12 | North America and Europe (NAE) Report

women's rights and the environment. Their development was closely associated with pop and rock music that pro­claimed a radical, English-language culture across the radio waves of much of NAE (Jones, 2005).

     During the period 1913-1998 but primarily prior to 1950, populations in western Europe increased 1.5-fold and those in eastern Europe and USSR increased 1.7-fold, while the US population increased 2.8-fold, much nearer the global average of around 3.3-fold (Maddison, 2001). NAE populations have become older: the median age in the US is now 36 years, although it was 28 as recently as 1970. In Europe, 1.6% of the population was aged 80 or over in 1970, and today the figure is 3.5% (UN Population Divi­sion, 2005b). Life expectancy is 80 years for Canada, 77 for the US and 79 in western Europe, but only 65 in Russia and 66 in Ukraine (UN Population Division, 2005b). In the lat­ter countries, there are now twice as many deaths as births; health problems include alcohol, smoking, tuberculosis and AIDS/HIV (Meier, 2006). Populations in Russia and eastern Europe are forecast to decline by over 20% by 2050; those in western Europe and North America are more likely to increase slightly (UN Population Division, 2005a). This dis­parity is reflected in the great variation in wealth across the region: the gross national incomes (GNI) per capita of Lux­embourg, Norway and Switzerland exceed $50,000, while several countries in eastern Europe have GNI values of less than $5,000 (World Bank, 2006).

     Israel was created in 1948 as a Jewish homeland in part of what had been known as Palestine, bringing people to­gether from across many areas of the rest of NAE. Relations with the rest of Palestine and Arab states in the region have dominated Israel's politics to this date. Life expectancy at birth is nearly 80 years, with GNI per capita of $18,000 (World Bank, 2006).

     The extent of urbanization varies greatly across the region. It is highest in the densely populated countries of northwest Europe, reaching over 90% in Belgium. In the US, 60% of the population now live in metropolitan areas of at least one million people, and citizens move on aver­age ten times during their lives. Demographic change and suburbanization have been similar in Canada, where there has also been a migration westward, especially to the oil-rich state of Alberta. Urbanization is least in eastern Eu­rope (e.g., less than 50% of the populations of Albania and Moldova), where the differences in wellbeing between ur­ban and rural people may be the greatest. Thus in Moldava, a country where 48% still work in agriculture, half of the population earned just $19 per month in 2000 (Judt, 2005). Not surprisingly, many people in rural areas are seeking employment elsewhere, especially in western Europe, result­ing in depopulation and land abandonment. It is estimated that two million Polish citizens (out of a total population of 39M) have left the country since accession to the EU, while an estimated seven million people have left Ukraine to find work since the fall of the Soviet Union (Meier, 2006). Many of these people are employed in the food and agricultural sectors; this is also true of the 14 million economic migrants to the US since 1990, mostly from Mexico and Asia (US Census Bureau, 2007).

     The political and economic  situation  of indigenous peoples in North America has changed greatly in recent de-


cades. In Canada, the Canadian Constitution was amended to protect aboriginal rights and the Northwest Territories was partitioned to form Nunavat, a self-governing home­land of two million square kilometers for the Inuit. Canadi­an aboriginal peoples account for around one million of the total population of 32 million, and they are a young and in­creasingly urbanized population (Statistics Canada, 2006). The proportion of reported American Indian and Alaskan Natives in the US is smaller, at around one percent of the population, and also with a lower than average median age (US Census Bureau, 2007). The purchase of the Hard Rock Café chain by the Seminole and establishment of casinos on native lands indicate the increasing wealth and power of at least some of the tribes, yet sharp disparities persist between US American Indian and white populations in most indicators of health and well-being. There are far fewer na­tive peoples in Eurasia, with around 30,000 native speak­ers of the Samoyedic and other languages dispersed across northern Scandinavia and Siberia and into the Aleutian Islands.

     Literacy rates are high across the region, and funding for education is at least 3% of GDP in every country. The number of women studying for a university degree has dra­matically increased since 1945. In both eastern and western Europe, the proportion of women students ranges between 45 and 62%, with almost twice as many taking humanities and arts than science, mathematics or computing. Women now account for over 40% of non-agricultural jobs across most of the region, but in all EU countries women earn less on average than men. The gender pay gap ranges from less than 10% in Portugal, Belgium and Italy to 22-25% in the UK, US and Germany; in the US white women earn 76% of the wages of white men for comparable work. In most EU countries women spend about twice as much time on domestic work as men, although the ratio is considerably smaller in Sweden and Finland and much larger in Italy and Spain (EUROSTAT, 2007b).

1.4.2 Natural resources and their exploitation

Taken as a whole, the region is well endowed with land, with temperate climates and soil conditions suitable for farming and forestry. The NAE region is circumpolar, bounded in the south by mountains, deserts and the Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean and Black Seas. The climates, and hence conditions for agriculture, are determined largely by lati­tude, altitudes and proximity to prevailing winds from the oceans. North-south gradients range from polar to desert: Russia is the coldest populated country in the world, with a mid-annual temperature of -5.5°C, and more than half of the country currently covered with permafrost. By contrast, California experiences the hottest temperatures recorded on the planet. Precipitation is governed more by east-west gra­dients. In Eurasia, the climate is milder in the northwest, which is warmed by the Gulf Stream that also carries rain from the Atlantic. Farther east, the climate becomes drier and more continental, with greater variation between win­ter and summer. The equivalent gradients in North America are east to west, with precipitation decreasing until deserts are reached in the southwest. Wet, warm winters and hot, dry summers characterize the climates of the Mediterranean and California.