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Demographic Transition

Populations of humans pass through four distinct phases of growth.

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Two's Company, Seven Billion's A Crowd
Teacher Contributed

Two's Company, Seven Billion's A Crowd

Let's Just Make One Huge Megacity!

Go from the country side to a megacity (like Tokyo or Mexico City) and you will feel like you are moving between worlds. Do it fast enough and you may feel you are on different planets. But you aren't, what you are experiencing are two very different lifestyles. One centered towards consumption and one centered toward production. This is a very gross generalization and therefore both right and wrong at the same time, but it underscores the fact that people live in different manners, and the way they live, the way people live, will affect the carrying capacity of the Earth as far as Homo sapiens are concerned. Like all organisms, Homo sapiens need stuff to survive, and there is only so much stuff on the planet. This raises the question..."When are we going to run out of stuff?"


You may realize now that the situation is far more complicated than just running out of stuff. The future is literally unwritten and the path the human population takes will very much be dependent on the choices the human population makes.

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Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. How many years did it take the human population to go from 3 to 4 billion people? From 4 billion to 5 billion? From 5 billion to 6 billion? From 6 billion to 7 billion? What seems to be happening to the rate of human population increase? What kind of growth is this?
  2. Do the current trends in human population growth mean we don't need to worry about the size of the human population? How does the current growth rate compare to the projected growth rate?
  3. Is living space going to become a problem with human population growth? Why or why not? How do you think this situation should be dealt with?
  4. How has increased survival of babies and longer lifespans affected the human population? What kind of demographic shift has this caused?
  5. How do the projected growth rates compare for Germany and Ethiopia? Why does this difference exist? Is there any way this difference might be used to control population growth?
  6. Do you think China's model for controlling population growth should be applied to the country you live in? Why or why not? Be as specific in your reasoning as you can. How black and white do you feel this situation is?

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