(Part 4 of a 6–part series)
Around the world, as millions continue to climb from poverty into a ‘middle class’ lifestyle, fertility rates go into reverse. Not long from now, we won’t even be replacing ourselves. At the current rate of slowdown, we will peak at 9 billion (less than it takes to eat all the food we already make!) by around 2050 – then our numbers will level off or perhaps even decline.
Hans Rosling explains this beautifully in his fascinating Ted.com talk: CLICK!
As religious fundamentalism continues to retreat (thank God!) and modernisation transforms old and mouldy patriarchal cultures, the genders become more power-balanced. Women gain more access to education, employment and political participation. Wherever this happens, birth rates nosedive. Empowered women who have choices and are not subservient to men, rarely allow themselves to have more children than they can have time for, give attention to, and actually enjoy. With every extra year of education, the average fertility rate drops by 0.23 births. Have a look at this brief report (its mostly power point slides with diagrams): CLICK!
Have you ever wondered why so many people brood about overpopulation while in developed countries, people agonize about shrinking birth-rates? CLICK!
In authoritarian China the one-child policy is brutally enforced, because that is how authoritarians do everything. Typical and predictable: the sledge-hammer approach. How have other nations (such as Sweden) arrested population growth without using iron-fist tactics, in fact without even trying? Just a little prosperity, fair distribution, and some egalitarian safeguards, and the injunction to ‘go forth and multiply’ just vaporizes. Perhaps more accurately; we still seem to like ‘going forth’ – we just multiply by about 1.8 these days.
Now, there is one of these guys in every neighbourhood: the guy that loves to pontificate that war is, and has always been, the natural method of family planning. Oh, and, by the way; we are well overdue for another Big One. This guy talks about the ‘need’ to cull people with the same tone you use when you say you are due for a haircut. I’m sure you have met him. I have. He is everywhere. OK, maybe he just needs to go play Paint-ball, or something. Come to think of it, he might own shares in weapons manufacturing. Next time I meet one of these guys I must remember to ask.
So: what if population growth stalls as predicted? What will happen to our demographics? With less young people in the mix, who will look after all those extra old people? That brings me to the fourth myth about population. Coming up next week, in Part 5.