We talked a lot about the effects of over population back in the seventies. There was a famous often quoted experiment with mice where the little ones were allowed to reproduce all willy-nilly (as mice are wont to do) within a confined space with a finite food supply. The results were always grim. The more crowded they got, the more violent and abhorrent their behavior. If this were true with humans, we should see more violence in countries where the population density is greater. Doesn't seem to hold true.
This chart by Charles Platt (Boing Boing) is a visual representation of population density. He was trying to answer the question:
To what extent do we feel overcrowded, as a species? I’m not talking about resources; just psychological factors.He concluded that open space isn't really necessary for our mental health.
I wonder if it isn't more of a factor of where we are raised and how we spent our youth. I live in the Denver area. Grew up here. Much of my recreational time was spent going up into the mountains. My dad's idea of a good time was to go as deep into the woods as possible and fish for a week or two. If we ran into someone else, we didn't go far enough.
I lived on the east coast for a while in a rural area of Maryland. I was never able to find that "empty space" feeling I could get in Colorado except Christmas day on the beach. We could walk for an hour or two and never see another person. A woman out there once confided to me that she could never live out west because the towns were too far apart. It scared her when she and her husband were vacationing there. I yearned for what she feared.
I like cities. I like the wilderness. If you made me choose one over the other. Pick a place I would spend the rest of my life. I think it would have to be the wide open spaces. I could give up the city. I don't think I could give up the wilderness.
Think I'll show this to my students and see what they make of it.
[Image captured from Boing Boing: "Charts 3":http://www.boingboing.net/2009/01/30/charts-3.html]