The Human Tide - Paul Morland

Review :

This was a really interesting read...

Demography, despite its obvious importance, is still neglected as a serious or salient explanatory variable in many policy debates and academic circles. For example, when one asks the question of why the Arab word lags behind comparatively in democratization, you'll hear all sorts of answers citing Islam, oil, foreign intervention, etc. as detriments to political development. Morland, more or less, shrugs off these traditional explanations and argues that most of the big events of modern human history have their roots in demography and population size.

World War I, World War II, industrialization, the success of the British Empire and her colonies, violence in the Middle East, etc. Morland makes pretty convincing arguments that each of these things are inherently tied to characteristics of the population. Britain was successful with many of its colonies because it had a massive population that allowed it to export English natives that would alter the demographic make up of the colonies as seen in the success to turn Canada, the US and Australia into majority white colonies. Instability is accompanied by a large youth bulge in the population. World War I and the Arab Spring are similar in that each time period was accompanied by a large proportion of the population being represented by young males.

While Morland discusses more than this, he makes 3 predictions for the future, using demography as a guide.
1) The world will become grayer. People are aging, just about everywhere. Outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, just about every country on the earth is aging. This will undoubtedly have a great pacifying effect on the world but will certainly strain smaller, younger generations who will be expected to fund the services of the state and retirement benefits of a retired population much larger than their own
2) The world will become greener. Morland argues that population is already decreasing with many countries, or at least, is not growing as quickly. As the population shrinks, it is assumed that pollution will as well. Less humans=less humans to pollute the earth and smaller markets for fossil fuel industries to provide for
3) The world will become less white. Europe had the privilege of being the first area to experience the Industrial Revolution. And, as a consequence of early modernization, held some of the highest populations in the world which allowed them to colonize the globe. Just as Europe was the first to climb, they are also the first to descend. Developing typically takes a toll on demography as populations get smaller and older. Already, there are many European countries whose dominant ethnic group is projected to non-breed itself out of existence within 1-2 centuries from now. No doubt, we already see the consequences of this with the rise of the far right and white nationalist movements in the West

These are important things to discuss, not only in the West, but throughout the world as well. The effects of a graying, dying country are often associated with Europe. But the consequences and transitions are limited to that continent alone. Every other country is following this same demographic transition formula. The concerns that plague European discourse now will be felt globally within the next few centuries. Books like these are important so we can brace for the future and figure out what to do next as the human tide ebbs and flows


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