[p2p-research] Peak Population crisis (was Re: Japan's Demographic Crisis)

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Tue Aug 18 01:40:33 CEST 2009

Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
> So, we desperately need peers to help solve the "Peak Population" crisis 
> until we reach the carrying capacity of the solar system of several 
> quadrillion people. :-) 

Just for balance, I just saw this in today's CS Monitor:
   "ECONOMIC SCENE: Is population growth a Ponzi scheme?"
Forty-five nations face a population “bust” that has some leaders wringing 
their hands. They worry about the costs of supporting an aging society and 
the loss of national and economic power.
   When US Vice President Joe Biden spoke of Russia’s “withering” population 
last month, Russian leaders bristled.
   But notions that population growth is a boon for prosperity – or that 
national political success depends on it – are “Ponzi demography,” says 
Joseph Chamie, former director of the population division of the United Nations.
   The profits of growth go to the few, and everyone else picks up the tab.
Here’s a look at the numbers: By 2050, countries as diverse as Cuba, 
Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, and Russia will lose at least 
10 percent of their people, UN estimates suggest. This trend toward fewer 
births is accelerating. In the rich, developed nations, the average age is 
rising at the fastest pace ever, UN demographers note. Today they have 264 
million aged 60 or over. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 416 
million. ...
   Growth, whether through immigration or natural increase, is a plus for 
some groups. For business, it means a boost in the demand for products. It 
also means a surge in low- and high-skilled workers, which can keep a lid on 
wage pressures. Religious and ethnic groups want more immigrants of their 
own faith and ethnicity to raise their political and social clout. The 
military regards young immigrants as potential recruits.
   But the public pays a cost for a bigger population.
   Mr. Chamie speaks of more congestion on highways, more farmland turned 
into housing developments, more environmental damage, including the output 
of pollutants associated with climate change.
   In the current healthcare debate in the US, one costly question is 
whether the insurance covers some 11 million illegal immigrants.
   Of course, there are also costs for countries with stable or declining 
   They will need to spend more looking after older citizens and, yes, some 
industries like housing will shrink. But governments won’t have to spend as 
much on children. And any labor shortage would fade if increasingly healthy 
older people worked an extra year or two before retiring to maintain their 
standard of living.
   The goal should be gradual population stabilization, Chamie says. The 
costs of an aging but stable population would be more manageable than those 
of a population boom. He asks: Does America really need more than its 
current 309 million people? With immigration at present levels, it will have 
439 million by 2050. A stable or falling population, he says, “is not a 
disaster. It is a success.”

I find his logic questionable, since, every baby has the potential to add 
more to a society than they take away, both by contributing to expanding the 
commons and also for reasons of inherent worth. Joseph Chamie talks about 
increased pollution but not about more Wikipedia pages. He talks about 
congestion around cities but not building new cities on land, in the ocean, 
or in space. He talks about loss of farmland but not the development of 
agricultural robotics and precision farming and food replicators. He talks 
of global climate change but not of all the people developing and deploying 
solar panels. Joseph Chamie is mixing issues of population growth (including 
financial issues like Ponzi-scheme social program funding like Medicaid an 
Social Security) with issues of commonly perceived current technical and 
ecological limits of life on one planet (the Earth).

I'd point out that Joseph Chamie, presumably once somebody's wanted child 
and perhaps someone with children of his own, is really asking the wrong 
question. The big question for our species (or individuals is that species) 
is not "Does the USA need more people?" but "Do humans and/or the universe 
want, or find acceptable, or smile upon more people?" And if so, let's have 
peers find a way to make it happen. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

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