is limited by the terrain. Only limited coastal areas and valleys are suitable for settlement and these support only a moderate population.
The Prairies have a moderately dense population because the main activity is agriculture. Extensive, highly mechanized farming does not offer employment opportunities to more than a moderate number of people.
The most densely settled parts of the Prairie provinces are those where mineral resources (oil and phosphates) offer some possibilities of industrial development, or where more intensive agriculture is possible as in the Red River Valley.
The cool, foggy, damp climate of the Maritime Provinces, the hilly terrain and the limited agricultural lands are only suited to a moderate population density, but the better conditions of the St. Lawrence lowlands lead to a denser settlement. The possibilities of more intensive agricultural development, good water communications, and land of moderate relief are the main physical advantages of the region.
Physical factors are not all-important, however, in determining Canada’s population distribution. Remoteness from central services, and fear of loneliness play some part in keeping the Northlands empty. Similarly the distance of the Prairies from contacts with the rest of the world, limits the willingness of people to live there as well as hampering industrial growth for lack of markets. The eastern seaboard was the first area settled by European immigrants.
As the longest-settled part of the country it has the best social and cultural amenities. Its nearness to Europe allows traditional links with Britain and France to be maintained as well as promoting trade and industry. Another reason for the concentration of settlement in the south-east of the country is the proximity of the U.S.A.’s industrial belt.
This has encouraged investment and therefore industrial development and has led to a greater density of population, especially in and around the industrial centres of Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec. The Maritimes have not had the same advantage for they adjoin the northern New England states which themselves suffer from inaccessibility. Social factors also play an important role.
The population of Canada is descended mainly from immigrants; about half from British and a third from French stock. Descendants of immigrants of other nationalities are far fewer in number. While the English-speaking Canadians are found throughout the country, the French are concentrated in Quebec and eastern Ontario.
This is mainly because they feel most at home in a French environment, where French is spoken, French language papers and French food are available. Because of this concentration, and the fact that most of the French Canadians are Catholics, the birth rate is high and this leads to a denser population. For these various reasons, therefore, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario have about two-thirds of the Canadian population.
(iii) Peninsular Malaysia:
It is not only large countries with a wide range of physical and climatic regions which have a marked disparity in population distribution. Peninsular Malaysia has far greater densities of population on its western coastlands than in other parts of the country. This is partly due to the far greater possibilities for agriculture on the west where the lowlands are broader than on the east.
In the north are the wide padi-lands of Kedah and Perlis, while farther south are undulating lowlands which were found ideal for the growing of export crops, especially rubber and oil palm. On the East Coast, however, the swampy coastal plain is narrower and gives way more rapidly to mountainous terrain, except in the north in a region around Kota Bharu and Kuala Trengganu where the lowlands are wider and support a high rural population growing rice, rubber and other crops.
The western lowlands proved ideal for colonial plantation development not only from a physical standpoint but also because of their proximity to the Strait of Malacca which has always been a major sea- route. Ports such as Malacca, Port Kelang and George Town provided outlets for the produce of the western coastlands.
Ports on the east coast did not have the advantage of facing such a major seaway. Population was expanded in the west by an influx of immigrant labourers for the plantations. Nowadays the West Coast is still favoured for agricultural development both in plantations and smallholdings because of the existing infrastructure of roads, market towns and ports.
The other important factor has been the exploitation of vast reserves of tin which occur largely in the western coastal plains. Here again immigrants came in to work the mines or came as traders to support and serve the mining communities.
Tin and rubber trading led to the establishment of far more market towns in western districts and these in turn have grown into expanding industrial and commercial centres. George Town, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur alone house 15 per cent of the Peninsular Malaysian population.
Agriculture and fishing have led to a moderate population on the East Coast but the centre of the country, which is mountainous, forested and ill-provided with transport routes has few people and is far more difficult and expensive to develop. Government policy is to help open up the land for settlement through settlement schemes such as that at Jengka Triangle but this will make little impact on overall population distribution.
Nigeria has a very complicated pattern of population distribution, with three separate centres of dense population divided by regions of moderate or sparse settlement. This pattern is partly governed by physical factors, since the area of least dense population, known as the Middle Belt, coincides with a region of poor soils, low rainfall and inadequate groundwater supplies. The tsetse fly is also a great problem in this region.
