Friday, 28 March 2014




·         GNP per capita ~$2700

·         Flooding began in July 2010; at one point ~1/5 of Pakistan’s total land area was submerged including 69,000km2 of fertile crop land.  


·         The river Indus normally floods every year but in 2010 there was prolonged and heavy e.g. 274mm fell in 24 hours in Peshawar on July 29th 2010. More than half the normal monsoon rains fell in only a week instead of 3months. One reason could have been unusual conditions in the polar jet stream.

·         The river Indus carries a lot of sediment and mud from the Himalayas, which silts up the channel and make it more prone to flooding.

·         Others think anthropogenic climate change could have strengthened monsoon rains, whilst deforestation in the Himalayas has reduced the river’s lag time.

·         Levees built for flood defence were breached and caused sudden huge releases of floodwater.

·         The massive human impact occurred because 2/3rds of Pakistan’s citizens rely on agriculture for their income and many of them live close to rivers for access to water and fertile alluvial soils.

·         In some places such as the Swat Valley, infrastructure had already been weakened by the 2005 earthquake and not yet repaired.


·         Flooding submerged whole villages within the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, killing at least 1,600 people, according to the UN. Twelve million were affected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces, while a further two million were affected in Sindh.

·         Floods directly affected about 20 million people (more than the boxing-day tsunami and Haiti earthquake combined), mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure including 100s of bridges and 200 health facilities.

·         The World Health Organization reported that ten million people were forced to drink unsafe water.

·         The total economic impact may have been as much as US$43 billion including damage to the important cotton industry (Pakistan was previously the 4th largest cotton producer) as 80% of fields were left waterlogged in some areas and crops and livestock were drowned.

·         Illnesses such as gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, and skin diseases occurred due to lack of clean drinking water and sanitation. Pakistan also faced a malaria and cholera outbreak.

·         There were also long-term impacts including: food insufficiencies leading to malnutrition, damage to schools, Taliban insurgencies and an increase from 33-40% of people living below the poverty line.


·         France donated €1.05 million and 35 tonnes of emergency supplies including tarpaulins, blankets, shelters and anti-cholera medicines, while the UK donated £134.5 million.

·         The United States donated 71 million dollars as well as 56,000 ready meals and two temporary bridges to help reconnect. They also built water filtration plants.

·         However after 6 months charities were surprised by the slow international response as only 56% of the $1.96 billion requested by the Pakistani government had been given. This could be due to the global phenomenon of “donor fatigue”. President Zardari was also criticized for his slow response. Many felt the Pakistani Army was slow to rebuild bridges, deliver aid or set up relief camps.

·       In the longer term flood warning systems are being funded by charities such as Oxfam and the US government, including radio stations used to educate people of the danger of flood water and the different toxins and diseases in it meaning that people will be more prepared next time.

Discussion point: Who was worst affected by these floods? Could they have been avoided?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Obesity in the USA

·        People with a BMI of 25+ are considered overweight and people with a BMI of 30+ are obese.

·        Becoming an increasing health problem with 1.4 billion adults worldwide and 2.8 million deaths per yr.

·        More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.

·        Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese

·        Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents in the US has almost tripled

·        Inactive lifestyle – developments in technology mean less physical activity e.g. in 1960 nearly half the jobs in the US required moderate physical activity but in 2010 it was only 20%. In their spare time people spend more time watching TV than in outdoor recreation.

·        Oversized food portions. Americans are exposed to huge food portions in restaurants, fast food places, gas stations, movie theatres, supermarkets, and even at home. E.g. a typical can of soda in the US usually consumed as one portion contains 2.5 servings.

·        Lack of access to healthy foods, for example in poorer areas, combined with increasing availability and advertising of fast food. School lunch programs in poorer areas are often exploited by fast food outlets.

·        Not having area parks, trails, sidewalks, and affordable gyms makes it hard for people to be physically active.

·        Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

·        Obesity can put extra pressure on joints and limbs, making activity quite difficult and in turn making the obesity worse. It can also reduce your life expectancy by up to 9 years 

·        There are many obesity related conditions and direct medical spending on diagnosis and treatment of these conditions, therefore, is likely to increase with rising obesity levels. Rising obesity levels will also have put pressure on the resources that the health centres do have.

·        The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is $200 billion while the medical costs for people who are obese is on average 36% higher per year than those of normal weight.

·        Weight gain has also been linked with poor concentration levels and poor academic success 

·        Weight stigma increases vulnerability to depression, low self-esteem, reduced quality of life poor body image, maladaptive eating behaviours and exercise avoidance.

·        There is strong evidence to suggest an association between obesity and poor mental health in both children and adults.  

·        The FDA (US food and drug administration) is working to reduce the burden of obesity by food labelling and education campaigns such as the ‘Lets Move’ campaign recently launched by Michelle Obama. However, it is difficult to change people’s habits overnight.

·        Grants are provided by the CDC (The Centre for Disease Control) for state-focused nutrition programs, which have so far been started in 27 states.

·        Obesity legislation has been passed such as the ‘Healthy Outdoor Kids Act’ in 2011, which aims to increase physical activity. ‘Obamacare’ now requires health insures to do more to help obese patients.

·        The Obesity Action Coalition provides information and support groups to people who experience obesity stigma.


Discussion point: What would you say is the biggest cause of obesity in the USA?

Friday, 14 March 2014

Australia: a Population Policy in a Developed Country

UPDATE - 20/09/2015

Russell Brand seems to be quite popular among students (either because they love or hate him, either way it provokes discussion!) so I've decided to use this video as an introduction to the population issue in Australia: (warning - contains explicit language).

