… on steroids … ?
Population momentum on steroids?
Recipe? High-fertility and 50% or more under age 20

The graph at the bottom of this page (which is a J-curve) shows 10,000 years of human population growth
which took all of human history for us to reach one billion in 1830. Next, however, we added another
billion in only 100 years (1930). By 1960 we reached three billion, followed by our fourth in 1975, fifth in
1987, sixth in 1999, and seventh in 2011. And we have been adding these recent billions in short spans of
just 12-to-15 years. Nothing like this has ever happened in human history. In addition, recent U.N. popula-
tion projections (2015 revision) show us reaching eleven billion (medium projection) by 2100, while their
high-fertility projections show us hurtling toward 16.6 billion by the end of this century.

And these very, very large numbers do not just constitute a J-curve, but aa J-curve on steroids, and num-
bers such as 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, or16 billion by century‘s end (plus 600 million after that) constitute the
demographic equivalent of a collision trajectory with a near-Earth asteroid – numbers capable of lock-
ing humanity, civilization, and Earth‘s life-support machinery into potentially-inescapable outcomes. And
based on the U.N.‘s most recent population projections (2015 revision), ground-zero for these numbers and
their implications lie in the world‘s least-developed, less-developed, and highest-fertility LDCs with calam-
itous implications for their own residents and for all of humankind, civilization, and our planet.
Population momentum is a directional momentum that, like an aircraft carrier, takes a long time to slow
down or reverse even with all engines full-astern. And one classical recipe for population momentum is an
enormously large portion of a population that is less than 20-years-old (which means their childbearing
years lie just ahead), combined with high fertility rates, which factors, when combined, produce a cascade
of births that can carry a nation (or a planet) into nearly unstoppable demographic destinies.
Footnote one: The U.N.‘s list of least-developed countries includes the following from Asia
(in parentheses we have added the fertility rate for each nation, which is the average number
of children per woman in the course of her lifetime): Afghanistan (6.3), Yemen (5.3),
Bangladesh (2.4), Bhutan (2.6), Nepal (2.9), Laos (3.9), Cambodia (3.0), and Myanmar
(2.3), while the listing from Africa includes Angola (5.7), Benin (5.4), Burkina Faso (5.8),
Burundi (6.4), Central African Republic (4.7), Chad (6.0), Democratic Republic of the
Congo (6.1), Djibouti (3.7), Equatorial Guinea (5.3), Eritrea (4.7), Ethiopia (5.3), Gambia
(5.0), Guinea (5.3), Guinea-Bissau (5.1), Lesotho (3.1), Liberia (5.8), Madagascar (4.6),
Malawi (5.7), Mali (6.4), Mauritania (4.4), Mozambique (5.6), Niger (7.0), Rwanda (4.6),
Senegal (4.7), Sierra Leone (5.0), Somalia (6.4), Sudan (4.5), Togo (4.7), Uganda (6.4),
Tanzania (5.4), and Zambia (6.3), as well as a listing of Haiti from the Americas, and a
listing of additional small island nations such as the Comoros, Kiribati, Maldives, Samoa,
What does Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Source:
a J-curve http://unctad.org/en/docs/ldc2011_en.pdf Source: World Population Data Sheet, 2011; PRB

on steroids Footnote two: Taken together, the above least developed nations, as well as several other
populous ‘high-fertility‘ countries constitute humankind‘s demographic ground zero. For
look like? instance, although Nigeria is not on the U.N.‘s list of least-developed nations, its large
current population, which is seventh-largest in the world) along with average fertility rates
of 5.3 children per woman during her lifetime (two and a half times replacement levels of
2.1), still make it a major contributor to world population growth. In a similar way, Kenya
is not on the U.N. list of least-developed countries either, but it is still a major contributor
to world population growth with fertility rates of 5.3 children per woman during her life-
time. In addition, Bangladesh is a least-developed county (with a population half the size of
the U.S. in a geographic area the size of Iowa), and it is growing, and is adding to world
population growth, but its fertility rate, which is (2.9) or approximately 50% above replace-
ment level, is still less than half the rates seen in other LDCs such as Niger, Ethiopia, Somal-
ia, and Sudan. Source: World Population Data Sheet, 2011.

