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Population geography, problems, concepts, and prospects Paperback – 1979
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The scientific study of population is an interdisciplinary one involving demographers, sociologists, geographers, physicians, and philosophers. Our purpose is to provide students with an introduction to population geography.
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This is a textbook on demography (a.k.a. population geography). The book covers the major topics in the field, including birth, death, population growth, etc.
This was the textbook used in a course on demography I recently completed. The main criticism I have of the book is two-part: (1) It spends a lot of time talking about how bad population growth is. (2) In talking so much about population growth, the book wastes time that could be spent explaining common demographic techniques.
1. Though I agree that population growth is a problem for the entire world, I was surprised at the degree to which this was the focus of the text. Yes, I understand, this is a book about populations, but almost the entire book decries population growth. There is also very little discussion of counter-perspectives (why population growth would be a good thing). Essentially, the text begins with the perspective that population growth is bad, "As a species, we have certainly demonstrated our capacity for successful reproduction but it may well be time for us to restrain ourselves before we find a way to destroy our own ecological niche (though not the world-it could get along quite well without us, as it did for most of its history)" (p. 6), and continues this motif throughout, "a reminder that political economy, not food supply limitations, result in a current world in which perhaps 800 million people have either nutritionally inadequate diets or not enough food to eat. Hunger amidst plenty still exists, and it will so long as grinding poverty leaves millions unable to purchase enough food for their needs, even if it is readily available" (p. 336). Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with textbook authors and scientists having opinions on issues, but I think the focus on the issues in this text was so extensive that it resulted in a failure to adequately explain the methodology used at arriving at these conclusions.
2. Thankfully my instructor spent a good deal of time explaining the methodology of demography. Frankly, I think it is important to know the difference between a crude birth rate and a total fertility rate and why both measures are important when trying to demographically describe a population. The text limits this discussion to about 2 pages. That really isn't adequate.
Overall, I think this text is alarming. The basic argument is that the world is currently experiencing a population explosion that may result in eventual devastation when the population exceeds the available food supply. Just because populations in developed countries aren't growing rapidly - the U.S. being the exception - doesn't mean populations in undeveloped countries are not; they are, and at an incredible pace. The authors argue that we can either take steps now to prevent the famines and scarcity that will ultimately result from population increase, killing millions in the process, and work toward a more stable and sustainable population, or we can wait for the cookie to crumble, as it inevitably must, and experience the suffering. Though I agree this is a pressing issue, I wish the authors would have spent more time discussing the methodologies and theories of demography rather than their particular perspectives on the foreboding doom. Yes, it's inevitable. Yes, current U.S. government administrations are doing nothing to prevent and, in fact, are exacerbating the problem. And, perhaps, spending the entire text talking about this is the only way for people to finally realize that there is a problem. But for those of us that recognize it as a problem, it would be nice to know how to replicate demographic studies and do some of the analysis ourselves.