The depopulation bomb – watts with it?

News analysis by Kip Hansen – May 25, 2021

The headlines are strong and worrying, and the rhetoric even more:

“Long slide chairs for the world population with far-reaching effects”

“Fewer babies cry. More abandoned houses. By the middle of this century, when the number of deaths exceeds births, changes will occur that are difficult to fathom. “” Countries around the world are facing population stagnation and a fertility crisis, a dizzying reversal unparalleled in history that makes first birthday parties less common than funerals, and empty homes a common blot.

Maternity wards are already being closed in Italy. Ghost towns are popping up in northeast China. Universities in South Korea cannot find enough students, and in Germany hundreds of thousands of properties have been destroyed and the land turned into parks. “

So begins an article recently published in the New York Times by Damien Cave, Emma Bubola, and Choe Sang-Hun.

The article goes on to say, “Demographers are now predicting that world population will decline sustainably for the first time in the second half of the century or possibly earlier.”

Impressive! It was only fifty years ago:

The population bomb … A bestselling book written in 1968 by Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich and his uncredited wife Anne Ehrlich. It predicted global famine in the 1970s and 1980s due to overpopulation and other major social upheavals, and advocated immediate action to limit population growth. There were fears of a “population explosion” in the 1950s and 1960s, but the book and its author brought the idea to an even wider audience. “

Most of us lived through the 1970s and 1980s and there was no global famine. Instead, the world prospered and the West and most of Asia got rich and people’s life expectancy continued to rise:

The longest record is from Great Britain world Trace (brown) has been highlighted. It is this trend that worries demographers. People are living longer everywhere.

And people around the world have fewer children:

In the map below, in many places – all countries that are shown in light yellow – are below the so-called “replacement rate” of 2.1 children per family. However, there are still parts of the world with rapid population growth:

Those countries that colored the first shade of orange (2-2.5) have slightly more births than deaths, including most of Latin America and South Asia (including India, Bangladesh, Burma / Myanmar, and much of Southeast Asia). The Middle East is a hot spot for population growth and almost all of Africa still has high to very high birth rates.

Here is the table again with the countries with VERY LOW birth rates colored blue:

The one country with very low birth rates in Southeast Asia is Thailand.

So what’s the big deal? We have conducted censuses in both the US and China – both “world powers”. Here is China:

While China’s population is still growing – at nearly 1.5 billion – the growth rate has declined and is now below 0.5% per year. At the same time, the population is aging. “A decline in the birth rate and an increase in life expectancy mean that there will soon be too few workers able to feed an enormous and aging population, the academy [Chinese Academy of Social Sciences] warned. ” [ source ]

And in the United States:

The press stated:

The US population grew the slowest since the 1930s in the past decade

As immigration declines and the birth rate declines, the United States could enter an era of much lower population growth, demographers said. . . . . A notable slowdown caused by a slowdown in immigration and a falling birth rate. “

Why are demographers concerned? It’s because they do same mistake that Paul and Anne Ehrlich made in 1968:

“Change can take decades, but once it starts it decreases (as does growth). Spirals exponentially. With fewer births, fewer girls grow up to have children, and when they have smaller families than their parents – which happens in dozens of countries – the drop looks like a stone thrown from a cliff. ” [ source – repeating the NY Times link ]

Funnily enough, the link in the article doesn’t show such an exponential spiral:

[ for larger image in a new window click here ]

The different colors refer to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – and how population projections will change if those goals are met – or not. Regardless of the SDGs, there was no spiral of exponential growth or decline, just a steady increase or decrease. The thicker blue trail is the expected population path if we continue as we do now – business as usual – with improvements in women’s education and contraceptive needs met – again with no exponential decline -. no death spiral of decline.

The NY Times journalists show a decided lack of mathematical understanding when they use the term “decrease exponentially … spirals.”

The exponential growth (or decline – flip vertically) looks like the green trace below:

The repeated misuse of the fear-inducing “exponential” associated with any possible future disaster scenario has led to a very loose popular definition that seems to only mean “big” – with both increases and decreases.

In the United States, however, there is this: the federal government is going to pay people to have babies – so to speak.

Looking back at the NY Times article, the authors note:

“The stress of longer life and low fertility, which leads to fewer workers and more retirees, threatens to transform the way societies are organized – around the idea that an excess of young people will fuel the economy and help pay the elderly . A re-conceptualization of family and nation may also be necessary. Imagine entire regions where everyone is 70 years or older. Imagine governments setting huge premiums for immigrants and mothers with many children. Imagine a gig economy full of grandparents and Super Bowl ads promoting procreation. “

Why a population decline might require a “reconceptualization of the family” is missing to me – and I’m used to such crazy rhetorical whims – and I can’t even imagine what its authors might mean by that.

Let me point out that the use of the term “fertility” in all of this does not refer to a man’s ability to impregnate a woman – or a woman’s ability to bear a child. This is how we use the word “fertility” in everyday English – when we use the term “fertility clinic” – a medical facility that helps men and women who are having trouble having a child to do so. In demographics, fertility means the number of children actually born to every woman of childbearing age (statistical). It has nothing to do with a woman’s individual ability to conceive. Fertility can therefore be changed by increasing the availability of contraceptives in a society where women want fewer children or by improving access to abortion. It has been shown over time that fertility is related to standard of living. As a nation’s standard of living improves, the birth rate (fertility) decreases.

The well-developed countries of the world have birth rates that are below replacement levels. The developing countries have high birth rates. Hidden (or perhaps not so hidden) in this worrying story is the specter of racism – not just white-black-brown racism, but racism against immigrants in both the east and west. As the native populations of the US, Europe, Korea and Japan are aging and declining, young workers often have to be imported to keep society running – and these workers are not “us”, but “them”.

For example, in the United States, cooking, cleaning, tending, and landscaping, building houses, slaughtering chickens, and – thousands and thousands of migrant workers – both those arriving through approved, legal channels and those arriving illegally across porous borders Pigs enter the country at slaughterhouses and reap America’s crops – all over the country. Managers in almost every industry are now required to speak Spanish when in positions where workers are supervised. I was shopping at a WalMart where I was struggling to find a floor employee who spoke English. If our society adopts its identity-political stance over time, these Spanish-speaking speakers will only become “my neighbors next door, the Sanchez”. (I grew up in one of these neighborhoods in Los Angeles in the 1950s – and could swear in Spanish before I could do this in English.)

It is strange to hear misanthropic progressive voices complaining of low birth rates after decades of denigrating the nuclear family and using contraception and abortion to combat “runaway population growth”.

Bottom line:

There are reasonable concern about populations falling below the replacement rate as they existed (and still are) reasonable concern about populations with unsustainable population growth in countries without the resources to support such large populations. .

However, neither population growth nor population decline is an impending disaster.

# # # # #

Author’s comment:

My wife and I have four children, all of whom are grown up and alone. We consider children both an integral part of our 50-year relationship and a blessing – for us and the world. We have two grandchildren so far and are very grateful to them – and hope for more.

Societies that adopt anti-family policies are misguided in many ways and will draw the possible consequences from them.

What the world doesn’t need is another frightful fright – though the distancing meme may encourage couples to have children.

Comments on “Kip. . . ”When you talk to me.

Thank you for reading.

# # # # #

Like this:

To like Loading…

Comments are closed.