You are here

Stable population dynamic demystified by population sociologist, Sheila Newman

Quark writes about how the mainstream press is becoming increasingly hysterical in its promotion of growth lobby propaganda, particularly since the Australian Federal election in August 2010.Population sociologist Sheila Newman's talk, "Stable Population dynamic demystified," presented fascinating original material using social and biological research showing how most animals, including humans, can maintain steady state populations in different environments and conditions. Whilst showing how small populations can be maintained, it failed to bear out Hobbs' dismal prognostications.

Original new research

The talk given by population sociologist Sheila Newman at the AGM the Victorian branch of Sustainable Population Australia on July 22nd entitled "Stable Population dynamic demystified" or "Population dynamic simplified" was received with great interest by the audience. Ms Newman presented original material using both social and biological research showing how most animals including humans can maintain steady state populations in differing environments and conditions. It was a fascinating talk based on diverse disciplines including sociology, legal systems, energy and land use planning. The talk presented new ideas which challenged many old assumptions. For those who were not able to hear this talk , the e-book on which it was based can be found at "The Urge to Disperse".

UPDATE DEC 2012: If you would like to know more, Sheila Newman has just published her amazing new theory in a marvellous new book, Demography, Territory & Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations (see link). Forensic biologist, Hans Brunner writes of it: "This book takes us to a completely new paradigm in multiple species population science. It shows how little we understand, and how much we need to know, of the sexual reactions when closed colonies with an orderly reproduction system are destroyed, be it people or animals." Two chapters are on multi-species demography, the rest apply the theory to non-industrial societies and the author comes up with a completely new test for the collapse model of Easter Island, which will stun those who thought they knew all about it.

Westermarck Effect

To give an outline of the range of this talk, Ms. Newman's first important point was that populations of any animals appear to be programmed to seek mating opportunities away from the individuals with whom they have grown up (Westermarck effect) which appears to be innate. This behaviour limits mating opportunities since individuals must be selective and eligible partners must be found. This is true from animals with which humans would identify such as apes or other higher mammals, but it seems to be universal and observable in much more humble creatures such as cockroaches. In human societies, this innate force has been translated into laws of behaviour in societies which prohibit mating with close relatives.

Importance of territory

An important observation was that these prohibitions extended to further relatives when the carrying capacity of the land was low, thus ensuring that populations did not exceed carrying capacity. Ms Newman discussed exceptions to this pattern and the importance of territory for independence from parents, marrying, and raising offspring. All these factors mitigate against overpopulation.

On Being fruitful and multiplying

Her talk then went on to discuss the modern situation which has enabled the Leviticus dictum "be fruitful and multiply" to gain currency and disrupt population stability. Influxes of foreigners disrupting land tenure practices, dispossession of original inhabitants (e.g. colonisation) have served to cause population blow outs as people move from rural to urban environments. Reference to original territory is lost and "fertility opportunities" with unrelated others abound. Ms Newman notes that colonised nations that have retained control over land have populations that are better under control and are better off materially than those who have not and that those nations which have not inherited from their oppressors the English legal and inheritance system have a definite advantage over those who have.

Thomas Hobbes

I have to admit to a predisposition to be very receptive to this way of viewing history and the population explosion we are undoubtedly part of. We were told by 17th century English Thomas Hobbes the natural state of mankind is to lead lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". We have come to believe that this is how life was even just a few hundred years ago. Although this view is widely accepted along with other sets of notions such as endless childbearing and universal high infant mortality my inclination has been not to believe that such a contrast exists between the past and the present and to pursue the veracity of another ancient commentary this time from Psalms 90

The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

"Stable Population demystified" will have ensured that those with the door still ajar on viewing our past are now open and ready for further exploration.

Jill Quirk

Image icon world-scales.jpg6.73 KB


"As a whole, Europe will lose more than 60 million people over the next five decades. The remaining population will be much older than any other population in world history. In terms of demography,

Europe is entering uncharted territory. What it will mean to live in country where there are as many people over the age of 80 as there are people under the age of 20 is hard to imagine, but many Europeans countries will soon find out.

The challenges of this demographic change are going to be enormous".

The Australian.

If Europe is suffering with a population decline and supposed economic decline then why are so many people trying to get into Europe from Africa rather than the other way around. Population increases correlate with poverty and displacement.

Ultimately there must be a break from the massive population growth the world has undergone since discovering the power of industry and fossil fuels, and the advantages of transport and a spread of knowledge.

Nobody wants to be the one to break the addiction to growth! Europe with their "stagnant" population are much more ready for climate change than the nations with massive growth! Australia is decades behind in terms of preparing for 21st century technology and a carbon-free future.

The pro-growth demographic "solution" to the great ageing population threat, due to population stability, is the proposal to make the problem even bigger and push it down the road to our grandchildren so we can more easily enjoy the present time? Like all ponzi schemes it will all come crashing down one day. Let us not forget that today's retirees were yesterdays immigrants.