The regions of dense population are those where climate, soils and terrain are more favourable, and where a wide variety of food and cash crops can be grown. In the south-east the main cash crop is oil palm, in the south-west cocoa and some oil palm, and in the north the main crops are cotton and groundnuts.
Areas of moderate population density tend to be found on the more marginal land on the fringes of the densely settled zones and in those parts of the sparsely settled zones which are better served by roads, railways or river transport and are thus more accessible.
Many other factors than those of climate and soil have contributed to the present pattern. Perhaps the most important is that each of the main centres of population is the chief area of settlement of one of the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria. The Ibos are concentrated in the south-east, the Yorubas in the southwest, and the Muslim Hausa peoples in the north.
These are the three most successful and powerful groups and their numbers have increased more rapidly than those of smaller groups which were more subject to wars, slave raiding and general unrest. As a result of these ethnic differences and the separate development of the three groups, the detailed population distribution differs from one densely settled region to another.
In the north the main centres of population are large, isolated towns such as Kano and Sokoto which have traditionally served as termini on the caravan routes of the Sahara. In the south-west, the towns are more concentrated, forming an area of dense population including Ibadan, Oshogbo and Oyo; the rural population is also fairly dense. Lagos, the capital city, has grown rapidly by in-migration and is the centre of another densely settled region.
The south-eastern concentration of population is characterized, however, by few large urban centres but by very high rural densities, reaching about 700 ppsk (1,500 ppsm) in some districts, and is thus more similar to densely settled rural areas in some Asian countries than to conditions in most parts of Africa. The south-east is also the region where major oil exploitation has taken place with associated industrial development.
The Middle Belt, which represents a negative area for settlement has also been affected by factors other than those of terrain. Though poor, this region is in fact capable of greater economic development than has hitherto taken place. It could support more people, but its population was greatly reduced in the past by slave raiding by the more powerful tribes of the north and south. Some regions such as the Jos Plateau and the Niger Valley, which have mineral and agricultural potential are now being developed and are gaining population.
Many of the moderately settled areas on the fringes of densely settled regions could also support far more people. In some cases natural conditions in such areas are highly suitable to agriculture. However, people from the overcrowded regions have not moved into them because of traditional social attitudes and their wish to stay near friends, homes and existing cultural centres.
Recent government policy has encouraged a wider spread of settlement by developing transport, mineral resources, power supplies and agriculture in the regions still capable of supporting a larger population.
Essay # 4. Population Structure of the World:
Population structure is analysed in terms of age and sex groupings and is represented by population pyramids. By studying such diagrams it is possible to gain a clearer idea of the population characteristics of any given country.
In working-class families all the children could contribute to the family income. However, death rates were also very high because epidemic diseases such as bubonic plague, cholera and typhoid had not been brought under control and tuberculosis was also very common. Moreover low standards of hygiene and nutrition meant that infant mortality rates were also high. It was therefore necessary to have a large family so that at least some of the children would live.
During the nineteenth century great advances were made in medicine and the death rate began to fall, but the birth rate remained high so that the population expanded rapidly. During the twentieth century a different pattern has emerged.
The First World War and the Depression of the 1920s impressed upon people the difficulty of feeding, clothing and educating a large family of children. Children were no longer an economic asset, contributing their labour or wages to the family as they had done in the past. At the same time people wished to give their children a better education and better homes than they had had themselves. This led to a decline in the birth rate.
This trend was assisted by the fact that, with far better living conditions and health facilities, children had a much better chance of survival. At first this trend was more apparent in the towns than in the country districts and in middle-class rather than in working-class families but it eventually affected the whole population. Birth rates dropped even further during the Second World War and though there was a post war ‘baby boom’ when the number of babies born was very large, the size of families remained small.
People live longer on an average and Britain therefore has an ageing population. The proportion of the population living to ages of 65 or more has doubled since the late nineteenth century. Britain’s death rate is slightly higher than that of Australia or the U.S.A. because of the large proportion of older people in the population.
The nicks in the pyramid at age groups 60—64 and 35—49 reflect the very low birth rates of the Depression and war years (1920s and 1939-45) while the bulge in the 10-20 year age groups indicates higher birth rates in the more hopeful economic conditions of the 1960s which has petered out with renewed economic difficulties in the late 1970s.
