Demographics and Conflict

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Demographics and Conflict

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Demographics and Conflict Introduction to an Ancient Paradigm: population growth, environmental degradation, rising death rates and conflicts, exodus, war or genocide. People have been killing each other since before the beginning of written history, as recorded by the broken bones of people massacred long before writing was invented. One of the quiet reasons for the really large scale killings called genocides and wars is demographics, the statistics of birth rates, death rates, growth rates and migrations into or out of territories. This dimension is under-covered by those who focus on the statements or acts of key leaders. Commanders of war typically describe their reasons in political, religious or military terms, not demographics. But they were also often driven by forces they barely understood and could not control. The Mayan Empire probably fell that way. Easter Island certainly did. And the deserts of North Africa are filled with ruins from cities and empires that thrived … before the forests and farmable land turned into desert. The Kenyans have a saying: “First came forests, then man, then the deserts.” Therefore this chapter will show how simple births, deaths and migrations lead to an iron law of biology. This law observes that all living populations eventually achieve equilibrium with their environment, which means birth rates equal death rates and the population neither grows nor declines, or they die. Populations that try to grow forever become extinct or suffer catastrophic death rates. The modern case of Syria disintegrating after 2010 will be considered in some detail, because it also shows how global factors like climate change can trigger chaos. Syria’s population growth rate in 2011 was 2.4% per year, but when half its population was displaced by civil wars and about 6 million fled, its growth rate became sharply negative. At least 250,000 people died by violence alone. This will be followed by a short section on “Human Nature, Nurture, Free Will and War” because that topic has generated much commentary over centuries, with large implications if one accepts the simplistic conclusions that people are either born “innately” warlike, or rather “innately” social and cooperative. Truth is that people can be either one or the other depending on circumstances, and that much neglected factor “free will” or personal decisions. Finally we close with how a few more complicated demographics like “pyramidal” vs. “columnar” age distributions, and distorted sex ratios may influence the probability of organized armed conflict on earth today and in the future.


This was a large encyclopedia entry for an external project that never made it to actual publication. But it's extremely accurate, was peer reviewed, and is not as long as typical academic journal papers, nor as abstract.

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Andregg, Michael M.. (2016). Demographics and Conflict. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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