Footnote three: In contrast, individual families in nations such as Estonia, Russia, Bulgaria, and other nations in Europe, as well
as Japan, for example, are actually helping solve the world’s population-environment and consumption problems by gradually
and voluntarily reducing their fertility rates. As a result, these countries and a number of countries like them are no longer con-
tributing to humankind’s world population explosion in any way, so that they and their citizens are to be applauded because one
of the most powerful ways that residents of developed nations can reduce their ecological footprints, inflicted damage,
and consumption is by voluntarily and ethically limiting their family sizes to two children or less.
A demographic recipe for
Population Momentum
High fertility rates plus millions of under-20s

U.N. world population projections (2015 revision), show humankind to be on-track toward between 11 and
16.6 billion by the end of this century. The U.N.‘s medium-range models project eleven billion by 2100
while its high-fertility models (which average just ½ child per woman higher than their medium-fertility
estimates) show us cascading toward 16.6 billion over the same period of time.

Many readers in the past have naturally tended to imagine the mid-range projections to be most predictive.
In practice, however past medium-range projections have often turned out to be serious underestimates of
the real-world numbers that actually emerge. And once again there are strong reasons to believe that current
U.N. medium estimates may once-again be underestimating the real-world numbers toward which we may
be headed. Factors suggesting that the higher-end numbers may be closer to the mark include the following:
1 - Continuing advances in medicine, genetics, and biotechnologies,
as well as: 2 - Recent advances in life-extension have already achieved
SIX-FOLD extensions in laboratory organisms. If research in such areas
were to achieve significant mortality reductions in humans, such
advances have the potential to completely CANCEL-OUT population
stabilizations that are otherwise imagined based on falling fertility.

Writing in 2005 in a review article in the journal Cell, for example,
Cynthia Kenyon notes that if a similar six-fold extension were ever
achieved in humans, it would result in healthy, active 500-year-olds.
And even tiny fractional advances along these lines would toss cur-
rent U.N. population projections right out the window. (Similarly, as
early as 2005, Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey com-
mented that Earth‘s first 1000-year-old human may have already been
At the very least, therefore, it seems possible that fractional, but dem-
ographically-powerful such advances may well occur. (Consider, for
instance, that in 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright
brothers flew the first heavier-than-air vehicle for twelve seconds and
a distance of 120 feet, and whose achievement was then followed less than seven decades later by U.S.
astronauts traveling to the surface of the moon and returning safely to Earth in just over one week.) And in
addition, of course, similar advances, followed by wide and rapid proliferation, have also characterized
discoveries in fields as diverse as com-puters, DNA, communications, gene sequencing, and molecular

Aside from brilliant and well-funded work in medicine and mortality reductions, other factors can also lead
to higher-than expected levels of world population: If China were to back-track from its one-child policies,
for example, or if fertility numbers in the most populous high-fertility nations (India and Nigeria, for
example) do not decline as much as expected or as rapidly as expected, or do not decline at all; or if a signi-
ficant number of regions persist in current fertility (constant fertility scenarios); or if some governments
pay people to have more children; or if economic interests continue to selfishly promote population growth
to fuel a population-growth Ponzi scheme.
Today’s demographic near-Earth asteroid
Its trajectory, arrival time, mass, and momentum

Not only do our own biospheric and whole-systems assessments suggest
that recent U.N.‘s high-end projections (2015 revision) may be closer to
the real-world population numbers that actually emerge, but in addition,
in the few months since the U.N. released those 2015 projections, separ-
ate articles written by two of the world‘s most well-known demographers
now both suggest that the U.N.‘s medium-fertility projections may be too
optimistic and that the 2015 high-end projections may be closer to the
actual real-world numbers that eventually emerge. For example, writing
in 2011 on the Yale environment 360 website 3 thirty-year veteran de-
mographer Carl Haub wrote that recent demographic projections that
have assumed mid-range levels of population growth may be too optimis-
Haub, C. 2011. What If Experts Are Wrong On World Population Growth?