Britain’s population is now decreasing. People are unwilling to have many children who have to be supported through many years of education, and who thus restrict the money available for material comforts in the home or for leisure pursuits.
Other European countries have a similar population structure though there are minor differences. In West Germany for instance the birth rate is so low that the population is decreasing markedly and may drop from 57 million today to 52 million by the year 2000.
Some countries in Europe and elsewhere attempt to encourage population growth by giving child allowances or tax relief to lessen the financial burden of larger families, e.g. in France. But in Spain and Ireland, where the Catholic Church forbids birth-control, birth rates are still high and the population still has a high proportion of young people and is growing.
Population structure in most Asian, African and Latin American countries is very different from that of Europe. Death rates have declined markedly in the twentieth century, though they are still a little higher than in Europe or North America because standards of hygiene, nutrition and disease control are lower.
The proportion of old people in the population is very small. The moderate decline in the death rate however has not been matched by a change in the birth rate which remains very high, so that the population contains many young people. The pyramids for most underdeveloped countries are even more broadly based than that of Britain in the nineteenth century.
In many of these countries it will take a long time to overcome the traditional attitudes and lack of knowledge of family planning techniques though some countries such as India give great publicity and prominence to family planning. Few of the underdeveloped countries show any sign of a voluntary change to smaller families. Only in some of the most rapidly developing countries, such as Singapore have birth rates declined rapidly.
Singapore is small and changes in birth rates affect the population quite quickly. Singapore has a policy of encouraging two children per family by imposing financial penalties on families with more than two children. Japan with 114,000,000 people and among the lowest death and infant-mortality rates in the world today has an interesting population history.
Until the early 1950s except for a nick in the male 30—45 age groups, caused by deaths during the Second World War, the pyramid resembled that of any other traditionally agricultural country. However the impact of industrialization, urbanism and a rising standard of living led to a decline in the birth rate and the pyramid is now ‘top-heavy’, though it still does not show the concentration in the middle and older age groups found in European countries.
The case of Japan illustrates the time-lag in changes in population structure, for though industrial development began in the late nineteenth century, it took fifty years for the effect to be felt in the population structure. Population structure in Japan now follows the European pattern.
Migration can have profound effects on population structure. This relates to Australia but in the 1950s and 1960s the U.S.A., Canada and New Zealand had a similar pattern. Immigration into these countries is much more restricted today. Immigrants are usually young people who have their families in their new country, encouraged by the better standards of living they find there.
The immigrants themselves swell the population in the 30—45 age groups while their children help to increase the proportion of people under 20. When the rate of immigration slows down the population becomes more stable. The U.S.A., for example, now has a declining birth rate. Immigration of large numbers of people of a different racial group often produces a temporary imbalance both in age and sex structure, because the bulk of immigrants are men, and also in racial composition.
An age, sex pyramid divided by race for Peninsular Malaysia in 1931 illustrates this. Men outnumber women in the middle age groups while a time lag between the bulk of Chinese and the bulk of Indian immigration is also seen.
Indian women came into the country mainly after the men. At this stage immigrants were not settling down to have families so the percentage of young Chinese and Indians in the population was smaller than that of Malays.
Migration not only affects the population structure of the receiving countries, but also that of the home countries of emigrants. Thus between 1850 and 1900 Ireland’s population was reduced from 8 to 4 million people by migration, about 90 per cent of which was to the U.S.A. Many young people left and the birth rate was drastically reduced. This migration has now slowed down and the population is beginning to assume a more normal pattern.
The sex structure of population is also important. The proportion of men to women affects the rate of population growth through the net reproduction ratio, which measures the rate at which the present generation of women is being replaced by daughters who will in turn have children.
The calculation of this ratio allows forecasts of future population trends to be made. The numbers of men and women are usually fairly even but are sometimes out of balance after such events as wars, when more men than women are killed. The numbers are usually uneven in the higher age groups because women tend to live longer than men.
Essay # 5. Population Problems of Advanced Countries:
Underdeveloped countries do not have a monopoly of population problems, though in general their problems are more widespread and more difficult to solve. It is, however, worthwhile to note the problems of industrial and urbanized societies, some of which are becoming increasingly serious.
1. Ageing Population:
As the birth rate is low the proportion of younger people in the population is relatively small and the low death rate and high life expectancy mean that there is an ever-increasing proportion of older people in the population. Many retire from active work in their sixties and then become dependent on the working population. Provision of pensions and other facilities, e.g. extra health services, for elderly people pose financial problems.
