Social Question

mazingerz88's avatar

How do you envision an America with a population of a billion?

Asked by mazingerz88 (17839 points ) January 8th, 2013

Still going strong as a nation or in decline?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

20 Answers

bossob's avatar

It seems to me that the size of government has increased as the population has increased. (just speculation)

I can’t fathom the size that government would become if we tripled in population.

josie's avatar

It will take more than a bitter and jealous president to totally fuck up the US. Still going strong. Bring on babies and immigrants. Screw the creepazoids, tyrants and dictators. See you in the finals a century from now, with a winning team of 1000000000. Where are you going to buy your stock portfolio? You can’t be that stupid.

mazingerz88's avatar

@josie Ha ha…and I was about to imagine the Statue of Liberty one day just sitting down and lighting a cigarette much to the amazement of the tourists. : )

wundayatta's avatar

Well, given that we are not reproducing fast enough to increase population, and the only reason population is increasing is because of immigration, this is difficult to envision. However, I shall envision it as a futurist would.

Yeah. Since you’ve only given me a binary choice, I choose a strong nation. This is a nation that will create work for its citizens. People are industrious here. More people equals more industry. More creativity. And since the cyber revolution continues apace, I expect we’ll just do better and better, using fewer and fewer resources.

PhiNotPi's avatar

AP Human Geography time!

There are five stages of something called the demographic transition:

Stage 1: high death rate and high birth rate, low population growth
Stage 2: death rate declining do to innovation, but still a high birth rate, large population growth
Stage 3: low death rate, birth rate declining due to socio-economic reasons, some population growth
Stage 4: low death rate and low birth rate, little population growth
Stage 5: low death rate, but birth rate is still going down, possibly negative population growth

Until a few hundred years ago, most of the undeveloped countries were still in stage one of demographic transition. They had very little in terms of medical technology, which means that people died young. The people also had a lot of children, for many reasons. Children supply low-cost labour on farms, giving extra income to the family. Having a lot of children also countered the high infant mortality rate. A lot of children died, so you need to have a lot of children to make sure that several survived. A third reason is tradition, as people tend to want to have large families if everyone else has had large families.

Also a few hundred years ago, western civilization was already well into stage 3 of the demographic transition. Centuries of slow and steady scientific progress allowed the death rate to drop gradually. Also, socio-economic pressures slowly reduced the birth rate. People were now longer working mostly on farms, children became more costly and not worth the time, and eventually the tradition of large families was starting to go away. Since both of these processes were gradual, a large population explosion was avoided.

In modern times, all developed countries are well into stage 4, and a few are in stage 5 if you discount immigration. Until recently most undeveloped countries were still in stage 1 or 2. Then, advances in technology had allowed the world to become a much more connected place. This is called “space-time compression” in Human Geography jargon.

Suddenly, all of the medical technology of the developed nations had been introduced to the undeveloped countries. This extremely fast pace of development caused a tremendous change in lifespan, allowing to live much longer. The death rate plummeted. The infant mortality rate was also reduced, so more children were surviving to adulthood. The birth rate, however, is much slower to change. In many rural areas in developing countries, it is still economically advantageous (at least not disadvantageous) to have more children, even though there is a lower availability of food because of the extra children. There is also a long transition time, because there is not going to be an instant cultural shift in birth rates.

This combination of factors (a dramatically reduced birth rate and a birth rate that is still very high) has resulted in the massive population boom in developing countries that we are currently experiencing.

Pachy's avatar

I picture people scrambling for food, water, air, space…

filmfann's avatar

The United States has so much unused land, it is amazing to me. We could easily accommodate that kind of increase due to our size.
Would we be able to feed them? Probably. Much of our food is currently being sold in other countries. They may suffer a bit, but we won’t.
Water may be the only issue, and it is something we would simply have to prepare for.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room has it right – I say make war not more people (not really what anyone wants to hear but that’s the reality), there’s enough of us on here already. And everyone knows most Americans take up at least twice as much space as any other, normal human being, so… :P

zensky's avatar

There would be a big sign at Ellis Island: Private Property – Tresspassers will be shot.

Trance24's avatar

The way our consumption is right now we would be screwed. Yes we currently produce enough food to feed most of the world, but to produce enough food to satisfy the American life style I don’t think so. We would have to make changes in our diet, and water consumption as well. We already have an ongoing water crisis, and to divide it among that many people would be near impossible. In addition there would also be a lot of environmental damage, seeing as we would need to use more land. Sustainable development and reconciliation ecology practices would have to be enforced.

RocketGuy's avatar

Soylent Green is people!!!

ucme's avatar

There’d be no cheese left for anyone else.

mattbrowne's avatar

No longer drilling for oil, having managed the transformation to a green economy.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@mattbrowne we’re talking about the US of A, not Germany, man :P

mattbrowne's avatar

@fremen_warrior – I know, but there simply won’t be enough cheap oil for a billion Americans.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@mattbrowne who needs oil when you’ve got huge shale gas reserves?

mattbrowne's avatar

@fremen_warrior – There won’t be enough cheap shale gas for a billion Americans either.

fremen_warrior's avatar

@mattbrowne and a few years ago we didn’t even consider exploiting shale gas reserves, something new might come up.

wundayatta's avatar

@mattbrowne You can’t really know that. The cheap oil is lasting far longer than people predicted, and it continues to make renewable sources of energy uneconomical. Until oil starts to truly dry up, we aren’t going to see competitors. And when it does dry up, why would we expect the competitors not to become affordable?

mattbrowne's avatar

Suppose the 1.36 billion Chinese magically adopt today’s energy footprint of Americans starting now. Even the existence of giant shale gas resources won’t lead to cheap consumption, because you need other resources to make the gas available (machinery, distribution…). Supply won’t be able to catch up with increasing world wide demand. Now you could argue that American shale gas will be exclusively sold to the billion American consumers for low cost. Won’t work in a global economy. Increasing demand from elsewhere will drive up the price of shale gas.

We have to say good-bye to the idea of limitless fossil fuel reserves. A billion Americans with today’s living of standard will have to move to limitless renewable resources. Shale gas can only build a temporary bridge into this new green area. And we haven’t even discussed the implications of the increased CO2 production by 1 billion Americans. When our atmosphere hits 500 and 600 ppm we will live on a new kind of planet with tremendous changes that can be felt everywhere.

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