Thursday, September 15, 2011

The past is now

I guess that every generation has considered itself to live in a special moment in the history of mankind, and probably out generation is no exception. From the Millennium fears 1000 years ago, to the dawning of the nuclear age and climate change, and the last economic bubbles - and bursts- one has the impression that present  time  will be different from any other times in the past.

Perhaps this is not true in general, but judging from two interesting charts shown below, in demographic terms the times we are presently living may turn to be truly special. Considering the cumulative number of human lives as a measure of the 'amount of history', the last two centuries represent a very large fraction of the set of all human lives that have existed on  Earth. Even more remarkable, in terms of economic output measured as global Gross Domestic Product the 21st century - a little more than 10 years- represents almost a quarter of all goods and services produced by humanity. Some economists would even argue that this is also one quarter of all human history. The 20th and 21st centuries completely dominate human history in terms of economic output, and presumably also in terms of utilization of natural resources.
Will this trend continue ? Economics are difficult to predict . Maybe in 20 years time we all write blogs in Chinese instead of English or maybe  Brazilian Samba has replaced the more traditional fox-trot. In terms of demographics, however, and assuming that present trends can be projected into the far future, an interesting pictures emerges: it seems that in less than 1000 years, Portugal will be completely empty (hopefully by then they will have repaid their debts to the Spanish banks) and then the Spaniards can finally conquer the whole Iberian Peninsula without a fight. Spain can trounce Germany in all World Soccer Championship in the next 1500 years. I wonder how the world would look like in the last 500 years of humanity, when only Brazilians will populate the world.  Perhaps at that point we will achieve global happiness.

More seriously, the median UN projection estimates that the global population  will  reach a maximum by roughly year 2050. The population in Germany is currently already not increasing and some projections even point out that the population of some Eastern German federal states may have fallen by 25% by year 2050.

How will this population decline, especially in Europe, affect the environment, our cities and countrysides ? I guess life could be a bit different from what we experience now.


Ontureño said...

I don't get it. How is supposed that population is going to be reduced? It seems to me that everything indicates the the population growth will continue without boundaries as avereage life quality slowly increases around the world . What mechanism is going to "kill" portuguese people?

eduardo said...

It is because the birth rate is below the replacement rate, which is about 2.1 births per woman. So the mechanisms is just natural attrition. One solution would be, for example, to send to Portugal women from Eastern Spain with a higher reproduction rate, at least potentially.

Anonymous said...

Assuming such a solution, the point still would be that the reproduction rate of women from Eastern Spain recently arrived at Portugal still depends on how the portuguese are willing to take advantage of it ;)

Sonia (from Murcia) and Sonia (from Almeria), both at Lisbon.

eduardo said...

As our intelligent readers have surely suspected. these last comments are not meant to be offensive to anyone. There is a hidden hilarious background story among our commenters

Georg said...

Eastern? Southern!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Turcs, Jews and Taliban.

Yours sincerely

Thilo S.

(not my real name) ;-)