As you, dear reader, sit there in your superyacht, drinking a highball, musing on which A-list party to go to tonight in your helicopter, and of course reading this column on your diamond-encrusted iPad, you may want to consider whether you are in the group of the 62 wealthiest individuals on the planet. If you are, you are part of a group that is as wealthy as the poorest 50 percent of the world's population.
Yes, that's right; Oxfam has just released figures that show that the 62 richest people on the planet own the same wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion people on this planet. That is, on average, each of those 62 has as much wealth as 56.5 million of the poorest.
Living in Auckland is great because no matter whom you meet and talk to, you are never short of at least two conversation topics. The first of these societal fall-backs is the housing market: either horror stories about how expensive it's getting; or horror stories about how the market is tanking and everyone will be left with negative equity in their house. The second conversation piece is the traffic: how bad it is; how stupid it is that they are doing road works at this time of year; how terrible the public transport alternatives are; and how early everyone seems to leave work on Friday (about 11.30am). With these two topics in their back pocket, Aucklanders are confident in going to BBQs and other social events even if they know no one there.
As our population ages, the homeless are getting older too. This will present societal challenges in the years ahead. In the early 1990s, only 11 percent of the adult homeless population in the United States was aged 50 and over. It increased to 37 percent by 2003, and today half of America’s homeless are over 50.
Margot Kushel, a Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, is part of a research team funded by the National Institute of Aging that is looking into how people aged 50 and over become homeless, and what happens to them and their health as a result. Their (California centric) research finds that as a society we must find ways to adapt existing programs for homeless adults to meet the needs of an aging population, as well as trying…
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What is the one thing we can do to make our home more green?
The obvious answer is simply to ‘consume less’.
But what if you don’t want to spend your life walking from room to room, unplugging laptop chargers and turning off lights? What if a large family of children make a dishwasher and tumble dryer necessities not luxuries?
What if, put simply, you’d like to cut your carbon footprint (and your utility bills), without actually using less electricity?
The answer came to me during a conversation with a friend last week, who works for one of Europe’s biggest private sector employers. I won’t mention the company concerned, but I will share with you with what had persuaded this firm to shift a large part of its investment focus.
The buzz around home batteries has been growing for months.
Last year we talked about the Chinese Communist Party’s 13th five year plan which showed a change in emphasis for the Chinese government from GDP to population and demography. Recently the Chinese GDP has been hogging the headlines as a declared growth rate of “only” 6.9% (taken with a large pinch of salt by most) has sent shivers throughout the world’s economies. There have been TV news reports here in New Zealand about steel mills closing in cities that we’ve never heard of and workers being laid off. Then there is the ever-falling price of oil which is great for us when we fill up the car, but another sign that the world economy is slowing down.
The map above this post shows the world divided up into 28 million 3x3mile squares. If the square has a population of 8,000 people living within it (and therefore a population density 889 people per square mile) then the square is coloured yellow. If it has less than 8,000 people living within it then it is left black. Thus the yellow areas are the most densly populated areas of the world, the dark areas are less densly populated. The numbers have been chosen by the map's designer Max Galka from population data compiled by NASA so that half of the world's population lives within the yellow parts of the map, and the other half lives within the black part of the map. (Go here for his blogpost and some close up details of the map.)
Will the 21st century see the segregation of religions? Will once-thriving minorities cease to exist in countries that they have been in for thousands of years? Will the idea of a great big melting pot of people of all different religions give way to religious cleansing and mass-migration?
According to a recent report by Open Doors (a charity that monitors religious violence and discrimination) 2015 suggested that the answer to all of those questions might be “yes”. The persecution of Christians continued to rise in 2015 throughout the Middle East and Africa; thousands of Christians were killed for their faith and millions more were forced to flee their homes and become refugees. The report can be read here and as its Introduction says “It is not good news.”
With refugee numbers high around the world, we are forced to grapple with questions about the distribution of the resources available to us, along with questions about nationhood, culture and the sanctity of borders. Leaving questions of borders aside, it is generally recognised that there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone. It is only because food is distributed unevenly, wasted, or even intentionally destroyed in war-torn or politically unstable countries, that many go hungry. The head of the United Nations food and agriculture agency has stated that:
“…the Food and Agriculture Organization believes that hunger can be eradicated around the globe ‘in a generation, in our lifetime’ if there is a political commitment by world leaders to ensure that all their citizens get access to nutritious food."
While the migrant crisis in Europe has been getting all of the international attention, a much larger migration from Syria has quietly been underway – to neighbouring Lebanon. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 1.1 million registered refugees living in Lebanon, but many more are not registered with the UN. The total number of refugees could be something in the order of 1.5 million people says Father Paul Karam, president of Caritas Lebanon. All of these people have fled the violence in Syria to a country with a population of just under 4 million and a land area of 10,000 square kilometres. (To put that in perspective Lebanon is two-thirds the size of Conneticut or one-thirtieth the size of New Zealand, or one-third the size of Belgium, or one-quarter the size of Bhutan...you get the picture – Lebanon is a very…
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The researchers find that 17 European nations have more people dying in them than are being born (natural decrease), including three of Europe’s more populous nations: Russia, Germany and Italy. In contrast, in the US, births exceed deaths by a substantial margin.
“Natural decrease is much more common in Europe than in the US because its population is older, fertility rates are lower and there are fewer women of child-bearing age,” Texas A&M demographer Dudley Poston and his colleagues explain. “Natural decrease is a major policy concern because it drains the demographic resilience from a region diminishing its economic viability and competitiveness.”
Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive humans will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions.