Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Racing to a ten

Major Buzzkill tries to do optimism.  But, it is hard.  Deep down, there are worries all the time.  He blames it all on his very optimistic and cheerful grandmother whose night time prayer included a subliminal worry that she might not wake up from her sleep! ;)

Over the years, the Major has made fun of Malthus and the neo-Malthusians.  He has happily pointed out to students that the world human population was less than a billion when Malthus thought we were all going to die soon, while the reality of today is that 7.4 billion people have too much food and obesity is our big worry!  It is all a part of the 200-year transformation, the Major proudly enlightens them.

But, Major Buzzkill, who loves telling students "you're screwed!" does not tell students is that deep, deep, deep down there is always a worry about the future population numbers.

This worry deepens every time he visits India.  Except between late night and early in the morning, it is crowded everywhere, and seems to get more crowded every year.  In contrast, the Major is getting more and more used to the plenty of open space under the big sky here.  It is a struggle within to reconcile the intellectual understanding of population growth and resources with his own personal preferences?

The intellectual Major Buzzkill gleefully points out the historic reversal that is unfolding across the world--the elderly in the country outnumbering the kids there.  As the following chart shows, Italy led the way in 1995,, and now it is a growing list:


Imagine that: 56 countries having more older folks than kids!

The trend into the future tells quite a story:

Looks incredible, right?  It is almost as if this is from Ripley's Believe it or not.  The future will be the tyranny of the old.  Instead of the parents changing the kids' diapers, it will be middle-aged women (almost always they are the caregivers) or perhaps robots changing the diapers of the elderly.  What a transformation through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries!

Major Buzzkill is no Malthusian.  But, deep, deep, deep down he worries that a few countries, like his old country, might struggle to keep up with the total population and the elderly population.


Adding the population of the US to India in another three decades.  Despite his best plans, largely because of his dull and boring highly regimented lifestyle, this might happen within Major Buzzkill's lifetime and he will get to witness it.  I wonder what Major Buzzkill will have to say about this in 2040, if not in 2050.


Mike Hoth said...

I once charted out the birth and death rates in every nation on a whim (I probably had a paper I was avoiding) and noted that much of Europe is stagnating or even declining in population. When you look at the United States, those with European ancestry have the same trends. Malthus may have been incorrect with his numbers and the reason humanity would stop growing (clearly, since a lack of food is no problem in this country) but we do seem to hit a point where only so many humans occupy one region.

Ramesh said...

It is not some distant future that will be the tyranny of the old. It already is. We are the ones gobbling up the resources - monetary and otherwise and leaving a debt to our children. But that is another story.

I am not sure why the situation is causing Major Buzzkill sleepless nights. The world population will stabilise shortly and will not grow further. So that's going to be the max. The slow decline will be very very very slow and extend over many millennia. If we live longer and healthier, and every indication is that we will, then the species is not in terminal decline. Resources are also not finite - its a matter of time when resources from outside of Planet Earth will be tapped. In which case there will be almost limitless resources.

So its time for Captain Goodhope :)

Anne in Salem said...

Interesting that China is the only country with a decreasing population on that last chart. I guess limiting population growth succeeded.

Interesting that such poor countries are on the last list. I wonder how many of those 212 million new Nigerians will live to adulthood. Will diseases be eradicated enough that children will survive and thrive?

The age reversal will make for interesting economic policies in many countries.

And how in the world, pun intended, are we to feed all these people??

Anne in Salem said...

MAJOR Buzzkill
CAPTAIN Goodhope

Why is the positive one the lowest ranking???

Sriram Khé said...

Hello people, I don't want to engage in a discussion of why Malthusian thinking is wrong. (It is absolutely wrong. We will be able to feed them all. There is no limits to the number of humans who can prosper. On this one, I am a four-star General Goodhope, as students in my classes find out, and much to the displeasure of my neo-Malthusian faculty colleagues)

I was trying to get across the dilemma that most of us face in many arenas: Intellectually we might understand the logic and evidence. But, it is a struggle to keep that gut-instincts away.

In the next post, I have killed Captain Goodhope ;)

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