2. Small Work Force:
As educational standards improve children remain longer at school and join the work force later. This, combined with the low birth rate, means that the labour force expands only slowly while industrial and other employment opportunities continue to multiply. Despite a high degree of mechanization in most industries many countries are short of workers.
In Europe for instance workers migrate from Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and Turkey which are somewhat overpopulated, to Germany and Switzerland where there are insufficient workers. Another problem is that the work force is generally well-educated and skilled and there is a shortage of unskilled workers. Because the majority of workers are skilled and the work force is relatively small wages are high.
3. Rural Depopulation:
Towns provide amenities such as shops, entertainment and better social services, which cannot be matched in country districts, and employment is usually easier to find in urban areas. For this reason there is a steady movement of people from the country to the towns so that in some areas farms are even abandoned.
The fewer people live in the country the less economic it is to provide services and the greater becomes the disparity between town and country. Where rural depopulation is accompanied by mechanization and rationalization of farming and thus a rise in income, an improvement may result, but often the country districts suffer a decline in living standards.
As towns expand, the pressure on transport, water supplies, sewage and refuse disposal grows and creates problems. Smoke and chemical effluents from factories produce air and water pollution. Traffic congestion and noise are other problems.
Tensions created by urban life lead to a far higher incidence of mental illness than in underdeveloped countries, and pollution, particularly fumes from motor vehicles, also has physical health hazards. Urban sprawl is another problem; the expanding towns engulf land which would otherwise be suitable for agriculture and thus reduce self-sufficiency in many countries.
Underdeveloped and advanced countries have some problems in common, for most countries are unevenly developed. Most advanced countries have areas where agriculture or industry could be improved or where the population is too large. Similarly the underdeveloped countries all have large towns where the problems are similar to those of urbanized societies everywhere.
It is also important to bear in mind the differences between underdeveloped countries. Some have a much better resource base or a smaller population, and these, such as Argentina, Mexico and Malaysia, are much more likely to be able to overcome their problems than countries with few resources and a large population with fixed traditional ideas.
Essay # 6. Moderately Populated Areas of the World:
Around the margins of sparsely-populated areas the density of population gradually increases; only occasionally are low and high densities found side by side with no transition zone. The sharpest changes occur between the irrigated and non-irrigated areas in the deserts, the most notable example being the contrast between the Nile Valley and the surrounding desert.
The moderately peopled regions of the world are usually those where agriculture is the dominant occupation. The climate, relief and soil are thus the main factors affecting population density; the more favourable these conditions are, the more people the land can support. But human and economic factors such as communications and accessibility to markets also affect population patterns.
The moderately-peopled parts of the world are of four main types:
(i) Tropical Savannas:
The savanna areas have a very seasonal climate with summer rainfall and a natural vegetation of grass and scattered trees which are adapted to withstand the drought of the winter. Various types of extensive farming are practised. Ranching is important in the sertao of Brazil, in northern Australia and in many parts of Africa.
Shifting cultivation provides food crops for the scattered populations in Brazil and Africa though some areas have been developed for the cultivation of cash crops, such as groundnuts, tobacco, sisal or pyrethrum, either on large estates or smallholdings. None of these occupations supports a dense population.
(ii) Temperate Grasslands:
In temperate continental areas there are broad stretches of grassland where the climate is relatively dry and most of the rain falls in summer. Temperatures are high in summer and very low in winter. The growing season is long enough for cereal cultivation but where there is insufficient moisture ranching is the dominant occupation.
The largest grassland areas are in North America (the Prairies), U.S.S.R. (the Steppes), and Argentina (the Pampas), but parts of interior Australia and South Africa have similar conditions. The grasslands coincide with vast plains or with regions of undulating terrain and are thus ideal for large-scale, mechanized cereal cultivation, but neither this nor ranching supports a large population.
Both savannas and temperate grasslands are continental in location and lack of communications and remoteness have helped to keep the population relatively small. The best developed areas are those with good lines of transport, e.g. Argentina. Settlement has often followed the building of railways, such as the Trans-Siberian or the Canadian Pacific.
