Our Shrinking Planet
November 2017, Polity
In the space of another generation, the population of the earth will rise by 2.5 billion. Yet the real problem we face is not so much the increase in numbers but the fact that growth will be highly uneven. Whereas rich countries will see aging populations with little growth, populations in poor countries will double or even triple, with a much higher percentage of young people.
Against this backdrop, demographer Massimo Livi Bacci examines the implications of this disproportionate demographic development for domestic social stability, international migration flows, the balance of power among nations and the natural environment. Covering 10,000 years of human history, from the beginning of the Stone Age to the present, Livi Bacci shows how the space available for every inhabitant of the planet has decreased by a factor of a thousand. Limits to the world's capacity – which once seemed a remote issue – are now among the most pressing issues we face, and the need to create effective global mechanisms for sustainable development is now more urgent than ever.
Going beyond the demographic data to tackle questions concerning the environment, sustainability and economic development, Our Shrinking Planet will be an invaluable text for students and scholars across the social sciences, as well as for any reader concerned by the moral and ethical implications of an ever more crowded planet.
- Author’s note
- Chapter One
- Growing and shrinking
- Eros, Thanatos and the demographic balance in the ancient world. From biological-instinctual conditions to individual choice. The world’s changeable geodemography. Demographic transition and demographic revolution: from 1 to 10 billion in two centuries.
- Chapter Two
- Land, water, air
- Simeon Stylites and his environmental footprint. The cabal of the 10 x 2 x 7. More than half the planet changed by human intervention. Population and fragile regions: coasts, forests and urbanisation. From the London smog of the seventeenth century to the greenhouse effect in the twenty-first.
- Chapter Three
- Adaptation and self-regulation
- Demographic systems’ adaptation and self-regulation. Examples from history. The possibility of regulating modern populations: reproduction levels and migration. Biological and social change. Italy after the crisis: a system-change?
- Chapter Four
- SustainableÉ for whom?
- Zeus, the Brundtland Report and sustainability. The Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals: isn’t population a priority any more? Demographic explosion, demographic decline: both unsustainable. The parable of Tycoonia and Pauperia.
- Chapter Five
- Geodemography and geopolitics
- Mussolini Ð numbers mean power. The pendulum of fear, between growth and decline. Geodemography and geopolitics. The weight of numbers within states: ethnicities, religions, minorities and majorities. Power rankings.
- Chapter Six
- Homo sapiens, Homo movens
- Shipwrecks and barriers. International migration grows despite obstacles. Demographic and economic pressures. Three past globalisation processes, and the fourth one to come. The unsustainability of politics without international rules.
- Chapter Seven
- Long lifespans have their cost
- A woman from Arles lived to 122 years of age. In the rich countries a life expectancy of 90 is not far off. The sustainability of long lifespans. The profile of a 100 year society. Rigid ages, flexible roles. Four generations under one roof.
- Chapter Eight
- Few prescriptions for many ills
- Poverty and hunger: the Millennium Development Goals reached. But the numbers of poor and hungry in Africa increase. The burden of 168 objectives. The Malthusian trap. Nuclear-armed India with one in five children wasted. Political mission: concentrate efforts, dismantle the trap.
- Our shrinking planet
- A thousand times more crowded, a thousand times smaller. Still today a pendulum of fear, between overpopulation and depopulation. Seven demographic and political notes. Awareness of limits.
"A welcome reminder of how geographical differences in demography have a profound affect on people's lives."
"In this succinct and eclectic essay one of the great demographers of our time reflects on past, present, and likely future trends in population, migration, and aging and on their impacts on the environment, on politics, and on much more besides. A timely tour de force."
J.R. McNeill, Georgetown University
"Livi Bacci thinks deeply and writes broadly about population in the context of our planet's history, environmental constraints, and the future - from a constructive rather than alarmist perspective. He is concerned equally with unsustainably low fertility in rich countries and high fertility in poor ones, and with the global tensions that result."
Ronald D. Lee, University of California, Berkeley
"In this authoritative, beautifully synthesized analysis of global population, demographer Massimo Livi Bacci pinpoints a planet-sized problem."