Some Thoughts on Population Density
By Cam Mather
Whenever we head to the nearest big city of Kingston to run errands we like to enjoy a meal at our favorite restaurant Curry Original. We love Indian food and their food is fantastic. We’ve come to know the owner Ali well, and we often talk to him and his staff about their trips back home to Bangladesh. I’m absolutely fascinated to hear about a country with such a dense population.
Bangladesh has a population of 162 million people and is 55,600 square miles in size. This means that for every square mile there are 2,917, or almost 3,000 people. Iowa is 56,271 square miles, which is close to Bangladesh with a population of 3 million people so the population density is 54 people for every square mile. New Jersey is the most densely populated U.S. State at 1,171 people per square mile. Wyoming and Montana have populations of about 6 people per square mile.
The Canadian province of Saskatchewan is 228,450 square miles, or 5 times as big as Bangladesh and has a population of 1,041,729, or let’s say 1 million people. So this means that everyone in Saskatchewan gets 4.3 square miles to themselves. Compared to 3,000 people per square mile, it’s crazy.
We own 150 acres and are surrounded by an undeveloped provincial park and many hunt camps. Our nearest neighbors are 3 miles to the east and 6 miles to the west. So other than the first two weeks of November during deer hunting season, I think we even beat Saskatchewan for population density. It’s just the two of us so on our property we each get 75 acres to ourselves, but if you count the bush around us its probably 750 acres, or 7,500 acres. It’s pretty amazing, and as someone who arrived here burned out on city life, it’s a dream come true.
I love foreign films because they let me experience other cultures without having the carbon footprint of actually flying there. I also don’t have to experience the airport nightmares, luggage horrors, unpredictable sickness, etc. that goes along with foreign travel. I enjoy watching south Asian movies so that I can see places like India. One thing I’m always struck by is the number of people. The sheer mass of humanity. Canada is almost 4 million square miles with 34 million people or 8 people per square mile.
India is 1.3 million square miles with an estimated population of 1.2 billion. That’s 933 people per square mile. I love Indian food and I appreciate the Indian culture but I have no desire to go to India. I just don’t think I could handle the crowds. I routinely don’t leave this place for weeks, so I really only ever see one other person on an on-going basis, my wife Michelle. I can just imagine that if I ever traveled to a country like India and find myself in a train station with 1,000s of people I’d probably have a huge panic attack. It would be quite embarrassing, so I’m just staying home.
In “Thriving During Challenging Times” I talk about how in the early 70s when the population of the planet was about 3.5 billion, the Club of Rome and a number of other groups suggested that maybe we should talk about slowing down or even stopping population growth. Maybe 3 billion is the carrying capacity of the planet. With the population of the planet now at 6.7 billion, obviously we didn’t listen. When I was born in 1960 the population was 3 billion, and in the year 2000 it was 6 billion, so in 4 decades, the population has doubled.
If everyone on the planet consumed at the rate of North Americans we’d need 5 planet Earths. Luckily most don’t. I know I’m doing my best to reduce my demands on the planet as much as I can. All I need to do is give up my car, rototiller, chainsaw and most of my income and I’d be close to someone living in Bangladesh.
In the meantime, I’m glad that Saskatchewan has so many farmers with so many huge fields of wheat. With affordable oil they are able to put diesel in their tractors and natural gas based fertilizers on their fields they are able to grow enough food to feed all the people who live in places with population densities too high to feed themselves. This year Saskatchewan had horrible spring rains and many farmers couldn’t get into their fields to seed properly. Their harvest will be down significantly. Russia has just announced that they will not be exporting any grain this year because of their brutal heat wave. Moscow has been under a cloud of smoke from the hundreds of wildfires that are burning, which has also dramatically affected crop yields.
In the book “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz”, the main character is obsessed with owning property because his grandfather has instilled in him a belief, “A man without land is nothing.” This was my philosophy when we bought our 150 acres. As the population of the planet continues to grow and climate change continues to impact crop yields, I don’t think there is any better insurance that you can have than some acres with your name on the property deed.