Last year, we began to see articles in the press conceding that overpopulation wasn’t going to end civilization. This year, we’re seeing reports on the real population problems—depopulation and aging.
For example, The Washington Post published an article titled, “The U.S. fertility rate just hit a historic low. Why some demographers are freaking out.” Freaking out, by the way, is not an exaggeration.
Here’s the first paragraph:
The United States is in the midst of what some worry is a baby crisis. The number of women giving birth has been declining for years and just hit a historic low. If the trend continues—and experts disagree on whether it will—the country could face economic and cultural turmoil.
This is quite a change from pieces published in the same newspaper in the 1980s. Here is the lead from an older article titled, “Global Overpopulation.”
In the face of overwhelming evidence that there is no way of fighting poverty in the Third World without more extensive family planning, the Reagan administration is cutting back its support of the most tested and experienced organizations in this field, condemning wide areas of the globe to ever bigger, ever more hungry populations.
The point of the piece above was that more US taxes should flow to national and international overpopulation experts. Politicians who disagreed were accused of ignoring or even causing mass starvation.
Today, almost everything about that article has been proven wrong.
Here’s the Real Problem
Half the world has below replacement birthrates. “Peak babies” has arrived. Poverty rates have plummeted in the developing world, which now has higher economic growth rates than the West. Lifespans are also increasing faster.
Even in Africa and Asia, the fastest growing problem is obesity. The fastest growing populations are the aged. Countries that once suppressed population growth are now trying to bolster birthrates, though with little success.
They are right to try though. Falling birthrates combined with a growing population of older people is a potential disaster in the making. Already, many national healthcare systems and retirement programs are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Today, the journalists, academics, and politicians who spread overpopulation hysteria have moved on to new doomsday scenarios. Oddly, they’re still demanding immediate and massive tax monies for “experts.” It seems they’re hoping that we’ll just forget how wrong they were about population.
Personally, I’m not forgetting. Their irrational obsession has done serious damage. They have distracted us from that fact that the shrinking population of workers can’t support the growing population of older and sicker retired people.
This is the flipping of the demographic pyramid. Warren S. Thompson first predicted it in 1929 in a paper for the American Journal of Sociology.
Thompson’s textbook on demographics was standard in American colleges until the 1960s. Then, it was displaced by what I view as an apocalyptic environmentalist religion.
Luckily, I didn’t go to one of the elite universities who favored Paul Ehrlich over Thompson. I was taught real demographics long after they were expunged from our politically correct university system. I’ve been an overpopulation “denier” for more than 40 years.
But now, Thompson’s mathematically-based demographics are coming back to the fore. Another article that shows this shift appeared recently in the New Scientist: “The world in 2076: The population bomb has imploded.” It was nice to see Elon Musk tweet the link. “The world's population is accelerating towards collapse, but few seem to notice or care,” he wrote.
It is fortunate that a growing number of real scientists notice and care. Unfortunately, we don’t have until 2076 to prevent the collapse of healthcare and retirement programs.
So, does this mean you should trade one doomsday scenario for another? No.
Biotech Is the Solution
For the record, here’s my prediction: Science will rescue us. New biotechnologies will extend health and life spans in ways that surpass most science-fiction fantasies. Many of these are already in labs. This will accomplish several things.
First, anti-aging biotechnologies will lower the costs associated with aging. People will suffer far fewer of the age-related diseases that are breaking our budgets. People will be able to work, save, and invest longer. Older people will be rejuvenated and the symptoms of aging reversed, at least for a season.
As a result, the financial burden on the young will be lightened if not lifted. On top of that, the period of healthy childbearing age will be extended significantly. This will give women more career options and will allow birthrates to rise to sustainable levels.
Within my lifetime, I think science will move beyond anti-aging into true age reversal. Credible scientists increasingly believe that biological mortality will be solved and death from old age eliminated. This will be accompanied by revolutions in energy, artificial intelligence, transportation, space travel, and technologies not yet identified.
I know that my predictions will meet skepticism. There is still a great deal of resistance, institutional and psychological, to such sweeping changes. They will, however, be swept away by the gales of creative destruction predicted by Joseph Schumpeter.
You don’t have to believe me, of course. But you would be foolish to listen to anyone who believed in the absurd notion of an overpopulation apocalypse.
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