So where might today‘s already-high numbers be headed? In
two articles in 2011, Joseph Chamie, former Director of the
United Nations Population Division, addressed populations
and demographics in Africa. He reports, for example, that the
population of middle Africa, is projected to triple by 2100,
while the populations of eastern and western Africa ―are
projected to more than quadruple, with each having 1.4 billion
people by 2100.1, 2

Consider therefore, that if there is a population of 1.4 billion in
eastern Africa by the end of this century, plus another 1.4
billion people in western Africa, the result is up to 2.8 billion
people residing in east and west Africa by the year 2100 – (and
that is without even including the rest of the continent such as
North Africa, South Africa, and middle Africa). What might
that be like? We can think of it this way: 2.8 billion people is
approximately like combining the entire populations of both
today‘s India (1.189 billion) and China (1.338 billion) and
settling half of them in eastern Africa and the other half in the
nations of western Africa – and that is, again, without even
including the rest of the continent.

Chamie, 2011. http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=9228 (11 July 2011)
Chamie, 2011. http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=9167 (13 June 2011)

Given today‘s numbers, along with the end-of-this-century numbers cited above, makes it look as though
some nations in Asia, and many nations in Africa will constitute ground-zero for the demographic collision
that such numbers portend. Throughout much of Africa especially, for example, there are already enormous
youth bulges right now of millions of members of an under-20s generation who are beginning to enter
their childbearing years.
Consider, for instance, that in country after country, large portions of today‘s populations are members of
an enormous under-20s cohort (as just a few examples, Mali, Angola, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia and
others). Such rising cohorts of under-20s will thus play a decisive role in the demographics (and momen-
tum) and the future of Earth’s biospheric life-support machinery as this century unfolds.

The second critical factor governing the potential numbers that
appear poised to emerge will be the fertility rates that currently pre-
vail in many countries throughout the region. What the continent-
wide fertility rates tell us, right now, is that Africa‘s current fertility
rates of 5.2 (the average number of children born per woman over
the course of her lifetime) are presently the highest by far of any
continent in the world.

To review some of the numbers again, see again our footnote on page one of this article,
such as an average of 7 children per woman in Niger, and 6.4 per woman in Somalia,
Burundi, and Uganda, and 6.1 children per woman in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
with other high numbers across the continent. And even in countries such as Egypt, which
has a lower fertility rate of 2.9 (still well above replacement levels of 2.1), present
demographics as this is written suggest that the residents of Egypt are on-track to live in a
country that, by 2045, is twice as crowded as it is now.
Source: World Population Data Sheet, 2011; PRB

Thus, for the least developed regions of the world, such demographic population projections (e.g., U.N. or
PRB, etc.) are sobering. And the above projections for Africa contemplate mid-range levels of population
Footnote: According to Chamie, even IF fertility rates in Africa gradually decline to
replacement levels of about 2.1 children per woman by 2100, Africa is projected to
have a population close to 3.6 billion.

(Our comment: 3.6 billion is equal to almost the population of the entire world in 1970.
Will it be hot? Will there be enough jobs? Will there be enough water? How will
schools, health care, and governance be? Will there be instability, conflict, and hunger?)

But what about the rest of the world?

There are, of course, other countries in other parts of the world that exhibit high numbers similar to those seen in Africa (Afghanistan,
for instance, has average fertility rates of approximately 6.3 children per woman during her lifetime, and for Yemen the rate is about
5.3, while the under-20s generations in both countries account for 50% or more of their total populations).

