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July 14, 2010

Column #1,507

Demographic Winter: The Unknown Crisis

(Part I of a two column series)

By Mike McManus

                “In discussions of the global economic crisis, almost everyone misses an underlying reality.  It’s not just bloated budgets, it’s empty nurseries. Deficits and stagnation are driven by plummeting fertility,” observers Don Feder of the World Congress of Families.

                Housing sales dropped 20 percent from a year ago and new home building fell 17 percent.  Even though interest rates are at an all-time low, loan applications are down a third.

                Why?  There are 76.6 million Baby Boomers who are trying to downsize by selling their big homes and retire. Problem is, they had only 49 million kids, Generation X, who can’t buy that many homes.

                “The crisis in the housing market isn’t over.  It’s just beginning,” Feder warned at the Family Research Council recently.

                Consider Social Security.  There are three workers now for every retiree, but in 15 years  that ratio will fall to 2.3 to one. Taxes will have to be jacked way up, benefits slashed, or the retirement age pushed to 70. Most likely, every option is the future.

                Only 10 percent of men and six percent of women over age 70 now work.  Millions will have to work until they drop.

                Self-indulgent Baby Boomers rationalized having 1.5 million abortions a year because a baby was “inconvenient.” Such selfishness will now come back and bite older Americans.

                As grim as the situation is in the U.S., it is far worse elsewhere. “Demographic Winter” has descended on 59 nations with 44 percent of the world’s population, who are not having enough babies to replace the present generation.

To maintain current population, each woman must have 2.13 children.  She must replace herself and a man.  (The additional .13 recognizes the fact that some children won’t survive to maturity.) The U.S. rate is 2.06, which is already causing problems.

The fertility rate is much worse elsewhere: only 1.66 in Britain, 1.53 in Canada, 1.41 in Spain, 1.38 in Russia and a meager 1.27 in Japan.

What do those Demographic Winter numbers mean?  “Mother Russia” is losing 700,000 people a year.  It is aborting its future, with more abortions than live births! Its current population of 143 million is expected to shrink to 112 million by 2050. Where will it find people to run its factories, farms and mines, or protect its citizens or heal its sick?

In the 1990s the Japanese stock market plunged 80 percent from its all time high and its real estate market lost 60 percent of its value.  Without a growing population, there are fewer customers to buy those Toyotas. Assembly lines are being shut down, prompting couples to have even fewer children.

Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” predicted, “In the 1970s the world will undergo famines…(and) hundreds of millions of people (including Americans) are going to starve to death.”  Well, “he was off by, oh, hundreds of millions,” writes Michael Fumento, a demographic expert.

Ehrich also stated that "the battle to feed all of humanity is over.” For example he noted, "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980," or "be self-sufficient in food by 1971."

Wrong again. India has become self-sufficient in feeding its population.

Yet the idea of a destructive overpopulation has taken on a life of its own.  In fact, in 1990 Ehrlich wrote “The Population Explosion” which asserted that world grain production peaked in 1986.  Wrong again. In 1986 about 1.8 million metric tons of important cereal grains were produced, but by 2001 the number jumped to 2.7 metric tons.

In fact, the calories available per person rose from 2,371 in 1968 to 2,800, an all-time high. 

Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and father of the “Green Revolution” that sparked dramatic increases in cereal grain yields, asserts, “The world has the technology either available or well-advanced in the research pipeline – to feed a population of 10 billion people,” up from today’s 6,5 billion.

Certainly, there have been famines, but they were caused by malevolent government, such as in the Darfur region of Sudan and in North Korea, not by a lack of food production.

Demographic Winter is a problem of plunging population, not overpopulation.

By 2027, China will have 200 million people over 65, rising to 300 million by 2036 and 400 million only four years later. Italian Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco laments his nation’s “slow demographic suicide. Over 50 percent of families today are without children.” Another quarter have only one child. The few children are growing up without brothers and sisters.

Next week: what can be done?  The answer in brief, “Be fruitful and multiply,” advises Genesis 1:28.

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