24 episodes

(MCDB 150) This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analysis with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.

This course was recorded in Spring 2009.

Global Problems of Population Growth - Audio Yale University

    • Science
    • 4.3 • 17 Ratings

(MCDB 150) This survey course introduces students to the important and basic material on human fertility, population growth, the demographic transition and population policy. Topics include: the human and environmental dimensions of population pressure, demographic history, economic and cultural causes of demographic change, environmental carrying capacity and sustainability. Political, religious and ethical issues surrounding fertility are also addressed. The lectures and readings attempt to balance theoretical and demographic scale analysis with studies of individual humans and communities. The perspective is global with both developed and developing countries included.

This course was recorded in Spring 2009.

    01 - Evolution of Sex and Reproductive Strategies

    01 - Evolution of Sex and Reproductive Strategies

    Reproduction is not simple or easy, nor is it fair. Females often bear a larger reproductive burden of child bearing and child rearing. Reproductive strategies can be simplified into two primary strategies for males and two for females: males either engage in sperm competition or physical competition while females strategize to get resources from males, or to find the best male genes for the offspring. Rape and violence, as reproductive strategies, occur in few species, but violence is especially prevalent among the great apes, probably because eggs are so scarce in these species. In orangutans, rape is common. For gorillas, infanticide is a common form of reproductive violence, and male chimpanzees regularly fight each other and batter females.

    • 3 sec
    02 - Sex and Violence Among the Apes

    02 - Sex and Violence Among the Apes

    Chimpanzee males compete for position in a dominance hierarchy; status often depends on support from other members, including females, of the group. High ranking males have much greater sexual access to females in estrus. Males control females by physical violence and intimidation. Chimpanzees also engage in purposeful raids to kill members of other chimpanzee groups. This inter-group violence can help explain intra-group violence. To fend off attack from other groups, males must remain in groups and that requires males to compete for mating opportunities within the community. Competition for the scarce resource, eggs, leads to male-male violence and male coercion of females. If the alpha male monopolized all reproductive potential, then evolution would push non-dominant males to either fight continually for dominance or to leave the group and find females elsewhere. The chimpanzee solution is to allow all males some (though very unequal) reproductive possibility.

    • 4 sec
    03 - From Ape to Human

    03 - From Ape to Human

    Throughout prehistoric, written, and recent history, human warfare has been commonplace. Nearly all societies engage in regular or periodic war. In many examples, human warfare has characteristics similar to chimpanzee war: an in-group fights with and kills members of the out-group. This information is not to be misinterpreted as either justifying human violence or considering it inevitable. When it comes to births and fecundity, though, humans are very different from the other great apes. Chimpanzees reproduce once every five to eight years; humans can give birth again within 18 months. It is likely that an increase in male contribution to child rearing allowed this greater fecundity.

    • 4 sec
    04 - When Humans Were Scarce

    04 - When Humans Were Scarce

    Hunter-gatherer populations were much less dense than later agriculturalists. The variety of their food supply protected them from crop failures and their sparseness reduced the spread of infectious diseases. Hunter-gatherers were healthier and worked less than early agriculturalists. Why didn't their numbers increase up to the same level of Malthusian misery? Their numbers may have been limited by violence between groups. Agriculture is more work intense and offers a less varied diet. Populations seem to grow rapidly and then die out suddenly. Populations are subject to climatic- or disease-caused crop failure. But farming allows individuals to produce a surplus of food that can then be stolen by warrior tribes or military castes. The surplus allows for population growth, cities and stratified societies. The death rate, until perhaps the 1700s in Europe, is enormously high: only approximately a third of women survive to the end of their reproductive period. At this death rate, surviving women who are able to reproduce must have more than six children on average or the society goes extinct. All the great religions and cultures develop in this long period and all stress the requirement for high reproductive rates: "Be fruitful and multiply."

    • 4 sec
    05 - Why Is Africa Different?

    05 - Why Is Africa Different?

    In addition to cultural controls acting to maximize fertility, there are important, and often competing, interests of individual families to limit fertility. Unwanted births are dealt with by infanticide in many cultures. Additionally, fertility is regularly controlled by limiting marriage within a culture. Another very important factor in population growth, especially in the tropics, is food availability. Heavy rains in the tropics wash nutrients away, leaving deficient soils. Much of Africa is either too dry or too wet. Africa was, until recently, not densely populated. Since land was available and because more children meant more security and power, a culture evolved that emphasized high fertility, justified by the need for descendants to pacify ancestors. Sub-Saharan (tropical) Africa has the highest birth rates in the world. As an example, Niger, just south of the Sahara desert has a fertility rate of almost eight children per woman while, in the Mediterranean zone, Morocco, just north of the Sahara, but also a Sunni Muslim country, has a rate of only 3.3 children per woman.

    • 4 sec
    06 - Malthusian Times

    06 - Malthusian Times

    In many regions, the central cultural idea is that of a lineage, a family and its line of male ancestors and descendants. The prime duty in these cultures is to keep the lineage going. Religion is small scale with the ancestors performing many of the functions of gods. Denser populations and larger political entities lead to large-scale religion where conformity is stressed and cultural rules are codified in a book and not subject to discussion with the ancestors. In pre-modern Sub-Saharan Africa, land was not limiting, so a maximum number of children was desired. Neither monogamy nor chastity were valued as much as fertility. Families were not nuclear; husbands and wives did not engage in many activities together; children were often raised by other members of the village and women had the responsibility for economic support of the children. In many areas of Sub-Saharan Africa, farming is the work of women. Women often prefer men with resources which leads to polygamy. Women in polygamous relationships form support groups for each other and men enjoy the fruits of several women's labor and children. In temperate regions, the land eventually fills up and the dangers of overpopulation come to the fore. Peasants are miserably poor. Massive epidemics (the Black Death, 1347 and onward) and wars (the Catholic-Protestant wars, 1562-1648) can kill a third of the population.

    • 4 sec

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
17 Ratings

17 Ratings

Afairrose ,

Can't imagine how I did without this course!

After seven years of traditional college I am amazed to find this was one of the most stimulating and interesting courses I've ever experienced. I wish the written topics were listed somewhere as I have no doubt they would be fascinating. I have suggested this course to so many people that I needed to write a review to reach more.

Brian McBride ,

Amazing - a scientific approach to vexing social problems by a true Renaissance man.

I'll hate when the series ends!

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