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

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 18 09:28:35 CEST 2009

very interesting, and all true, and so reminiscent of the baby boomers own
reactions to their parents generation ... but if the structures of society
are not changed, then exactly the same will be achieved by the new
generation ..

this is a really good defense of today's youth approaches,

Eat the Young! 14 August 2009 | David Eaves | | View
Comments <http://eaves.ca/2009/08/14/eat-the-young/#disqus_thread>

There was a fair amount of chatter among my friends last week as a result
of  Lawrence Martin's column *If there's an inspiration deficit in our
politics, blame it on the
.* My friend Alison Loat <http://www.samaracanada.com/blog/> wrote an
excellent, albeit polite,
pointing out that blame could be spread across sectors and generations.
She's right. There is lots of blame to go around. And I don't think Martin
should get off so lightly. Here's why:

The young reject the political status quo, as they should, but they are too
lazy to do anything about it. Most of the under-25s don't even bother to
vote. Instead of fighting for change, they wallow in their vanities and
entitlements. Not much turns them on except the *Idol* shows, movies with
smut humour and the latest hand-held instruments. Their disillusionment with
the political class is understood. Their complacency isn't. It will soon be
their country. You'd think they'd want to take the reins.

The problem with Martin's piece is that he's looking in the wrong place.
He's not looking at what young people *are doing*. He's looking at what he*
*thinks they *should be doing*... or more specifically, what he would have
done when he was 25. To say an entire generation has given up because they
don't vote or participate in party politics is farcical.

Yes, young people reject the status quo, but it is deeper than that. They
eschew the tools that Martin wants them to use - not just party politics but
traditional media as well. *They reject the whole system*. But this isn't
out of juvenile laziness, but for the very opposite reason. In a world
filled with choice, one that fragments our attention, they seek to focus
their energy where they will be most effective and efficient - at the
moment, that frequently means they are uninterested in the slow and
byzantine machinations of politics (why engage when every party, even the
NDP, are conservative <http://www.thestar.com/printArticle/680336>?), the
snobbishness of traditional media (when's the last time a columnist on the
Globe actually responded to a reader's comment on the website?) or a
hierarchical and risk-averse public service (held hostage by the country's
auditor general).

Indeed, Martin's example around voting is perfect starting
Here is a system that has not changed over 60 years. By and large one must
still vote at the local church, community centre, or
places that may or may not be near public transit and are not frequently
visited by young people. In a world where shareholder proxy votes are
regularly done over the web (not to mention credit card transactions), how
are young people supposed to have confidence in a system that still cannot
manage electronic voting? Complaining that an Elections Canada campaign
targeting young people didn't work is akin to wondering why a marketing
campaign on Facebook didn't generate a bigger youth audience for a cable TV
Matlock marathon. Why didn't young people watch TV any more? Can't they see
that Matlock is a classic?

Nor can they find much comfort in the media. If newspapers are the gathering
places for political discussion, how inspiring might they be to young
people? Since Martin writes for the Globe and Mail, let's start there. Its
opinion page's most frequent columnists include Rick Salutin (68), Rex
Murphy (62), Lawrence Martin (61), Roy McGregor (61), Jeffrey Simpson (60),
Margaret Wente (59), Christie Blarchford (58), John Ibbitson (54) and the
one young voice, Jim Stanford (43?). It's not just political parties that
have boring old guys (or BOGs, to use Martin's term). I think it is safe to
say that the hegemony of the boomers isn't limited to the polling station.
(No wonder so many of us prefer blogs - we at least get to hear what our
peers think.) I wish the Globe would take a risk and hire some young and
smart columnist for their opinion page - someone like Andrew
The New York Times
they replaced the relatively young William
Kristol<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kristol>(56)with 29
year-old Ross
Douthat <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Douthat>. It would appear there's
an inspiration deficit in our newspaper too...

But above all, just because someone doesn't vote, prefers blogs to the
Globe, or doesn't find Ottawa engaging doesn't mean they are either inactive
or a bad citizen.

