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Declining populations

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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Nov 18, 2006 10:02 am    Post subject: Declining populations Reply with quote

One of the drivers behind our worries about fuel, housing, food, transportation, is the assumption of ever increasing mouths to support. However, during the 21st century, it looks like their will be a superabundance of goods -- if we simply do nothing:

DURING the second half of the 20th century, the global population explosion was the big demographic bogey. Robert McNamara, president of the World Bank in the 1970s, compared the threat of unmanageable population pressures with the danger of nuclear war. Now that worry has evaporated, and this century is spooking itself with the opposite fear: the onset of demographic decline.

The shrinkage of Russia and eastern Europe is familiar, though not perhaps the scale of it: Russia's population is expected to fall by 22% between 2005 and 2050, Ukraine's by a staggering 43%. Now the phenomenon is creeping into the rich world: Japan (see article) has started to shrink and others, such as Italy and Germany, will soon follow. Even China's population will be declining by the early 2030s, according to the UN, which projects that by 2050 populations will be lower than they are today in 50 countries.

A promising scenario:

People love to worry—maybe it's a symptom of ageing populations—but the gloom surrounding population declines misses the main point. The new demographics that are causing populations to age and to shrink are something to celebrate. Humanity was once caught in the trap of high fertility and high mortality. Now it has escaped into the freedom of low fertility and low mortality. Women's control over the number of children they have is an unqualified good—as is the average person's enjoyment, in rich countries, of ten more years of life than they had in 1960. Politicians may fear the decline of their nations' economic prowess, but people should celebrate the new demographics as heralding a golden age.
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Wed Nov 22, 2006 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree. Stabilization of population is a relief.

Still, there are several issues still unresolved.

First, we are beyond the current carrying capacity already,
and population is expected to increase by 50% in the
next 50 years or so (I knew I should have saved the
article - 9 billion by sometime this century). I say we
are byond the carrying capacity because of our reliance
on fossil fuels.

I was going to save this for another post,
but I heartily recommend "The Omnivore's Dilemma"
by Michael Pollan. Frankly, I recommend anything he's
written, including "Second Nature", "The Botany of Desire",
and "A Place/Home of One's Own". He is of the "natural
history" school of writing in which he takes one subject
and delves down into it, bringing to light all kinds of insights
into it, and especially, our relation to nature.

In any case, the thing I was thinking of in this context was
the monoculture of corn in our country and how corn has
crept into nearly every food niche. This (heavily subsidised)
corn culture is heavily dependent upon oil as one of the
key inputs to farming, making our food supply less based
on the solar energy of plants than upon the limited solar
energy of fossil fuel. He takes the reader through every
step in this process showing that, yes, this all makes economic
sense, but, on the other hand, is totally insane overall.
All of this is not to say that we can't still increase the
carrying capacity of the earth, but we need to start thinking
of how to do it in a way that is sustainable (eg. in a way
that doesn't collapse at some point).

I hope to post more about his remarkable analysis of
corn in another post when I get the time. In the meantime,
get his book!

Back to the subject of population stabilization/decline...

Folks in those countries you mention, and even in Europe
and America worry about racial dominance. One of *your*
postings, which I have not yet had time to respond to (has anyone
ever told you that you're hard to keep up with?) mentions
this as a reason why we should be attacking middle eastern
countries in general and Iraq in particular. I wonder: how do
you reconcile these seemingly incompatible perspectives on

Finally, the "short term" effects of this phenomenon have served
the US very well. The US is one of the few industrial nations
whose demographics (because of immigration) will not be
decreasing rapidly in the next 20-30 years. This has served
to lead pension investors to keep money invested in the US
instead of other industrial nations, and let us avoid some
terrible collapse even when our government, corporations,
and citizens have gone deeply into debt.

In other words, you can thank Mexicans for keeping China from
calling in our huge debts.

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