Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Industrialisation makes most of the world "non-productive"

In an article Valencia Sailing: United Internet Team Germany has a second skipper, on writer from Minneapolis points out that most people have not been aware of the threat of rapid population decline in Europe, East Asia, Canada, New Zealand, Blue America and increasingly Latin America and the rest of Asia.

What the claims is that the "non-productive world" has its population grow whilst that of the "productive world" declines.

If this means that the productive population is declining due to low fertility whilst the non-productive population increases due to aging, the article is correct, but its wording is very poor.

On the other hand, in an industrial economy, the productive states can be defined as those possessing major mineral and usable land resources. (By "usable land" I mean land without steep topography or pedological problems like glaciation, permafrost or waterlogging that make it impossible to develop economically). As things turn out, the number of regions of the world that possess major resources of usable land totals five:

- Australia
- Africa (except for Ethiopia and the Atlas Mountains)
- the warmer parts of interior North America
- interior South America
- the warmer parts of the European Plain

Of these, Australia and parts of Africa alone possess abundant deposits of the mineral resources necessary for a region to be "productive" in an industrial or postindustrial economy. Also, the tourist dollar is much weaker there than in the scenically more attractive regions of Europe and North America, where tourism can certainly be said to tie up land for non-productive uses. Sport in particular does not produce anything for most people, and even if Frank Miniter's proposals in the best book in the PIG series may not be perfect, they might at least make land in Europe productive.

Australia and sub-Saharan Africa are precisely where conservative values promoting family life and high fertility are strongest. Thus, the claim of population decline in productive regions is actually wrong or more likely just misleading.

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