The Economist newspaper has a knack for creating graphics that poignantly put things in perspective. I stumbled across this one and had to share. It portrays the landmasses of countries comprising nearly half the world’s population super-imposed on a map of Africa (link):
I keep a globe on my desk that is viewable to the left of the computer screen while I am writing. I have only to lean forward a bit in my chair to give it a spin. The geographical perspective it yields is indispensable. Did you know that London is at roughly the same latitude as Quebec? But Quebec and Canada is far colder than London and England. Knowing something of why this is so matters a great deal to understanding human affairs. Did you know that roughly the whole of Western Europe (sans Iberia, like the map above) could fit into the Arabian peninsula? And the Indian subcontinent is not much bigger? Thus India fits over a billion people into roughly the same space as occupied by about 400 million Europeans or 110 million Arabs (counting Syria and Iraq as part of the Arabian peninsula). (All population statistics courtesy of the CIA World Factbook).
Yet, the whole world’s economy frets over what will happen if Greece (about 11 million) or Portugal (about 10.5 million) or Spain (about 40 million) exit the Euro. All three could fit into the Arabian peninsula with ample room to spare, and if they brought along their populations, would only raise the occupancy level by about half again as much is already there.
Africa has roughly a third as many people (about one billion) as the countries the graphic depicts as capable of fitting within it. But its population is growing at a much faster rate than any of the areas portrayed. For example, Madagascar, into which all of Japan fits (superimposed on map) with room left for much of her territorial claims to the Sea of Japan, has only 20 million people. Japan has about 127 million. But Madagascar’s fertility rate is a bit over 5 children born per female, whereas Japan’s is barely over one. Japan is losing population at a rate of about .14% per year. Madagascar is gaining population a rate of about 3% per year. The median age in Madagascar is 18. In Japan it is almost 44. A similar comparison could be made for several others of the countries and their African counterparts depicted on the map. The article accompanying the map points out that Nigeria will likely overtake the US in population by the year 2050.
With whom does the future lie? Madagascar and Nigeria, or Japan and the US? Food for thought. The days of world history being dominated by US and European affairs are drawing to a close. By the dawn of the 22nd century, the world is likely to be a “double A” world, dominated by Africa and Asia, with the old American and Eurocentric power structures mainly irrelevant. Considering its relative size, Europe (and its American offshoot) has had a remarkable four hundred or so years. But nothing lasts forever.