(iii) Tropical Coastlands:
While the interiors of tropical countries are often not well developed, the more accessible tropical regions have been cleared of forest and are devoted to agriculture. Both food crops such as rice and maize and cash crops such as rubber, oil palm, cocoa and sugar-cane are important in the lowlands, while tea and coffee are grown in the highlands.
Coastal areas are preferred since accessibility to the sea is an advantage to growers of these dominantly export crops. Many areas were cleared only in the nineteenth century and thus populations are not as large as those found in tropical countries with a long agricultural tradition.
(iv) Temperate Coastlands:
Temperate coast- lands have a moderate climate, with an adequate rain- fall and no great extremes of temperature, so that a very wide range of crops can be grown. Livestock also form an important part of the agricultural economy. Farming is well established and although farms are usually small in size, yields per hectare are high.
As a result the land can support fairly large numbers of people, and such areas as central and eastern Europe, central, southern and north-western U.S.A., southeastern Australia, central Chile and along the Plate estuary in Argentina, therefore have a moderate to dense population.
Both tropical and temperate coastlands are more densely peopled than the continental interiors, partly because the climate is more favourable and partly because communications and markets are better. The larger the population the faster it will grow and the greater will be the market for agricultural and other goods.
This in turn helps to promote improvements in farming practices and the production of larger crops. The more productive the land the more people it can support. Areas of moderate population gradually merge into more densely settled areas where intensive farming and the development of industry allow far more people to get a living from the land.
Essay # 7. Densely Populated Areas of the World:
Only limited areas of the world have high densities of population and these have all the advantages of good climatic, soil and relief conditions, as well as resources of fuel and industrial raw materials. The largest populations also grow most rapidly so that, unless there is rapid out-migration, people tend to concentrate in relatively restricted areas.
The development of urban areas with many people, markets, shops, entertainment and other facilities tend to attract people from the surrounding areas.
Densely populated regions fall into two main categories, those dependent mostly on agriculture and those dependent mostly on industry:
Some of the most densely peopled parts of the world rely basically on agriculture. Industry has been developed in these areas and there are many large towns but a large proportion of the population still lives and works on the land. These areas include the Nile Valley of Egypt, the river valleys and plains of mainland China, the Indo-Gangetic plain and western coastal plain of the Indian subcontinent, and the island of Java in Indonesia.
In these areas as many as 1,000-2,000 people may live on a square kilometre (3,000-4,000 per square mile) of land. This is only possible because climate, relief, soil and water supply in the regions are favourable. Egypt has a Mediterranean type of climate which is suitable for many crops and the Nile waters have been harnessed to irrigate the fields.
In India, too, the fertile alluvial soils of the plains, the availability of water for irrigation in the dry season, the regular rhythm of the monsoons and high temperatures all the year round, allow several crops to be grown each year.
In China warm summers, monsoon rainfall, irrigation, constant manuring of the soil, and the careful management of the land, all contribute to support a huge rural population. Java has a warm climate, heavy rainfall and rich volcanic soils.
These areas were always advantageous for settlement. The Nile, Indus and Huang He (Hwang Ho) valleys were the centres of ancient civilizations and as agriculture developed large settled populations were built up. Numbers have continued to grow ever since but farming techniques have not been modernized at the same rate.
As the capacity of the land to provide food has been outstripped the people have become poorer. Farms are very small—often not more than half a hectare and although a wide variety of cash crops is grown the cultivation of food crops is more important. Rice is the main food crop and is supplemented by vegetables; poultry are kept, and buffaloes, sheep and goats are important in Egypt, Indonesia and India, and pigs in China.
The pressure on land is continually increasing as more and more people must be fed from the same plot, and such large populations can only live off the land because the people are willing to subsist on a relatively meagre diet of little nutritional value. Overcrowding thus leads to poverty and a low standard of living which in turn makes modernization difficult because people cannot afford to buy machinery or fertilizers.
Moreover the farms are often too small to use modern techniques efficiently. Farming could be done much more effectively by fewer people working larger plots of land but there is as yet no alternative source of employment in the towns of these countries. Large-scale industry has only recently been established and may never be able to compensate for population problems which have existed for so long.
The densely populated areas dependent on industry and urban development are Western Europe, north-eastern U.S.A., and Japan. These areas are less extensive than densely peopled agricultural areas and are radically different, for most of the people live in large towns and few in the country.
