22 December 2010


2010 CENSUS. Earlier this year, U.S. citizens were enumerated by mail or in person for the 2010 census. The results are now available to the public, and according to a NYTimes article, the deep South and the West saw the largest increases in population, while the Midwest and Northeast saw more modest increases in population. Most media commentary has been directed at the political ramifications -- as key voting districts gain eligible voters, certain states may see a shift from Republican predominance to Democratic, or vice versa. Already there is much speculation, but it is all premature. With the census figures in, states will now be free to redraw their voting district boundaries, in order to reflect the demographic makeup of the respective residents. It is this demographic change which will drive any political shifts, reflecting not only increases in numbers or migration of population, but also reflecting immigration and the ethnic makeup of the population -- e.g., Latinos now make up a higher percentage of total voters than ever before, and like many minorities, Latinos tend to vote Democratic, even in a Republican "red" state.

Here is a link to an interactive graphic showing which states will gain or lose Congressional seats, regardless of party affiliation.

For perspective, here is a table showing U.S. population growth from 1900 to 1998. Our nation's population has more than doubled just in my lifetime. Here is the breakdown, starting with the year of my birth -- bearing in mind that just after our nation's birth, the 1780 census counted just 4 million people (see the graph at top, click to enlarge):
  • 1947 - 144 million people

  • 1968 - we pass 200 million people

  • 1991 - we pass 250 million people

  • 2010 - we pass 300 million people
Taking a step back, however, I'm troubled by a larger picture. On a fragile planet which already is home to at least ten times more humans than it can reasonably support (without sacrificing air and water quality, or threatening wilderness and wildlife) -- here we are, ostensibly one of the most developed and educated nations on Earth, and yet we continue to increase in numbers. Where is the disconnect? Why are we not exercising responsible birth control in order to decrease our numbers, not just in the U.S. but worldwide?

The answers are not simple. Ethnic and religious traditions, economic pressures and social inertia all play a role in failing to put the brakes on our runaway numbers. Name any environmental or social issue, and ultimately its root cause can be traced in large measure to human overpopulation. The notion of Zero Population Growth has been with us for many decades, yet our numbers increase. Left unchecked, our numbers will exceed the carrying capacity of our habitat -- in some regions, this has already happened. Internecine war, famine, poverty, and ultimately death by starvation or disease are already the norm, with much more to come.

China has famously taken the draconian step of making it illegal for a couple to produce more than one child. While logical on the surface, the prohibition approach to population control has produced terrible ripple effects, as all prohibitions are doomed to do -- unwanted second babies, especially girl babies, are simply murdered. There exists a black market for adopting Chinese babies among the wealthier nations of the world, the U.S. chief among them. And on and on.

The only answers I can see (and I welcome your comments) are twofold -- education, to enlighten all the world's citizens about the risk we run of bringing about our own extinction, coupled with economic assistance to all nations and regions which are in need. This should be not just a local or a national priority, but a world priority. There is no excuse for complacency among the haves, when the have-nots are increasing geometrically in numbers and desperation.

Below are two charts. The first depicts nations according to their population density. The second depicts nations according to their fertility rate. Again, click on each to enlarge, and see what patterns you detect.

DISTURBING ADS. What follows is not for the prudish or faint of heart. Here is a collection of 12 Unintentionally Disturbing Christmas Ads, all of them real, most of them fortunately from the past rather than the present. Or are they?

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