Assignment: Continental United States
When we in the West say a country is “developing,” we are usually thinking of a LDC, and what we mean is that it is not yet truly modern—that is, resembling the Westernized world. Westerners tend to assume that as, or if, these countries develop, they will look increasingly like us—urbanized, secularized, materialistic, and technology-dependent—and will want what we want.
LDCs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are huge—Brazil has a territory of three million square miles (larger than the continental United States) and a population of over 200 million; India’s territory of one million square miles supports a population of 1.2 billion. Others are tiny—the Pacific island of Nauru, for example, has 8,000 people living on eight square miles of land.
Nauru is small but not poor, thanks to a brisk trade in phosphate exports. Most of the poorest countries depend primarily on agriculture. LDCs are often dependent on a single commodity or raw material for export, but a few, such as the oil-rich states of the Persian Gulf—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—rely largely on a single natural resource, as does Russia, a country much poorer than Saudi Arabia and the others, who are anything but poor.
The world’s poorest countries generally have the highest population growth rates; the richest often have the lowest. The world’s population, surpassing 7.3 billion in 2015, has more than doubled since 1969. As Figure 9.2 and Figure 9.3 show, population growth rates have been steadily declining since the 1960s, but the world’s total population continues to climb and is projected to reach nine billion by 2050.
Population pressure places onerous burdens on economic, social, and political structures in many poor countries, but comparisons can be misleading and often yield surprises. The Gaza Strip—one of the most wretched places on earth—has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Arab and sub-Saharan countries generally have higher birthrates than Asian or Latin American nations. Asia is by far the most densely populated part of the globe. China and India alone account for roughly 37% of the world’s total population. Asia as a whole is home to almost three-fifths of the people but has only about 18% of the landmass.
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