The food for these large centres of population is not produced locally but drawn from all over the world, so they are much more dependent on industry, trade and commerce. Unlike densely peopled agricultural areas they have a generally high standard of living and rather than getting poorer they are becoming richer as new techniques and ideas create greater employment opportunities.
However problems of traffic, noise, pollution, disposal of waste and provision of water supplies become greater as towns expand, and as the standard of living improves, health, education, recreation and other amenities must be provided at greater and greater cost. Large urban centres attract ever larger populations by in-migration, for while improved agricultural methods mean that fewer people are needed in the country, employment opportunities are much greater in the cities.
The three areas of high urban population differ from one another for historical reasons. The Industrial Revolution first took place in Britain where industrialization coincided with a phase of rural depopulation, caused by changes in land tenure, which provided workers for the factories in the towns.
At this time too, medical advances brought down the death rate and thus the population began to expand rapidly so that a large urban labour force was available throughout the nineteenth century. Mineral resources such as coal and iron were also available and trading relationships with other countries were already well-established so that raw materials could be obtained and goods marketed all over the world.
Industrialization spread to Belgium, northern France and later to Germany, but in these countries agricultural reform did not take place as early as in England and there is still a relatively large agricultural population.
The industrial district of the U.S.A. is an offshoot of the European region. Immigrants from Europe brought their knowledge and skill in industry to the new country, where the huge resources of coal, oil, iron, copper and many other raw materials allowed industry to develop rapidly. Large industrial towns and cities were already established before the whole country was settled.
Japan was traditionally an agricultural nation with a large rural population similar to that of China, and had little contact with other countries. In the late nineteenth century, however, this isolation was broken down and the advantages of industry were realized. Many circumstances aided the growth of Japanese industry and its already large population was transformed from an agricultural to an urban one.
In this Japan differs from other industrial regions where the growth of population occurred at the same time as the growth of industry. As a result the population pattern in Japan is different; 13 per cent of the people still depend on agriculture as compared with only 2 per cent in Britain for example.
Essay # 8. Problems of Overpopulation across the World:
There are underdeveloped countries where the level of technological development inhibits agricultural efficiency and the establishment of industry even though the resources exist in the country. Such countries have additional problems if they are overpopulated like China or India. In these countries the modern industrial economy has been grafted on to a traditional agricultural one and the two have not yet been properly balanced.
Another group of countries which are underdeveloped are those which lack population, although they sometimes have advanced societies and command modern technological methods. These countries, such as Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Zaire, or Asiatic U.S.S.R., have tremendous resources which cannot be fully developed because of lack of population.
Their problems are often accentuated by adverse climatic conditions. Population problems are thus among the basic difficulties of underdeveloped countries but those of overpopulation are of course different from those of under-population.
(i) Rapid Population Growth:
Large populations increase rapidly and in most underdeveloped countries the birth rate is high and family planning is not practiced on a large scale. This means that there is a large proportion of young people in the population who are dependent on the relatively small working section of the population. At the same time the large number of young people puts extra strain on social services, especially education.
In many underdeveloped countries industry is not well-established and there are few employment opportunities for unskilled workers. Unemployment is therefore high. On the other hand there is often a shortage of skilled workers because there are few facilities for training.
In overpopulated rural areas unemployment or under-employment is also a major problem; people migrate to the towns where it is often even more difficult to find work. Moreover the towns become overcrowded, making living conditions poorer.
(iii) Housing and Health:
The standard of living in overpopulated countries is low and housing conditions are often poor and overcrowded. Standards of hygiene and nutrition are also low which leads to health problems such as malnutrition, and the spread of diseases. Prevention and cure of disease is hampered by insanitary conditions, by the ignorance of the people, by the lack of financial resources and often by the sheer numbers of people involved.
(iv) Under-Utilization of Agricultural Resources:
Traditional methods of agriculture, outdated or inadequate equipment, lack of financial resources for improving farms, the non-use of fertilizer and the non-use or misuse of marginal agricultural land, such as highlands, may all help to keep agricultural production much lower than its potential. Difficulties of rationalizing farming techniques and reforming land tenure to give larger, more economic farms are aggravated by lack of capital and by traditional attitudes of the farmers who are often slow to accept new ideas.
(v) Slow Growth of Industry:
In most underdeveloped countries industry is only slowly becoming established. Apart from lack of local capital which makes the actual exploitation of resources or setting- up of factories difficult, the population factors are important. The labour force, though large in number is generally unskilled and has no background of industrial employment.
