Population-Related Crises: A Typology

Heilig GK (1992). Population-Related Crises: A Typology. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-92-058

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Abstract

The paper deals with demographic aspects of various crises. In particular it reviews available but scattered information on the death toll of selected famines, epidemics, (civil) wars, genocides, ecological crises, and other catastrophes.

Its main objective is to put things into perspective. First, the paper demonstrates that aggregate statistics are usually inadequate to study the demographic impact of crises. There were crises in history that killed millions of people -- such as the "Great Leap Forward in China -- and yet are hardly discernible on a line graph showing the country's overall population growth. Second, in recent history, life and well being of people was usually endangered by intentional human action such as war, political terror, and genocide -- not by natural disasters or ecological crises. And third, there is evidence that certain lifestyles (such as cigarette smoking) and social patterns (such as frequent change of sexual partners) can increase the morbidity and mortality of a population much more than anything else (with exception of a nuclear war). It is not the consequences of dramatic crises, but slow killers (cigarettes and AIDS) which have the most serious demographic impact.

The paper (indirectly) also raises a principal question: Is it not rather cynical and detached from reality to concentrate enormous intellectual and financial resources on the study of possible environmental crises at a time when: -- several hundred million people worldwide are suffering severe malnutrition; -- famines (triggered by civil wars) are presently killing or injuring half of the population of Somalia and Sudan (one-fourth[!] of the children under 5 have already died during the last few months); -- an estimated 10 million people worldwide are infected with a deadly virus, and another 20 to 30 million will most likely be infected by the year 2000; -- millions are tortured by terror regimes in many countries; -- and bloody civil wars are flaring up all over the world, killing, wounding and displacing hundreds of thousands of innocent people?

While the demographic impact of these events is significant and obvious, the consequences of environmental crises are either hypothetical, in the distant future, or relatively minor.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:01
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2016 10:05
URI: http://pure.iiasa.ac.at/3641

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