Does Depopulation Destroy Places?

A simple look at what it has done to a number of places

Mwanikii
3 min readJul 15, 2022
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

RRecent events such as Elon Musk’s scandal have caused a persistent debate on the population to arise once again. He shrugged off having twins with an employee at one of his companies by jokingly saying:

Tweet by Elon Musk

There are serious concerns about what population stagnation or depopulation could do to the modern world. But, many people would actually be surprised that this is not the first time population growth(or lack thereof) has brought damning hardship.

History has shown us numerous times that the lasting effects of a drop in population are far-reaching and heavily influential in the way economies could be influenced. In certain instances, there are positive effects that directly result from population drops such as ecological rejuvenation or better worker’s rights. The more common ones are dire negative outcomes that plague a place for decades or even centuries in the most extreme cases.

Let’s get to see some examples of this phenomenon.

Sparta

Sparta has shaped our way of thought on what it is to be a disciplined and extremely courageous person in the face of adverse difficulty. It is not uncommon for people not to know much about Sparta but know enough about its military strength and brutish ways.

There are a few propositions as to how Sparta became an entity and even an organized state but our focus here shall be on how the population could have primarily affected Sparta.

The death of Leonidas, King of Sparta, who lives in perpetuity as a hero was around 480 BC. This was during the Greco-Persian wars and many sources vary on the population of Sparta around the time.

A few estimates place the number of men anywhere between 8,000 men at the least conservative estimate and 12,000 men at the most conservative estimate at the start of the century. By the time the century had ended the number had dropped to multiples lower to anywhere around 2,000 men.

The problems that plagued Sparta were surprisingly familiar to today’s eyes. War combined with natural calamity and economic inequality in the region led to a sharp decline in Sparta’s economic capacity and ability to hold any influence.

By the time Rome ascended to prominence, wealth, and unrivaled prestige, Sparta was nothing more than a tourist attraction to visitors who marveled at the old glory days.

Africa

The African continent is no stranger to depopulation and its effects are often understated as they largely contribute to many of the problems that have plagued the continent in the past.

Slavery and war played a huge role in limiting Africa’s economic potential and it can only be put into perspective by the sheer number of people who were enslaved or killed during this time.

The most infamous human trade was the Transatlantic slave trade which leaves evident scars on both sides of the ocean. It is here that millions died due to depravement and dehumanizing conditions.

On the eastern side of the continent, a similarly horrifying but often understated slave trade occurred that had implications that were just as far-reaching and debilitating as those of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The direct effect of this was those entire regions were incentivized to engage in slave-hunting which immediately led to depopulation. Those hands that would have been used to maintain agricultural systems in those regions and productive economic activities were tied and taken to do the same in far-flung places.

Regions that boasted civilization and world-renown wealth were reduced to deserted places that nature could readily reclaim.

The two examples above are part of many examples that show the difficulty in reversing population drops and their effects. Once the economic implications of a smaller young working class begin afflicting the world, then it would become only more difficult for both the young and the old who are trying to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

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Mwanikii

Writer. Techie. History buff. If it changes the world I’m on its case. Open for gigs… freddynjagi@gmail.com! Published by the Writing Cooperative.