The Lessons of Global Demographics

It is fitting that I am writing this article on the eve of the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day. Thankfully for us the Civil Rights titan had a dream, and the concept of demographics was what fuelled his fire. Demographics are defined as the study of the characteristics of a human population, and this is covered in extensive detail for every city on AreaVibes, albeit on a local scale only. The aim of this article is to look at the bigger picture and see what lessons can be learned.

Demographics are a complex and ever evolving subject that would require a lifetime of study to fully understand. There is, however, a useful exercise that helps get the thought process started. Take the population of the world, and divide it by 60 million. You would then be left with 100 human beings.

Out of 100 Human Beings:

  • 57 are Asian
  • 21 are Europeans
  • 14 are Hispanics
  • 12 are Caucasian
  • 70 are non Caucasian
  • 8 are Africans
  • 30 are Christian
  • 23 are Muslim
  • 6 Americans control 50% of the world's wealth
  • 1 has a college education
  • 70 are unable to read
  • 50 suffer from malnutrition

Source: April 1997 issue of Women's Press.

The above stats are interesting, surprising and disturbing, and allow for certain observations to be made about the planet we all call home.

The Emergence of China

More than half of the world's population is Asian, and the biggest source of that is China, with about 20% of the world's total population. With the spectacular success of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 China announced to the world that they are now a major force, but which path will they follow? One the one hand, China has one of the world's highest Gross National Product (GNP) rates and is relatively debt free thanks to a strict but successful state Capitalist system. On the other hand, China is a Communist country that some argue is leaning towards Fascism, and we should all be worried about that possibility given their population and resourcefulness.

Crisis in Africa

Only 8 people out of 100 on our list are from Africa, which is initially surprising given the sheer size of the country's land mass. But when you look deeper you begin to understand. Africa contains some of the poorest countries in the world, and this leads to severe ramifications. Lack of medicine, resources and clean water allows disease to run rampant, with HIV and malaria at near pandemic levels. The desert climate has led to poor irrigation and farming, and perpetual food shortages. And constant civil war has led to the tragic death of countless African citizens. For decades First World countries have attempted to shed light on the situation and helped out in various degrees, but the reality is that Africa must now look within and find a solution to their problems on their own.

The American Dream

Only 6 people out of 100 control 50% of the world's wealth, and they are American citizens. To some it may be disconcerting that so much wealth and power can rest in the hands of so few, but personally I take solace in that fact. Over the past few years we have taken a beating - our banking system came to the brink of collapse, the housing market fell apart, unemployment rose and the economy sank. And yet we are still standing and fighting and looking to do what's right, and we are still a country where every citizen is free to pursue their dream. That's why they call it the American Dream. So it only makes sense that the 6 people who control 50% of the world's wealth are American, because that's the way it should be. Especially when the group of 6 includes Bill Gates, a man who has pledged to give his entire fortune away to charity.

The Question of Religion

Over half of the world's population consider themselves to be either Christian (30%) or Muslim (23%). Historically the relationship between these two groups has been filled with conflict and bloodshed, and things certainly didn't get any better when the planes flew into the Twin Towers. But almost 10 years later, with an unwinnable war still raging on, people are finally ready to start thinking differently. Maybe it started with a newly elected American president reaching out to the Muslim world, or maybe it started with the return of one too many mother's sons in a casket, but the hope now is that these 2 religions can embrace what is similar about each other rather than what is different, and that the rest of the world will follow the lead.

The Ugly Truth in Numbers

Some of the numbers that follow are hard to comprehend and accept in the modern age.

50 people are suffering from malnutrition. This is a fact that I like to remind myself of around Thanksgiving or Christmas, when we are all stuffing ourselves with gargantuan amounts of turkey, or when I see fast food sandwiches that are the size of small cars. It is something that we should all remind our children of as well, so that the next generation can understand that half of the people in this world don't have enough to eat and aren't as fortunate as them, and that they should do whatever they can to help those who have less.

70 people are unable to read and only 1 has a college education. For those of us in America who have access to proper education as one of our fundamental human rights and is taken for granted. But for much of the rest of the world it is a luxury reserved for only the wealthiest, and most cannot even read or write down their own name. This is a stat that must be reversed quickly, for education is power and the antithesis of ignorance, and is something that can never be taken away from a person once they obtain it. It is simply impossible to change the world if you don't know or understand what is wrong with it to begin with.

As stated in the opening paragraph this article is meant to be a primer on global demographics and admittedly only scratches the surface. But the point is to get the thought process started, and to look at the world in a slightly different way. Numbers are what they are - an assembly of millions and millions bits of data that is informative but ultimately objective. Numbers alone are not what makes a difference - that part is left to the individual human heart.

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