Secondly, there are large and famously-populous giants such as India and China whose contributions to world population growth
both continue at present. In the case of China, however, its below-replacement fertility rates will soon allow its numbers to stabilize
and even to begin a gradual transition to lower and more sustainable future population levels. Meanwhile in India, on the other
hand, given its already-enormous population, its contributions to further world population growth remain both challenging and
problematic to both India itself as well as to humankind‘s demands-upon and damage-to our planet. Having said that, however,
India‘s fertility rate of 2.6 is at least closer to replacement levels of 2.1 than the numbers we have seen elsewhere in this article.
(We should also note, however, that the U.N. 2015 revision high-fertility projections that lead to 16.6 billion are based on fertility
rates that are just ½ child per woman higher than their medium-fertility estimates and India‘s 2.6 is presently ½ child per woman
above replacement levels.)

Lastly, of course, there are many countries around the world whose populations are stable, or even slightly below
replacement – and such patterns are essential steps to protecting the only planetary life-support machinery so far
known to exist anywhere in the universe, for one of the single most powerful ways that citizens in a developed nation
can reduce their consumption and their ecological impacts is by voluntarily limiting themselves to family sizes of two
children or less.
Assessing the graph of world population growth (pages two and four), consider that many low-fertility na-
tions in Europe, for example, are not contributing to the skyrocketing numbers that we see in the graph.
As a whole, for instance, Europe’s population is expected to helpfully decline slightly from today‘s 740
million to a somewhat more moderate 725 million by 2050.

Examples of such gradually moderating trajectories are seen, for example, in countries such as Russia, Bul-
garia, and Romania and others. In a similar way, Germany was (or had been) also gradually transitioning
from its 81 million (of UN revision 2015) to a more moderate 78.7 million by 2050.

This means that the explosive numbers that are sending humankind’s worldwide
numbers skyrocketing upward along the y-axis of our graph are being generated
primarily by high-fertility rates that still persist in other parts of the world.

It also seems worth noting, perhaps, that two of the nations with some of the lowest fertility rates in the world (Asia‘s China with
fertility rates of 1.5 and Germany with fertility rates of about 1.4 have also been two of the world‘s premier economic success stories.

Immediate emergency nudging ? ?

So how close is humankind to an almost-inescapable and obliterating
near-Earth population-biosphere collision trajectory?

To nudge humankind’s demographic scenarios out of their near-Earth
collision trajectory we should have already done much more two decades ago.

Today our trajectories and obliterating collision scenarios are so close that the only thing that worldwide
fertility rates have to do is to average just ½ child per woman higher than the U.N.’s medium fertility es-
timates (2015 revision) for an obliterating 16.6 billion to emerge.

If a near-Earth asteroid were on a path toward the Earth, astronomers, NASA, and international space
agencies would launch attempts to "nudge" the object out of its collision trajectory…

but that nudging would have to BEGIN when the object is
still far enough away for the nudging to have an effect.
Given our demographics, this object that is about to hit our planet and its biospheric life-support machinery
consists of 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, or 16.6 BILLION humans on a planet whose machinery already started to
break at populations of five and six billion so that the emergency nudging that must be accomplished is to
ensure that the world's highest birth rates begin nudging rapidly lower beginning ..TODAY.. , because EVERY
hour, day, and instant that we DELAY has the effect of increasingly locking-in the collision trajectory so
that the momentum carrying us toward the collision itself becomes more and more inescapable.

Thus, EMERGENCY preventative efforts are an imperative immediately - RIGHT NOW, for this emergen-
cy is .not. about an emergency that can be addressed later, toward the close of this century because the nec-
essary preventive actions
must begin NOW - immediately

because unless fertility rates in the highest-fertility LDCs BEGIN coming down NOW,
and the continue to decline by universe access to ethical and voluntary means of birth control

we could be headed toward 16 billions by the close of this century
(UN 2015 revision)

All around the world today, there are rising generations of young people who have now begun to approach
their 20th birthdays. As it turns out, their generation quite arguably has more power to change the world at
such a young age than any other generation in human history. How can this be? Because today‘s under-20s
and their conscious decisions (or lack thereof) are quite likely to determine the future of humankind, civiliza-
tion, and the life-support machinery of our planet itself.