Take my friends over at Mozilla <http://www.mozilla.org/> (some who vote,
some who don't - but all of whom are young): they are part of a worldwide
movement that broke Microsoft's monopoly over control of the web (probably
the single most important act to preserve freedom of speech and expression
in the world as well as democratizing innovation online) and now, through a
combination of technology (Firefox <http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/>) and
advocacy (the Mozilla Foundation <http://www.mozilla.org/foundation/>) are
continuing to innovate and find ways to preserve the freedom of the
internet. This is something no political party or government initially cared
to do or was willing to do something about. Should they have devoted their
time and energy to get involved in politics? Should they have instead
lobbied the government to regulate Microsoft (for all the good that ended up

Or take ForestEthics <http://www.forestethics.org/> - another organizations
started and staffed by young people. Canadians may consistently rank the
environment as one of Canada’s top priorities and yet inaction consistently
wins out. So ForestEthics bypasses government altogether and combines the
power protesters with that of market forces to improve logging practices and
save forests. It identifies corporations — such as Victoria’s Secret, with
its vast catalogue distribution — whose consumption shapes the paper
industry. It then offers these corporations a choice: cooperate and reform
their practices or face painful protests and boycotts. For those that
cooperate, ForestEthics works with the multinational’s procurement
department to help it adopt more sustainable practices. This has given
ForestEthics direct influence over the forestry industry practices, since
logging companies pay attention to their largest customers. Would the staff
of ForestEthics be more effective running for office or working for
Environment Canada?

The key is, young people (and many Canadians in general) are engaged and
more exciting still, are innovating in new and transformative ways. It just
happens that most of it isn't seen by today's BOGs. Moreover, even when it
is happening right in front of us it is hard to spot, such as within the
Globe (where it feels like Mathew Ingram
<http://www.mathewingram.com/work/>is almost singlehandedly fighting
to save the newspaper), within political
parties (where a community here in Vancouver has been excited and rewarded
by our work with Vision Vancouver <http://www.visionvancouver.ca/> around Open
Data <http://eaves.ca/2009/05/14/vancouver-enters-the-age-of-the-open-city/>)
or within the public service (where a small and and amazing team within
Treasury Board has been creating tools like
GCPEDIA<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GCPEDIA>in an effort to pull
the government into the 21st

But because the efforts are often invisible, herein lies the real dangers:
not to young people -- they are going to be just fine -- but for the
institutions Lawrence Martin and Alison Loat worry about. To many of my
friends, today's newspapers, political parties and public service look a lot
more like General Motors than they do Google, Facebook, or better still,
Mozilla, ForestEthics, or Teach For America. As they look at the
institutions Martin assumes they should engage, they're still evaluating:
should we bail them out or should we just let them go bankrupt and start
from scratch?

And that's why Martin is looking in the wrong place. His misidentifies where
the real innovation gap lies. The fact is that these institutions simply
aren't places where new thinking or experimentation can easily take place.
They may have been at one point - perhaps when Martin was young, I don't
know - but they aren't today. So those young people he believes are
wallowing in their vanities and entitlements... they aren't apathetic,
they've simply opted to deploy their social capital elsewhere, places Martin
chooses not look, or don't know where to look.

So is there an innovation gap? Absolutely. Just not as Martin describes it.
There is a gap between where it is actually taking place, and where he
thinks it should be taking place. But let's be clear, there's plenty of
innovation taking place, if you know where to look. Will it manifest itself
in some political revolution? I don't know. But more importantly, will it
change Canada, or the world? Definitely. It already has.
*As an aside, one friend suggested that Lawrence Martin and I should debate:
**"Be it resolved there is an inspiration deficit in our politics and young
people are to blame." If Martin is up for it, I'd accept the debate whenever
and where ever he wishes. Perhaps we could rope Alison in to moderate.*

On Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 10:59 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
> > Michel Bauwens wrote:
> >> I know this is a very popular theme in the U.S., and very attractive to
> >> young people ...
> >>
> >> hell, the boomers you are critiquing where saying the exact same things
> >> about their parents 40 years ago ...
> Some more on the demographics and historical economics of this:
>  "The Lost Youth of Europe"
>  http://www.newsweek.com/id/36470
> """
> The continent's boomers are retiring, leaving a bitter legacy for the
> generation that comes next, which increasingly feels locked out of the
> European dream. ... Young adults in France, like their contemporaries across
> Europe, face a slew of problems never experienced by their middle-aged
> leaders. Consider: a 30-year-old Frenchman earned 15 percent less than a
> 50-year-old in 1975; now he earns 40 percent less. Over the same period, the
> number of graduates unemployed two years after college has risen from 6
> percent to 25 percent, even if they typically have better degrees.
> Thirty-year-olds in 2001 were saving 9 percent of their incomes, down from
> 18 percent just six years before. Young people who snag stable jobs, gain
> access to credit and buy homes later in life are particularly angry that the
> older generations continue to rack up public debts for which they will get
> the bill. And they are very skeptical of the pledges of boomer-generation
> politicians. "If all this were financially possible, it would have been done
> long ago," says Clément Pitton, the 23-year-old leader of Impulsion
> Concorde, which recently circulated a petition declaring "We will not pay
> your debt."
>  Pitton's sentiments are increasingly shared by the children of Europe's
> baby boomers, a generation sometimes called the baby losers. Not only will
> they be forced to pick up the tab for a welfare system that offers far more
> to the elderly than to the young, but they will be forced to do so with
> less: Europe's economy remains skewed in favor of the old and its
> politicians have been shy about pushing painful reforms that might correct
> the balance. No wonder one recent poll in France showed that only 5 percent
> believed young people had a better chance of succeeding than their parents.
> Europe, it seems, is increasingly split—not along class or racial lines, but
> between its young and its old.
>  As the rift grows so does awareness. Just browse the media or visit the
> bookstores. In France, the shelves groan with works bemoaning the
> "Génération Précaire"—the Precarious Generation. Two boomer authors warned
> in a book released this December, "Our Children Will Hate Us." In Britain,
> think tanks turn out reports on "Maggie's Children"—the unfortunates born in
> the affluent Thatcher years—or the IPOD Generation: the newcomers to the job
> market who find themselves "Insecure, Pressured, Overtaxed and Debt-Ridden."
>  Small wonder Europe's young are losing faith in their leaders. In a recent
> report for the Policy Exchange think tank, David Willetts, the Conservative
> Party's education spokesman, concluded, "A young person could be forgiven
> for thinking [there's] a conspiracy by the middle-aged against the young."
> There may not be any concerted plot, but it's clear who's to blame for
> today's sorry situation: the boomers. The sunlit decades of postwar
> prosperity saw the creation of generous welfare states across Europe.
> Dynamic economies assured the boomers secure employment (Germans still like
> to speak of "job owners") and hefty pensions on retirement. But this good
> fortune came at a price. The same labor rules that protect the jobs of the
> middle-aged shut out the young. And dwindling birthrates mean there will
> soon be fewer workers to support the retirees.
>  So will the boomers renounce—or at least share—their benefits? Unlikely,
> says leading French sociologist Louis Chauvel. "The baby boomers didn't
> [intend] to do this to young people, but I don't see a willingness to get
> them out of the situation either." Such intransigence looks even more unfair
> given the disparities in wealth and lifestyle. The boomers are living it up;
> many have used their generous pensions to opt out of the labor market
> altogether. Only 30 percent of Belgians older than 55 still work, for
> example. A report by the London-based think tank Reform put the issue
> plainly. "People over 50 are developing the lifestyles of teenagers."
>  As they slack off, their children's woes are multiplying. Germans now talk
> of "Generation Intern" as well-educated graduates increasingly accept unpaid
> jobs in the quest for elusive permanent posts. Such challenges breed
> despair. Ask Daniel Knapp. Born in Germany, he speaks four languages
> fluently and holds a master's degree from the London School of Economics.
> But he's spent the last six months chasing jobs in London, Berlin and
> Brussels —unsuccessfully. "I feel as if I'm simply draining my family's
> resources. It seems my degrees only qualify me for further education but not
> really a job."
>  Some countries have so far avoided the malaise. In Ireland, the birthrate
> peaked late and the strong economy still provides jobs for all. In fact,
> "this is the first generation to have grown up in Ireland with no question
> that they would be able to find a job in the country," says Tony Fahey of
> the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. Ditto for Spain, where
