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The Population Implosion

The OLD Philosopher – John M. Miller

Fifty years ago the famous Stanford demographer and futurist Paul Ehrlich published an influential book about rapid population expansion. He called it The Population Bomb. In it he postulated that world population was about to get out of control, and that widespread starvation awaited certain parts of the planet. Other parts would be faced with great political upheavals as result of too many countries having too many residents to be able to govern adequately.

Since he wrote that book, almost three billion extra mouths to feed have appeared on the earth. The rate of growth has slowed considerably from what he predicted, and the apocalyptic scenario he forecast has not emerged. Nevertheless, especially with the specter of climate change causing more demographic carnage than could have been imagined four or five decades ago, population growth has become a huge issue in certain countries and parts of the world.

Before Christmas The Island Packet printed a column by Sabrina Tavernise of The New York Times. Its title was “US population sees slowest growth since 1937.”

Quoting the US Census Bureau, in the past decade Ms. Tavernise reported that the population of the United States grew at its slowest pace in eighty years. For the first time since 1937, the number of deaths of Americans increased and the number of births declined. There was just a 0.62 per cent increase in our national population between July of 2017 and July, 2018. That was because of a single factor, which shortly shall be addressed.

Since 2008, the American economy has been in considerable flux. It is much stronger now than it was back then. Nevertheless, fewer babies are born in uncertain times than in a booming economy. Furthermore, a higher number of people are dying than ever before, if only because there are so many more older people now than in previous years.

William Frey is a demographer at the Brookings Institution. He said, “The aging population is starting to take its toll. I think we need to get used to the fact that we are now a slow-growth country.”

Several European countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, and the UK have increasingly seen the average age of their citizens rise. In addition, their population totals are falling. Russia, which had about two hundred million people when the Soviet Union collapsed, is predicted to have less than a hundred million people by 2050.

As population rates vary from nation to nation, they also vary for state to state in the US. Over the past ten years, everywhere except in North Dakota and Washington, DC, the number of births was only slightly higher than the number of deaths. Populations actually dropped in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The fastest growing states were Nevada, Idaho, and Utah. That is because people are moving into those states in large numbers, not because babies are being born there at significantly higher percentages than elsewhere. Maine and West Virginia each recorded more deaths than births in the last year.

Demographer Kenneth Johnson of the University of New Hampshire said, “The drop is simply stunning. Just ten years ago the surplus of (US) births over deaths was 44 percent higher.” The world population explosion Paul Ehrlich forecast five decades ago has been superceded by a population implosion in America and many other advanced nations.

There are many deductions we can make from these trends. For the purpose of this essay, we shall highlight only one in particular.

If the American economy is to continued to grow, with enough workers employed in all our industries and enterprises, young, motivated, captivated, educated, and child-bearing immigrants are needed to keep us from becoming a nation-state of fewer and fewer young people supporting more and more old people. In some political circles, this inescapable reality will not be met with overwhelming enthusiasm.

Geography and demography are major determinants in the future of nearly every nation that ever existed. The USA is potentially facing a major demographic crisis. Immigrants are the primary solution to the crisis. But who, other than the demographers, are addressing this issue with unflinching realism, courage and foresight?


John Miller is Pastor of The Chapel Without Walls on Hilton Head Island, SC.

More of his writings may be viewed at www.chapelwithoutwallshhi.com.


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