Speed of Demographics

What do you think is THE fastest thing on Earth and beyond?

I am sure if you thought of some super modern car made in Italy or super sonic, faster than sound, military plane or maybe heavy rocket capable of taking astronauts to the orbit in less than 2 minutes or even the fastest man made satellite with its speed of almost 90000 miles per hour, the answer would easily be NO. Comparing to what I am referring to right now, all those great man made machines are traveling only little faster than snails. Not even the motion of a planet or a star is even close to the speed of .... one little thing traveling as fast as human thought ... and simply called ... TIME.

Details from our weekend house in Guševac, Serbia

The time is the only thing that travels so fast that sometimes it seems that some memorable event engraved in our memory banks years ago, looks so vivid in the present like it happened only yesterday. If we look our children and how rapidly they grow, or ourselves, for that matter, caught on some picture in the past we simply can't get rid of the feeling and obvious question of how on Earth, time passed that quickly since then.

Of course, this is all an illusion. Perception of time is extremely relative. Different people experience time very differently. It depends on how old are you. What kind of life do you live. How active are you and surely where do you live. If you are a citizen of a big city, like New York or any other megalopolis worldwide, the time you are experiencing every day with all the events happening around you is passing a lot faster than if you are living in the mountain village where the fastest thing around you is scared flock of sheep on their daily tour from the farm to meadow and back.

Several years ago, I remember I was talking with an old lady who spent her entire life in the village of Guševac, my father's birth place where our weekend house is located in the village center. She told me that not too long ago, she remembers the time where everything was so calm and peaceful without any hints of modern technology and with zero cases of any viral disease among people. Flu and even simple cold was unfamiliar among 827 residents registered by census made in the year of 1961. It was one cheerful place and little community center where all neighboring villages gravitated to, with elementary school, post office with a telephone, two shops and numerous trade fairs organized during the year gathering thousands of people coming and preparing especially for those events.

Falling birth rate: Demographic transition or disaster*

Today, in the 'glorious' 21st century, all the magic of one small vivid community vanished. Modern technology with broadband internet along with all the typical city's problems, including human and digital viruses, replaced colorful life of the past. Most of the people moved to big cities and abroad. Today, there are only a handful number of children in the local school counting all 8 grades and village is currently occupied only by 320 inhabitants with average age of 54 and getting older every year. Many of neighboring villages are sharing the same fate or even worse. There is even a case of one remote village about 10km south counting today only 3 villagers. Three old men who, not surprisingly, stopped talking to each other years ago. I wouldn't be much surprised if they forgot the reason why.

It seems that time is slowing down inevitably in this part of the world and eventually threatens to stop entirely. The demographics of Serbian rural environment in general is very grim. Statistic shows that every year more people dies than being born and small villages are targeted first. The ones who are born on the other end, with very few exceptions, dream to leave the village and settle in one of neighboring cities or buy one way ticket toward abroad destinations and better life.

On the first glance, it might look that in the over-populated world as we are living today this is one isolated case, but it is not. If you glimpse the CIA World Factbook, world map based on fertility rate (and I am sure that organisation with the most famous acronym knows the true) it is more than obvious that reversal reciprocity is the first thing you can spot on the map showing number of newborns comparing to the countries and their industrial capacity (to say the least):

Worldwide fertility rate by CIA World Factbook**

Basically speaking, the blue area on the map indicates families in average with less than two children (or to be precise, all the women that in their entire life gave birth to less than 2 kids). This is the data from the year of 2013 and if we use only this to predict the future, it seems that nature is responding well in our efforts to overpopulate the planet. If you ask me, better this than some black death or even worse cataclysmic scenarios. On a funny side and if you believe in god then this might mean that almighty finally learned how to deal with too many humans sharing the same habitat and without large scale disasters.

Couple of days ago, fast internet access finally arrived to our small village despite not too many potential users. This probably means that I would be able to write this little blog from one more location in the future but in the end I am not sure that I am too happy about it. This also means that I lost last oasis without modern technology in the background where I felt a little freedom every time I escaped the city for a weekend.

However, don't get me wrong here, the past is behind us and even if the whole above CIAs map turns blue in the near of far future, and if this is necessary to avoid ultimate biodiversity collapse, then it is a good thing. Remember, if you are reading this it means you are alive and part of the blue (or any other color). We are lucky. There are many more who didn't born at all.

Facts and Fiction on Global Health NMD 2014

But what will be our fate in the future? What is real global health of ours today? What it was in the past? Are we doomed or there is hope? Perhaps the best answers for these questions and many more are in Dr. Hans Rosling research and TED presentations. He is the master of statistics and I am encouraging you to spare an hour and watch amazing lecture from the Nordic Media Festival earlier this year. Also, how statistics can be fun and well presented, try not to miss Rosling's demonstration of life expectancy in previous 200 years:

Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

*Falling birth rate: Demographic transition or disaster?
http://www.bbj.hu/economy/falling-birth-rate-demographic-transition-or-disaster_69737
http://www.referenceforbusiness.com/small/Co-Di/Demographics.html

**CIA World Factbook
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

List of sovereign states and dependent territories by fertility rate
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_fertility_rate