May 23, 2021

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE RESULTS:

● Shot: Long Slide Looms for World Population, With Sweeping Ramifications.

All over the world, countries are confronting population stagnation and a fertility bust, a dizzying reversal unmatched in recorded history that will make first-birthday parties a rarer sight than funerals, and empty homes a common eyesore.

Maternity wards are already shutting down in Italy. Ghost cities are appearing in northeastern China. Universities in South Korea can’t find enough students, and in Germany, hundreds of thousands of properties have been razed, with the land turned into parks.

Like an avalanche, the demographic forces — pushing toward more deaths than births — seem to be expanding and accelerating. Though some countries continue to see their populations grow, especially in Africa, fertility rates are falling nearly everywhere else. Demographers now predict that by the latter half of the century or possibly earlier, the global population will enter a sustained decline for the first time.

A planet with fewer people could ease pressure on resources, slow the destructive impact of climate change and reduce household burdens for women. But the census announcements this month from China and the United States, which showed the slowest rates of population growth in decades for both countries, also point to hard-to-fathom adjustments.

—The New York Times, yesterday.

● Chaser: The Population Bomb.

Delayed effects and synergisms further complicate the population‐environment relationship, Population growth has a disproportionate effect on environmental deterioration. We must make great efforts both to change our life style so as to reduce our per capita impact on the environment, and to control our population, or disaster will overtake us. Ecological considerations indicate that only fifty million Americans, living as they do today, could eventually destroy the planet. And it is difficult to imagine any American life style which would prevent three hundred million of us from accomplishing the same end in the long run.

Finally, with characteristic myopia, those breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of “only” 280 million Americans by 2000 A.D. neglect to consider what will happen in the early years of the next century as their children struggle to survive. For even with luck we are doomed to continued population growth until at least 2045, and the projected population size then will be over three hundred million. Hardly a pleasant prospect for a nation now failing to provide properly for 205 million people.

—Paul Ehrlich, the New York Times, November 4th, 1970.

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