And the power that their generation will exert resides MOST POWERFULLY in the soon-to-be-made fertility
and family-size decisions of their entire generation – and particularly so in the choices and decisions made
by their generation’s colleagues in the least-developed regions of Africa, India, and Asia.

In making their decisions, the under-20s of the world‘s least developed regions might ask themselves how
satisfied they are with the policies that have guided their regions for the past half-century?

Did the policies and outcomes of the past half-century solve their problems, provide enough jobs, health
care, and schools, increase standards of living, protect their environments, and result in safety and fairness?
Or did the past doublings, triplings, and quadrupling of their populations over the past half-century create
chaos? Have the policies and outcomes of the past half century been a disaster and made things worse?
Have the challenges facing their generation, their nations, their families, and their environments lessened
under the policies of the past half-century, or have the challenges worsened?

It may well be that today, Earth’s rising generations of under-20s constitute the world‘s greatest hope, for
the under-20s of the highest-fertility LDCs will be the ones who either permit the juggernaut and overshoot
to unfold, or who will bring it under control. No foreign or colonial power, for example, is going to force
the women of their nations to have five, six, seven, or eight children each. Their parents‘ generation and
policymakers and the international community have pursued one set of policies and business-as-usual prac-
tices for the past fifty years that many might say didn‘t seem to work out very well.

Yet, if today‘s under-20s do nothing more than simply duplicate the fertility rates that currently exist in
their nations, the population densities of their continents will be unimaginably worse than the mid-range
projections we have just discussed.
Former U.N. Population Director Joseph Chamie, for example, reports that if Africa‘s fertility rates were
to simply remain unchanged over the coming decades, the population of the continent would grow rapidly,
reaching THREE billion by 2050” [that is equal to the population of the entire world in 1960], and, in his
words, an incredible 15 billion by 2100” (that is FIVE TIMES the population of the entire world in 1960),
and FIFTEEN TIMES Africa‘s current population‖ (emphasis added).

For under-20s of the region,
What does this mean?

It means that if their generation contin-
ues, on average, exactly the same, ident-
ical, fertility and family-size practices
that characterize their continent right
now, they will be leaving their own chil-
dren and grandchildren a population on
their continent alone that is

five times the size of the
population of the entire world
in 1960

Thirty-year veteran demographer Carl Haub observes that ―the dire consequences of
such an increase are difficult to ponder, for, as he goes on to note, if sub-Saharan Africa
is having trouble feeding and providing water to 880 million people today, what will the
region be like in 90 years if the population increases five-fold - particularly if, as pro-
jected, temperatures rise by 2 to 3 degrees C, [and with] worsening droughts?
(emphasis added)

And what about populations living in some of the region's poorest countries? According to Chamie, the
projected population of Africa‘s 33 LDCs [LEAST-DEVELOPED COUNTRIES] by the close of this century
is 2.2 BILLION.
(This would be almost DOUBLE the size of the ENTIRE population of India
today, so that residents of these nations, where conditions can already be
problematic right now, may soon be facing even worse conditions.)

In one of his closing observations, Chamie warns that ―the demographic transition [to lower fertility rates] in Africa
m may move slowly or even stall, as has happened in the past in countries such as Egypt and Kenya.

Carl Haub, writing this year on the Yale’s environment 360 website 3 also worries that recent demographic
projections that have assumed mid-range levels of population growth may be too optimistic. Critiquing
prevailing suppositions embedded within the Demographic Transition‖ model, for instance, Haub points
out that, current projections assume that fertility "will continue to decline where it has begun to decline,"
and also that fertility "will begin to decline" in places where it has not yet begun. Secondly, Haub notes,
the projections assume "that the decline will be smooth and uninterrupted." And, lastly, Haub notes that the
projections also assume that fertility "will decline to two children or less per woman. (Note that all of the
above reflect suppositions and guesses.)
[To which we add our own observations concerning the potentially-sudden
demographic effects of life-extension and mortality reductions.]
Thus, as Joseph Chamie has pointed out, fully half of Africa‘s population (e.g. as of 2015) was under age
twenty. Knowing that the U.N.'s high-fertility projections for Africa alone are 5.2 BILLION by century's
end, millions of that continent‘s under-20s will soon be entering their childbearing years and begin making
their family-size decisions.