Similarly, although the large population should provide a good market for the finished goods, the majority of the people are poor and cannot afford to buy the products. To produce goods cheaply for a small market mechanized manufacture is most economical but this employs very few workers and does not help the employment situation.
(vi) Traditional Attitudes:
Traditional or religious attitudes may militate against change or may make conditions worse. Birth-control is forbidden by the Catholic Church, for instance, and caste restrictions on occupations in India also help to slow down development. Less important is the conservatism of rural people regarding farming methods and the introduction of new crops. This kind of attitude can be removed by education in a way that religious beliefs cannot.
Essay # 9. Problems of Under-Population across the World:
(i) Uneven Distribution of Population:
Average population densities for under-populated countries are low, and in many areas there are practically no people at all. Small populations increase slowly, even though birth rates are often high. Immigration is an important source of people but it is usually to the towns rather than to the country that new immigrants go.
At the same time the towns with their better conditions attract people from the already sparsely settled countryside. Imbalance between town and country is a major problem of under-populated countries.
It is difficult to increase settlement in sparsely populated areas because people are unwilling to forego the amenities of the town. Where there are few people it is uneconomic to provide elaborate communications, health, education or other facilities. This in turn increases the unwillingness of people to settle in such areas.
(iii) Under-Utilization of Resources:
Lack of population makes it difficult for a country to develop its resources to the full. Minerals will usually be extracted, especially precious metals and petroleum, because the desire for wealth will overcome other considerations. Agricultural resources are more difficult to develop because they require more and harder work over a long period of years before they show a good return.
In the nineteenth century when the U.S.A. was settled people were prepared to develop the land because many of them were landless peasants, but immigrants to under-populated countries today generally prefer town life.
(iv) Slow Growth of Industry:
The growth of industry is often slow in under-populated countries because there is a shortage of labour, especially skilled labour, e.g. in the South American and African countries. Where skilled labour has to be brought in this raises the cost of industrial development. Moreover the small population does not always provide an adequate market even where the standard of living is high.
(v) Climatic Problems:
Many under-populated countries have hostile climatic or relief conditions which make settlement difficult or dangerous for immigrants. Such conditions obstruct development and are likely never to be fully overcome.
Are there any solutions to the problems of underdeveloped countries? In terms of economics the major need is for an infusion of capital, probably in the form of foreign aid, to finance development. In terms of population the need is for a decline in birth rates in overpopulated countries, but progress towards this end is extremely slow so that the improvement of agriculture, establishment of industry and extension of educational, health and other facilities will in the long run be more important in solving overpopulation by making better use of available resources.
In under-populated countries immigration might be increased but this could only work if immigrants possessed the right skills and were prepared to live in the sparsely populated areas. To open up under-populated areas is both difficult and expensive and thus economic factors are again paramount.
Essay # 10. Views of Malthus on World Overpopulation:
Thomas Malthus was an English clergyman who, in 1798, published an Essay on the Principle of Population in which he put forward the view that, ‘the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man’. He thought that a balance could only be maintained if famine, disease or war periodically increased the death rate and reduced population growth.
His pessimistic ideas were accepted by several other nineteenth-century scholars in England and France and many people still hold similar views today. Is this pessimistic view really justified?
In the first place it is important to realize the context of Malthus’ work. He was not considering the world as a whole but only England. Moreover he wrote almost 200 years ago when conditions certainly justified some of his conclusions.
At the end of the eighteenth century the population of England was only about 10 million, but much of their food supply had to be produced from the limited agricultural land of the country. The Agricultural Revolution of the late eighteenth century had brought about many improvements, but farming methods and crop yields were still much lower than they are today.
Changes in land tenure, brought about by enclosure of the old common fields and the formation of large farms in the place of small scattered plots, led to rural depopulation. The towns, especially those where the new factory industries had been established, grew very rapidly and were overcrowded, dirty and unhealthy. The people who lived in them were poor, under-fed, overworked and had little resistance to disease.
Thus, had food supplies been reduced or population expanded too rapidly, these people would have suffered and starvation and epidemics would have reduced the population. This had already happened twice during England’s history; the Black Death of the fourteenth century and the Great Plague of the seventeenth century coincided with periods when harvests were bad and there were food shortages. Hunger reduced resistance to diseases and bubonic plague caused the death of many thousands of people.