Here are the revision notes that I give to my students;

·       After WW2 the first minister for immigration, Arthur Calwell, wanted to increase the population to improve defence and aid development. He believed Australia was underpopulated as there was a desperate shortage of labour, especially after many people had been killed in the war.

·       Today, Australia has an ageing population and thus an increasing dependency ratio, with 13.7% over 65 (but this is increasing) and birth and fertility rates not high enough to offset this because women are marrying later (at least 29) and having children later (at least 30).

·       Australia also loses around 60 000 well-qualified young workers every year as they emigrate overseas and these need to be replaced or Australia will face labour shortages, especially in its vineyard and mineral extraction industries which are key drivers behind its economic prosperity.

·       The government takes Boserup's view that immigration drives economic growth, supplies young skilled workers to offset and support the ageing population, increases size of markets.

·       The first immigration policy was introduced in 1945 with the slogan 'populate or perish' and included the 'Ten Pound Poms' scheme in which families (mainly from UK) could migrate to Australia for only £10.

·       The government also reached an agreement with the International Refugee Organisation to take in 12 000 refugees per year from camps in Europe after WW2.

·       Since the 1970s skills-based immigration has been encouraged by introducing a points-based skills test. Prospective immigrants usually have university degrees and speak English, they fill specific job areas where there are shortages and they are under 30.

·       More recently they have introduced paid parental leave and baby grants ($5000 per baby in 2009) to increase the fertility rate through natural change.


·       Although fertility rate is increasing it is still well below replacement level (1.78)

·       However, population growth rate is 1.3% per year, meaning the population could double in 40 years. This is high for a HIC (e.g. 0.28% for the UK). About half of this is down to immigration.

·       Australia's population has increased from 7 million in the 1940s to nearly 22 million today; this shows that the policy has been very successful in increasing absolute numbers.

·       However, even though Australia has a very low population density (only 2.9 people per km2 compared to 256 in the UK) its natural environment is fragile, many people such as the Sustainable Population Party think it is becoming overpopulated and causing economic, social and environmental problems. They say population growth is a 'lazy way for big businesses to make more profit' and that it will reduce the per capita value of their mineral reserves. They don't think it will significantly offset the ageing population but instead create unemployment and overload the healthcare system.

·       Water supply is a major issue: rainfall is unreliable, evaporation rates are very high (94% of rainfall evaporates), groundwater is limited and ancient stores are being used up rapidly.

·       Rural areas have suffered prolonged droughts, which has been tackled with the Snowy Mountains Scheme: a series of dams and reservoirs in New South Wales and Victoria which provides irrigation for 60% of Australia. This, like any hard engineering scheme has negative implications for the local environment.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The UK - An Ageing Population


·       UK GDP per capita is $38,500 (2012) and population growth rate is 0.8%
·      Stage 4 (low fluctuating) of the DTM as both death rates and birth rates remain low and fluctuate, giving a steady population; typical of many well developed countries.
·      The number of people >65 is increasing (16% in 2011) while 0-14 is decreasing (18% 2011)
·      This is due to the ageing of the 1960s baby boomers combined with improving healthcare.
·      The latest projections are for 5½ million more elderly people in 20 years’ time and the number will have nearly doubled to around 19 million by 2050.
·       The ratio of people of working age to people over 65 could fall from 3.7:1 to 2.1:1 in 2014

·       The Office for Budget Responsibility said that spending on the state pension, social care and healthcare will rise from 14 per cent of Britain's GDP to almost a fifth.
·       Those in work may have to pay higher taxes. This could create lack of encouragement to work and disincentives for firms to invest; therefore there could be a fall in productivity and growth.
·       An ageing population could lead to a shortage of workers and therefore pushing up wages causing wage inflation.
·       Health experts believe the number of people suffering from severe long-term conditions such as cancer and heart disease will grow and could mean a rising demand for nursing care.
·       Although life expectancy is increasing, healthy life expectancy is not increasing as fast, meaning people are ill for longer periods at the end of their life and putting greater strain on healthcare.
·       Statins (cholesterol lowering drugs) have become the single biggest component of the NHS prescribing budget and their cost is likely to increase further. Also the added costs of other drugs, diagnostic tests and surgical procedures are also likely to place pressure on the health service.
·       The ‘grey pound’ and the ‘grey vote’ mean that new businesses can develop (e.g. Saga holidays) and political parties need to pay particular attention to the needs of older people (e.g. David Cameron’s recent pledge to extend the ‘triple lock pension protection’ until 2020 if the Tories are win the 2015 election). This could lead to policies being introduced that benefit older people but perhaps aren’t so good for younger citizens.
·       Older people tend to me more flexible, mature and experienced and they often have a strong work ethic. Nationwide Building Society employs 16% of its workforce over 50 and say customers often prefer to speak to someone more mature and younger members of staff can learn from their older colleagues.
·       Free childcare provided by grandparents is said to be saving families over £7.3billion per year.

·       Increased immigration of working age population; A report by the Office for Budget Responsibility found that allowing more than 140,000 immigrants into Britain a year, equivalent to 6million people, would help increase the overall number of people who are in work and improve public finances.
·       An increase in retirement age (the age to gain state pensions) will reduce costs. It was initially planned for the state pension age to rise to 68 for men and women in 2046. However George Osborne recently announced that this would be brought forward to the mid-2030s.
·       Pro natal strategies to be introduced.
·       Businesses can provide jobs more suited to older people to encourage them to retire later and make use of their experiences and expertise.

Discussion point: Can the benefits of an ageing population outweigh the negatives?

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