How can New York City cram more people into its already overcrowded and overpriced housing market? To go about finding a creative and cheap answer, the city put a piece of public land up for grabs and sponsored a contest called adAPT NYC. The parameters? Build and operate the city’s first micro-unit apartment building in Manhattan.
The winner’s “My Micro NY” design beat out the 32 other submissions by squeezing 55 apartments into the building, each measuring a mere 250 to 370 square feet. The key was to minimize the square footage while maximizing natural light and a feeling of openness. According to the judges, the winning architects achieved this via high ceilings, big windows and multi-functioning spaces. The Juliet balconies didn’t hurt either. To escape the confines of these cube-like rooms, a whopping 18 percent of the building will be designated for shared use—lounges, party rooms, a rooftop garden and a fitness center.
What’s the News: The world’s population is projected to reach 7 billion this October and continue climbing, reaching 10.1 billion by the end of the 21st century, says an official United Nations report (PDF) released earlier this week. This is a significant departure from earlier projections that said the population would peak at just over 9 billion, then level off and even slightly decline.
Scientists have argued before that controlling the earth’s burgeoning population would be one of the most effective ways to slow global warming, since keeping millions of little consumers from being born would reduce the amount of fossil fuel that would have to be burned to keep them warm and fed and happy. Now, an advocacy group that focuses on overpopulation is taking the argument the next step, suggesting that people or companies looking to offset their carbon dioxide emissions should buy contraception that would be distributed in poor countries.
Optimum Population Trust (Opt) stresses that birth control will be provided only to those who have no access to it, and only unwanted births would be avoided. Opt estimates that 80 million pregnancies each year are unwanted. The cost-benefit analysis commissioned by the trust claims that family planning is the cheapest way to reduce carbon emissions [The Guardian].
Historians believe they’re settled a long-running debate over ancient Rome’s population at the turn of the 1st century B.C.E. thanks to stashes of ancient Roman coins. This was the period marked by Julius Caesar’s assassination and the Roman empire’s collapse, but surprisingly, historical records during the war-torn era show a population explosion in Rome. Census data, thought to only account for males, gives a population increase from 400,000 in 2nd century B.C.E. to between 4 and 5 million at the 1st century B.C.E.
But some historians argue that the population didn’t really increase, and that in fact it declined during this period because of the wars. To back up their idea they are turning to buried treasure. In times of instability in the ancient world, people stashed their cash and if they got killed or displaced, they didn’t come back for their Geld. Thus, large numbers of coin hoards are a good quantitative indicator of population decline, two researchers argue in in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday [Wired.com].
Babies born in rich nations today have the best shot at becoming centenarians. That’s if current life expectancy trends continue, according to the study published in The Lancet.
Not only will these babies live longer, but they’ll be healthier well into old age. The researchers based their projections on a case study of Germany that showed that by 2050, its population will be substantially older and smaller than now — a situation it said was now typical of rich nations [Reuters]. In the United States, half of the babies born in 2007 are expected to live to a ripe 104 years old. The authors credited improvements in health care, medicine, and lifestyle, as well as a drop in infant mortality rates, for increased life spans.
Data from more than 30 developed countries shows that since 1950 the probability of surviving past 80 years of age has doubled for both sexes [BBC News]. However, the study cautions that despite improved life expectancies, an increase in cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses has risen with aging populations [ABC News]. As citizens get older and require more medical care, the increased life expectancies may place a burden on society. Already, many countries are pushing to extent the retirement age to grapple with the costs.
80beats: When Laws Save Lives: Cleaner Air Increased Life Expectancy by 5 Months
80beats: A Single Genetic Tweak Gives Mice Longer, Healthier Lives
80beats: Low-Calorie Diet Staves off Aging & Death in Monkeys
Image: flickr / Will Foster
One thing we might have to look forward to should we fall deeper into a recession—a boost in public health. Americans were healthier during the Great Depression than the stronger economic periods surrounding the slump, according to a surprising new study.