Malthus was afraid that something similar would happen again. In his time great advances were being made in the treatment and control of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and smallpox which were still rife in England and Europe. This meant that death rates, and particularly infant mortality rates, were falling.
Malthus calculated that population could double every 25 years, but no similar increases in food supplies could be expected. Given the social conditions of the time it was not therefore surprising that his predictions should be pessimistic. He could not have foreseen the tremendous changes which were to take place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
These changes completely altered the economic and social conditions in Britain and Europe:
1. Great improvements have taken place in agricultural production as a result of better farm management, increased use of fertilizers and pesticides, use of better seeds and livestock breeds, application of soil-conservation methods and so on. These improvements led to considerable increases in the yields of most agricultural products and also allowed hitherto unusable land to be brought into profitable use.
2. During the nineteenth century vast new agricultural regions in America, Africa and Australasia were opened up and large-scale plantation agriculture was established in tropical countries. Improvements in transportation not only allowed migrants to reach new areas and bring them into production, but also meant that their crops could be easily transported to Britain and Europe to supplement local food supplies.
3. The population did not expand anything like as fast as Malthus predicted. The rate of increase declined largely as a result of a decreasing birth rate although death rates continued to fall. Improved standards of living, the costs of maintaining a large family and especially the difficulties of the depression and the two World Wars in the first half of the twentieth century all contributed to the trend towards smaller families and a slower rate of population growth.
Thus, in Europe at least, Malthus’ predictions were proved wrong by events. But many people still apply his ideas to underdeveloped countries, where advances in agriculture are slower and population growth much more rapid. Death rates in many underdeveloped countries have been reduced but can still be lowered considerably.
In some ways this gives these countries a breathing space for if current high birth rates were combined with the low death rates of advanced countries, populations would expand so rapidly that it would indeed be impossible to feed them. On this basis, for instance, India’s population could be trebled in less than 50 years.
Death rates are linked with levels of hygiene, nutrition and housing and will fall as Living standards improve. Fortunately these improvements are gradually taking place. The question remains-when death rates reach their lowest level, will a proportional reduction have occurred in birth rates?
There are several reasons to hope that the future of underdeveloped countries is not as bleak as it seems:
1. Rapid and efficient means of transportation have benefited not only Europe but the rest of the world. Thus if there is famine in one area food supplies can usually be brought in from elsewhere.
2. On a world scale there is no real food shortage and in many fields, such as livestock and dairy products, output could be greatly expanded in a very short time. But financial considerations prevent poor countries from purchasing as much food as they need or could absorb. Thus huge surpluses of wheat, for example, cannot be sold to the countries which need them most.
Other food crops such as coffee, tea and sugar, of which surpluses are often produced, cannot be sold in underdeveloped countries because incomes are low and therefore demand is low. The lack of an effective market is also the chief obstacle to the production and sale of highly nutritious meat and dairy produce.
Thus the problem is not one of food shortage but of economic inequality. This inequality is, however, gradually being reduced by the development of natural resources, agriculture and industries in underdeveloped countries, which in turn earns foreign exchange and provides them with the financial resources for further development.
Such improvements in agriculture and industry should eventually improve incomes and standards of living and allow people in underdeveloped countries to obtain more and better foods.
3. Tremendous advances have been made in agriculture in underdeveloped countries which, with foreign aid and technical advice, are growing more staple crops and are introducing more nutritious crops not previously grown. Research into plant varieties has produced improved hybrids which have greater resistance to disease, greater tolerance to unfavourable climatic conditions and give much higher yields.
The most important achievements have been in producing ‘miracle’ rice strains. IR8 and IR15 grown in the Philippines, turned that country from a rice importer to a rice exporter in the course of a few years. Moreover the nutritional value of rice has been improved in certain recently developed strains.
4. Education in underdeveloped countries is being steadily improved and is gradually reaching a larger and larger proportion of the population. In the long term education has a tremendously important role to play in the fields of agriculture, technical training to equip people for industrial employment and in spreading the idea of family planning.
All these changes in underdeveloped countries are gradual and the real test of Malthusian views of population and food supplies will depend upon the speed with which these countries can be modernized and the rate at which improvements in living standards affect birth rates.