WIR #15: To The Ends of the Earth

Ends of the EarthHarwood, Jeremy. To The Ends of the Earth: 100 Maps That Changed the World. Cincinnati, Ohio: F+W Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2006 by Marshall Editions.

It's taken me nearly a month to read this book, which is ridiculous. Nonetheless, I have found it constantly fascinating, from learning about primitive maps made millennia ago (from as late as 600 B.C.E. to as early as 10,000 B.C.E.) to maps made during the height of classical Greece to Mediæval maps, as well as the different purposes to which maps have been put to use, whether religious, political, or propaganda.

As it is a fairly recent book — published in 2006 — I trust that the information in it is reasonably accurate, and for that reason I found something I read in its closing pages to be quite enlightening. In a sub-section titled "Demography," the author writes:

What demography is now indicating, however, is that, contrary to expectations, world population growth is actually slowing and may well eventually come to a virtual standstill. It is now expected to peak at 9 billion by 2070. This contradicts previously held theories, which in part can be traced back to the great British economist Thomas Malthus (1766–1834), who proposed that, rather than the proliferation of weapons, the major threat to global stability was uncontrolled population growth and a consequent outstripping of planetary resources.

It's fascinating that that old idea is at least 175 years old. Wikipedia, in the section titled "Rate of Increase," in their article on "World Population," echoes the idea that world population could reach equilibrium, attributing it to a United Nations statement in 2006, although the date at which equilibrium will occur is different:

In 2006, the United Nations stated that the rate of population growth is diminishing due to the demographic transition. If this trend continues, the rate of growth may diminish to zero, concurrent with a world population plateau of 9.2 billion, in 2050. However, this is only one of many estimates published by the UN.

Excellent book.

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