Chapter 14 of Social Problems

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Lorne Tepperman

Chapter 14 Populations, Cities, and Neighbourhoods Introduction Examines the interactions between human society and the built environment, and problems that emerge from these interactions Two common threads run through the study of population and urban sociology 1. Each topic directly addresses the physical and material backdrops of social life 2. Human ingenuity is both at the root of various social problems and is the course of potential solutions to these problems Some worry that we face insuperable population problems Others are not given to worry at all Julian Simon believed that human being are the ultimate resource o Some of Simons theories about the infinite productiveness of the planet have been disproved as too simplistic o Still, one element of Simon central thesis is hard to refute: the human species, throughout its short history, has proven hugely creative when confronting difficulty o Argues that to solve the problems associated with population growth: we may not need fewer people but better-equipped and better-educated people a commitment to using technology for the good of humanity One population-related problem relates to the imperfections in how societies are organized (cities) o The continued growth of the worlds population only worsens our urban problems by making them larger and more complex Another problem is the rapidity of population growth and urbanization World Population in Context History of the worlds population unfolded in 2 general stages: 1. An extended period of slow growth (beginning-mid 18 century) population only doubled once 2. Brief period of explosive growth after 1750 doubled 3 times surpassing 6 billion before 2000 Worldwide growth rates peaked in the 70s and have been in decline for several years now Population growth occurs unevenly around the world, with most developed nations, experiencing 0 or <0 growth Massimo Livi-Bacci predicts that developing countries will account for approx 95% of world population increase 1990-2025 Other problems: location, immigration, internal migration, crowing and depopulation How has population growth resolved itself? o Partly through population planning through the application of official coercion and incentives but mainly through the so-called demographic transition The Demographic Transition Demographic transition: shift in a population or society through a series of stages from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates Typically occurs in parallel with a societys socio-economic development Stage 1 o Still in its premodern phase: # of deaths = # of births and are high o Steady population sixe with only min growth Stage 2 o Arrives as the population enters the early stages of urbanization and industrialization, when socio- economic advances result in declining death rates o Birth rates remain high -> explosive population growth and young population profile Stage 3 o Birth rates begin to fall, slowly reaching levels comparable to the death rate o Population continues to grow but the rate of increase slow down Stage 4 o Post-industrial phase of development o Population is once again stable o Birth rates = death rates and are at historic lows o Overall population begins to age Canada has a declining natural growth rate Were it not for immigration, Canadas population would shrink every year Contrasting Perspectives on Population Change The Malthusian Position A continued population explosion was feared throughout much of the 19 and 20 century Modern scientific theories began with the ideas of Thomas Malthus: o Population when unchecked increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence only increase in an arithmetical ratio *therefore+ the power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man Malthus reasoned that a population growing exponentially And increase in the food supply are only additive (1,2,3 blah blah blah) Limits on available land, soil quality, and technology all constrain the growth in food supplies Limits are needed to keep pop growth in line with growth in the food supply Welfare schemes to help the poor by redistributing wealth are futile Only sure solutions are: positive checks and preventive checks o Positive checks: part of Malthusian theory, these prevent overpopulation by increasing the death rate war, famine, pestilence, and disease o Preventive checks: in Melthusian theory, these prevent overpopulation by limiting the number of survivals of live births abortion, infanticide, sexual abstinence, delayed marriage, and contraceptive technologies Neo-Malthusians believe the world is becoming overpopulated, that population growth will outstrip agricultural growth, and that this population burden will permanently harm the environment With population growth come new challenges: o Increased competition for nonrenewable resources o The need to feed, nurture, and educate a larger proportion of young people o Increased pressures on the health and welfare systems o The need for governments to prevent and deal with economic and natural disasters Criticism of the Malthusian Perspective It is not clear that population pressures will cause warso Other blame the recurring conflicts over space and resources on capitalism, imperialism, fascism, tribalism, or a variety of other political motivations o Some governments are both less warlike and more inclined to handle the population issue in a peaceful, progressive way Some note that Malthus was wrong in supposing that food supplies can increase only arithmetically o In technologically advanced societies, food production has increased at a faster rate than the human population owing to better seeds, fertilizers, and growth techniques Alfred Sauvy described potential overpopulation as a false problem and argued against efforts to control global population o Suggested examining countries case by case to see whether they lack the raw materials and natural resources that can support a larger population o Otherwise, we run the risk of underpopulating a country o A larger population is not necessarily good, but if unavoidable, we need to find its benefits; can do if we confront the issues of social and political organization Joel Cohen notes that a fundamental problem may lie in the notion of a single carrying capacity for the planet o Argues that this model down not translate well to human societies o Animals are stuck with the environments they inhabit; humanity can modify its environment through technology Therefore, humanity is constantly defying standard ecological models of population behaviour Population Density Population density: the number of people who live within a geographic area, usually expressed as people per m
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