The choices that they consciously make (or fail to make) will begin to irrevocably commit their families,
their civilizations, their children, and their continent into extraordinarily dangerous and nearly inescapable
demographic, humanitarian, and biospheric outcomes.

However, although there is unsettling news embedded in the latest
U.N. population projections, the good news is that today's "under-20s"
have more power at a younger age than any previous generation in
history because by individual actions alone, they have the power to
change the trajectory of history for themselves, their families, their
continent, and Earth's entire biosphere –

And the primary thing that they require in order to wield their
Power is information like that which we have just seen above.

Copyright 2011, The Wecskaop Project. .
What Every Citizen Should Know About Our Planet
www.scribd.com/TheWecskaopProject .

This document is entirely free for use by scientists, students, and educators anywhere in the world.

Footnote 1 : In those cases where there is poverty, hunger, lack of health care, violence, chaos, or failed governance now, which of these problems
is likely to be solved or overcome by ever-larger populations? In addition, what will be the environmental impacts of such ever-increasing numbers
and their damage and their simultaneously increased demands for food, water, and resources? And how many additional such demands, wastes,
removals, and degradations can regional and planetary life-support machinery absorb and still be expected to function as it has always done in the
past? And at what point might failures develop in its functioning or in its self-repair and self-perpetuation capabilities?

Footnote 2 : Speaking as a biologist with special interests in biospherics and whole-systems ecology, earth's carrying capacity for an industrialized
humanity at a US / Western European standard of living is on the order of TWO billion or less, and biospheric things are breaking now.

Footnote 3 : The true enormity of these numbers can only be appreciated, however, if we have some vision of the actual size of each of our added
billions. A resource elsewhere (How big is a billion) offers insights into the size of each of our billions by contemplating a ―billion pages of
theoretical physics, or, if theoretical physics is not to your liking, the riddle of a billion homework questions. (Hint: In either case, the answer is the
same – 38,461 years.)

More information and freely-downloadable open-courseware on these
topics is accessible at http://www.scribd.com/theWecskaopProject
Resources and Cited References

Chamie, J. 2011. As Africa Multiplies http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=9228 (11 July 2011)

Chamie, J. 2011. Africa‘s Demographic Multiplication http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=9167 (13 June 2011)

Haub, C. 2011. What If Experts Are Wrong On World Population Growth?

PRB World Population Data Sheet, 2011:

United Nations, 2011. http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/unpp/Panel_profiles.htm

A sampling of journal articles re: Life-extension

Asencio C, et al. 2003. Silencing of ubiquinon biosynthesis genes extends life span in
Caenorhabditis elegans. FASEB J (Apr 22):

Friedman, D. B. and T. E. Johnson. 1988. A mutation in the age-1 gene in Caenorhabditis
elegans lengthens life and reduces hermaphrodite fertility. Genetics 118: 75-86.

Kenyon, C., 2005. The plasticity of aging: insights from long-lived mutants. Cell 120 (25
Feb 2005): 449-460.

Kenyon, C., et al. 1993. A C. elegans mutant that lives twice as long as wild type. Nature
366: 461-464.

Larsen, P.L. and C.F. Clarke. 2002. Extension of life-span in Caenorhabditis elegans by a diet
lacking coenzyme Q. Science 295 (5552): 120-123.

Sinclair, D.A. and L. Guarente. 2006. Unlocking the secrets of longevity genes. Scientific
American 294 (3): 48-57.

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