Unit 2. Human Beings in the World




In the year 1900, there were approximately 1.6 billion people living on Earth. One hundred years later, the world population totalled just over 6 billion people. In 2011, the world total is likely to reach 7 billion. Currently, we inhabit the planet over 7.3 billion people. On its way to a projected 9 billion before 2050. The increase in the size of the human population in the last half-century is unprecedented. But that increase did not occur evenly in different places, nor were the consequences of this growth the same in every place. And in the 21st century, some places are concerned more about population decline than growth.



Evolution of World Population from the 18th century.

Evolution of World Population since 1 CE.

 The World Population is about to reach 8 billion in the next years. The official projections think that by the end of the century the World will be inhabited by around 11 billion.


This graph shows us the natural trend in the World. There are more births than deaths, so the population is growing every year. The World population increase 1.2% every year according to that data. In developed countries, which are home to 1.3 billion people, have low natural growth which is related to a falling birth rate. In developing countries, where 82% of the world’s population lives, natural growth is over 2%.

7.3 billion people inhabiting the Planet are uneven distributed. One-third of the inhabitants are concentrated in this sphere of influence (3.77 billion).


1. Distribution of population. Where do the population live?

Population’s distribution is completely uneven:

  • 90% of the people live in the Northern Hemisphere (between 20º and 60º Latitude).
  • Instead, only 10% of the people live in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The largest concentrations of population are South and East Asia.
  • China has around 1.3 billion inhabitants. India is inhabited by 1.2 billion people.
  • North American Atlantic coast. There is a megalopolis that stretches from Boston to Washington D.C (Bowa), where over 75 million people live.


  • Moreover, there are vast cities like Mexico City (c. 20 million inhabitants).
  • In Japan there is another megalopolis (Tokaido), from Tokyo to Kobe, forming a megalopolis of 85 million.
  • It is a historically populated continent that counts on around 700 million inhabitants: Europe. In Europe, The Blue Banana, as it is known the area along the Rin-Ruhr valley host around 80 million people. Cover the big area from England to the North of Italy (Manchester/London- Milan/Turin).

On the contrary, the largest empty spaces are:

  • Cold and desert areas: Poles, Sahara Desert, Kalahari Desert, Gobi Desert.
  • Moist and hot areas: Congo Basin, Amazon Basin


There are some factors that explain why the land is occupied:

Physical factors.

  • Climate. People are attracted by temperate climates with sufficient rainfall.
  • Altitude. Most of the people live in areas that are close to the sea (60% of the population live below 200 metres).
  • Soil. Fertile soils have always been demanded.

Human factors.

  • Age of settlement. The most inhabited areas have always been populated.
  • Social growth.
  • Migrations.
  • Wars.
  • Economic and urban development.

In order to make demographic studies, it is essential to know the population density.

  • It shows how many people live in a place.
  • It is obtained by making a simple operation:



 The population density is the number of people that live in one place divided between the area.

Population density (in square Kilometres ) = population in an area/area in Km2

      Mónaco (France) has the highest population density in Europe.

      Mongolia is the least dense populated country in the world.  



Spain had 46.468.102 inhabitants on 1 January 2016, so 92.20 inhabitants per km2.

*  46.539.026 inhabitants on 1 January 2017.

 Population distribution

Spanish density is slightly lower than the density of the European Union.  There are serious differences in the distribution of population:

Most populated provinces (2013)

  • Madrid (6,495,551).
  • Barcelona (5,540,925).
  • Valencia (2,566,474).
  • Alicante (1,945,642).
  • Seville (1,942,155).

Most unpopulated provinces (2013).

  • Soria (93,291).
  • Teruel (142,183).
  • Segovia (161,702).
  • Palencia (168,955).
  • Ávila (168,825).

Concerning regions there are also important differences:

  • Andalusia has 8.440.300, Catalonia 7.553.650, and Madrid 6,495,551 inhabitants (2013).
  • Instead, La Rioja is just populated by 322.027, Cantabria by 591.888, and Navarre by 644.477 inhabitants (2013).

Most of the people live along the coastline, whereas inland regions are almost unpopulated (save Madrid), due to the rural exodus carried out between the 1950s and 1970s. Rural and mountain areas are quite uninhabited. On the contrary, the population is concentrated in provincial capitals.

– The provinces with a higher density are (2013):

  • Madrid (809.11).
  • Barcelona (716.99).
  • Vizcaya (521.63).
  • Guipúzcoa (360.51).
  • Alicante (334.48).

– Instead, the ones which have a lower density are (2013):

  • Soria (9.05).
  • Teruel (9.60).
  • Cuenca (12.36).
  • Huesca (14.47)
  • Zamora (17.83).


2.2. Europe.  



Europe is a vast continent with over 740 million inhabitants. The European Union (28 countries) lead the Economy and the most of the population live in these countries. European countries share a common heritage, culture and history with several conflicts, but the base has been built under the three important empires: Roman Empire, (later Carolingian Empire and Holy Roman Empire), Bizantine Empire, Hispanic Empire and Napoleon´s Empire.