Researchers studied life expectancies, mortality rates, GDP, and unemployment rates from 1920 to 1940. The team found an inverse association between economic health and population health: Life expectancy fell during economic upturns and increased during recessions. Mortality, meanwhile, tended to rise during economic upturns and fall during recessions. Deaths related to flu and pneumonia, for example, fell from about 150 per 100,000 people in 1929 to roughly 100 per 100,000 people in 1930, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [ScienceNOW Daily News].
The researchers won’t say for sure why this is, but they offer several theories. When the economy is growing, people tend to sleep less and smoke and drink more. They also engage in more strenuous labor, endure more work stress and breathe more polluted air. Traffic and industrial accidents rise [Los Angeles Times]. The one exception, of course, is suicides. As times get harder suicides go up, but during the time period studied they accounted for less than 2 percent of all deaths.
80beats: Stats Suggest Recession Prevented Over 70K Babies From Being Born
80beats: Pop Music & Blogs as Indicators of Gross National Happiness
80beats: What Does the Economic Crisis Mean for the Green Tech Sector?
Image: flickr / Tony the Misfit
Forget, for a moment, all those fancy geoengineering schemes that would alter the face of the planet in an attempt to reduce global warming‘s impact. Population scientists argue that a cheaper and simpler strategy is to hand out birth control to those who want it–especially to people in the developing world, where birth rates are booming.
The world’s population is projected to jump to 9 billion by 2050, with more than 90 percent of that growth coming from developing countries…. In countries with access to condoms and other contraceptives, average family sizes tend to fall significantly within a generation. Until recently, many U.S.-funded health programs did not pay for or encourage condom use in poor countries, even to fight diseases such as AIDS [AP].
Norman E. Borlaug, a world-renowned American botanist, died this past Saturday at his home in Dallas from complications due to cancer. Borlaug, who was 95, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for starting the “Green Revolution” that dramatically increased food production in developing nations and saved countless people from starvation [Washington Post]. Borlaug pioneered high-yield agricultural techniques, using cross-bred crops and nitrogen fertilizers, which helped India, Mexico, and other nations combat hunger and become self-sufficient producers of grains.
“Civilization as it is known today could not have evolved, nor can it survive, without an adequate food supply,” said Borlaug during his Nobel Lecture in 1970. “Yet food is something that is taken for granted by most world leaders despite the fact that more than half of the population of the world is hungry. Man seems to insist on ignoring the lessons available from history.”
Birth rates have decreased by about 2 percent in 2008, the first year since the beginning of the decade that rates did not increase, according to statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics. Many experts speculate that this drop is due to the recession. Still, birth rate statistics have not yet been finalized, and some believe that a decrease in immigration could account for the decrease in births.
As any parent knows, children are expensive, so in a shaky economy, it makes sense that fewer people would be having them. “It’s the recession,” said [sociologist] Andrew Hacker… “Children are the most expensive item in every family’s budget, especially given all the gear kids expect today. So it’s a good place to cut back when you’re uncertain about the future” [New York Times]. Perhaps not coincidentally, the two states with the largest decrease in births–California and Florida–are also the ones that faced the biggest problems due to the housing crisis.
The preference for sons in traditional Chinese families has led to a vast gender disparity in China: A study has found that there are currently 32 million more boys than girls under the age of 20. While Chinese officials have acknowledged that the country’s “one-child” policy has led to a gender imbalance, the new study offers the first hard data on the extent of the disparity. The study included nearly five million people under the age of 20 and covered every county in China. It found that overall ratios of boys were high everywhere, but were most striking among the younger age group of 1-4 years, and in rural areas, where it peaked at 126 boys for every 100 girls [The Wall Street Journal blog].
With the greatest imbalance occurring with very young children, the researchers say that China will be grappling with the problem for 20 years. The imbalance is expected to steadily worsen among people of childbearing age over the next two decades and could trigger a slew of social problems…. “If you’ve got highly sexed young men, there is a concern that they will all get together and, with high levels of testosterone, there may be a real risk, that they will go out and commit crimes” [AP], says study coauthor Therese Hesketh.