An urbanised continent

The majority of the population of Europe lives in cities, making it one of the world’s most urbanised continents.

However, urban population distribution is very uneven , as in some countries the percentage is higher than 90%, such as Belgium and Iceland. In other countries in eastern Europe it does not exceed 50%, such as Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Another characteristic of the European continent is that there are few large urban agglomerations. The exceptions are Moscow, London and Istanbul which are the most populated European cities. Europeans mainly live in medium-sized and small cities.

European population density

Population growth has been very fast throughout the history of the continent, especially at the end of the 18th century due to the development of industry. However, since the end of the 20th century, this growth has been very low, and in some countries, it has even stopped.
The low birth rates are reflected in a crude birth rate of between 9‰ and 11‰. To add to this, a high life expectancy, above the age of 75, has led to an ageing population.

The distribution of the European population is quite unequal and this is reflected in its population density. Although the continent’s population density is about 70 inhab./km2, there are significant differences.
In some countries, such as Belgium, the density is over 350 inhab./km2, while in others it does not reach 10 inhab./km2. This is the case in Russia, even though it is the most populous European country.

The most populated areas are located in coastal areas and near major rivers of western European countries.

The triangle formed by Great Britain, Italy and central Europe is the most highly populated, especially in big cities.

The lowest populated areas are in the Nordic countries.



The main characteristic of the World population distribution is that is uneven. The most populated countries are not the most developed one. On the other hand, the developed countries have small deaths and births rates. Europe has a natural growth near zero (0.1), and getting halted the population tends to live longer and becoming aged population. One of the problems in the developed countries is the ageing. On the other hand, developing countries that hold the most of the World population reach high rates of poverty. So in developing countries, the increasing of population imply the increasing demand for food. This is probably the most basic challenge and the most salient population and environmental crisis. But the fear that population size would one day exceeds the food supply has not proved true. H. Rosling says in this documentaryEnd of Poverty’, that the big challenge for the UN is how to end poverty.

3.2. The ageing population

In rich countries, increased life expectancy and falling birth rates have resulted in the strong growth of the elderly population and a shortage of young people. This increases the need to allocate more financial resources to assist the elderly population: payment of pensions, healthcare and specialist care. In turn, the productive capacity of society suffers, because when there are fewer births, there are increasingly fewer workers. This shortage is often mitigated by receiving immigrants.

In many countries that are in this situation, governments are putting pronatalist policies into practice. They aim to stimulate the birth rate through measures such as providing financial aid per child or for large families and encouraging social policies that favour workers when they try to reconcile their personal and professional lives.


Access to the natural resources and food is the main matter and challenge for the future.

Unequal access to resources: Water, food, energy.

Over-grazing, pollution and population pressure over natural resources: Human Action, provokes the most serious hazard to keep the balance in the environment. If over-grazing continues to cause soil degradation, we won’t be able to feed people in the future.The water´s Earth could support  20 billion people but only depends on us. Depending on our responsibility in important matters such as RRR (Reduce-Recycle-Reuse). Look at this video to convince yourself:

The soil is over-exploited for feeding the cattle: When it comes to farm animal numbers, the statistics are frightening. The world’s average stock of chickens is almost 20bn, or three per person. Cattle are the next most populous breed of farm animal at 1.4bn, with sheep and pigs not far behind at around 1bn each.


This means that all the World Population could access to three chicken per head, but actually, it doesn´t.

3.4. Inequalities. (HDI)

  • Economy and technology. In developed countries, the Tertiary sector is the most important economic sector. Great level of technological development. Undeveloped countries and developing countries, Primary (agriculture) and Secondary (Industry) sector are the most important. Industrialisation developing slowly in developing countries.
  • GDP and Per Capita income. Developed countries high GDP, developing countries low GDP. GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
  • Healthcare and education. In developed countries public education and Health Care System ( coverage), pensions, etc. In non-developed or developing countries need the help and support of NGOs to provide health and literacy and all kind of assistance.
  • Social inequalities. High differences in the distribution of wealth in developing countries. Not so high in developed countries.

Apart from inequalities in the demographics of countries, there are significant differences between the richest, or developed countries, and the poorest countries, which are known as underdeveloped or developing countries.

To measure these differences, the UN uses the Human Development Index (HDI). This indicator assesses economic, social and cultural data that can be quantified. The data include information on life expectancy, infant mortality, the income level of the population and the literacy level or years of schooling.

http://www.datosmacro.com/idh  (map)

Norway leads this table in 2016. European countries are on the top of the list by DHI.  Spain is in the 27th position in a very high position over 188 countries.


Link to UN data

Access to the natural resources and food is the main matter and challenge for the future.


Population growth and distribution have always been linked to the availability of fresh water and the sustainability of renewable water resources. The demand for water has grown significantly over the last 50 years not only because of population growth, but also because of an increase in the uses of water for households, agriculture, and industrial production. This is going to be the most relevant challenge we have, from now on.

Resources are unequally distributed and the richest countries control most of the natural resources, energy and wealth.



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