> everyone is enjoying the new prosperity and a welfare system vastly expanded
> since the end of the Franco regime. "[The young here] don't live worse than
> their parents; in fact they live much better," says Federico Steinberg, an
> economist at the Autonomous University of Madrid.
>  But even the happy Irish and Spanish share a housing problem. Across the
> continent, spiraling property prices and poor job prospects are conspiring
> to keep youngsters living at home. According to the Italian Institute of
> Social Medicine, 45 percent of the country's 30- to 34-year-olds still sleep
> in their old beds and enjoy Mama's home cooking. In France, the proportion
> of 24-year-olds now living with their parents has almost doubled since 1975,
> to 65 percent. Even in the U.K., with its enviable record of job creation,
> the average age of the first-time home buyer has climbed from 26 in 1976 to
> 34 today. Property prices are now eight times higher than the median
> earnings of the ordinary twentysomething. ...
>  Ironically, Europe's young don't seem to favor cutting their parents'
> benefits; they want the same treatment. Last year French youths mobbed the
> streets to protest a new bill that aimed to create more employment but
> offered less security; the proposal was defeated. Says Wanlin: "Their
> aspiration is to get the same protection for themselves." If the economics
> don't work out, that's a problem for the politicians—not the young. Indeed,
> even some boomers recognize the flaws in the status quo. "The worst thing,"
> says French author and former political advisor Bernard Spitz, "would be if
> we lived contentedly with our debts and our early retirements, telling
> ourselves the young will pay, just like we told ourselves 'Germany will pay'
> after the Treaty of Versailles." As Europe has learned before, a bad peace
> only leads to more war—even between generations. ...
> """
> "The New Generation Gap"
> http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/12/the-new-generation-gap/
> """
> In many ways, the argument is generational. A CNN-Opinion Research
> Corporation poll from last week found that a majority of voters over age 50
> opposed overhauling the health care system, while most younger voters were
> in favor of doing so. ... But their fears underscored the findings of a
> Gallup poll in July, which found that seniors are the age group most
> resistant to changing the system. Fewer than half favor doing so. They are
> more likely to believe that such efforts would reduce, rather than expand,
> their access to health care, and they say their own medical care would get
> worse rather than improve. ... By a margin of 2 to 1, people under age 45
> said that insurance was more serious. But those over 45 cited costs. This
> poll and others show that concern about costs rises with age. ... And if the
> administration doesn’t have enough to worry about, here’s one more thing:
> older Americans tend to vote in greater numbers than any other demographic.
> """
> "Health Care’s Generation Gap "
> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/17/opinion/17dooling.html?bl&ex=1250654400&en=896e8475da33a334&ei=5087%0A
> """
> That was back in the mid-’80s, when the nation was spending around 8
> percent of its gross domestic product on health care. I and other health
> care workers solemnly agreed that the spending spree could not continue.
> Taxpayers and insurance companies would eventually revolt and refuse to pay
> for such end-of-life care. Somebody would surely expose the ruse for what it
> was: an enormous transfer of wealth based on the pretense that getting old
> and dying is a medical emergency requiring high-tech intensive-care
> intervention and armies of specialists, which could cost $10,000 or more per
> day. (Europeans have so far resisted this delusion, one reason they spend
> much less than we do on health care, with far better results.)
>  That was back in the mid-’80s, when the nation was spending around 8
> percent of its gross domestic product on health care. I and other health
> care workers solemnly agreed that the spending spree could not continue.
> Taxpayers and insurance companies would eventually revolt and refuse to pay
> for such end-of-life care. Somebody would surely expose the ruse for what it
> was: an enormous transfer of wealth based on the pretense that getting old
> and dying is a medical emergency requiring high-tech intensive-care
> intervention and armies of specialists, which could cost $10,000 or more per
> day. (Europeans have so far resisted this delusion, one reason they spend
> much less than we do on health care, with far better results.) ...
>  One thing’s for sure: Our health care system has failed. Generational
> spending wars loom on the horizon. Rationing of health care is imminent. But
> given the political inertia, we could soon find ourselves in a triage
> situation in which there is no time or money to create medical-review boards
> to ponder cost-containment issues or rationing schemes. We’ll be forced to
> implement quick-and-dirty rules based on something simple, sensible and
> easily verifiable. Like age. As in: No federal funds to be spent on
> intensive-care medicine for anyone over 85.
>  I am not, of course, talking about euthanasia. I’m just wondering why the
> nation continues incurring enormous debt to pay for bypass surgery and
> titanium-knee replacements for octogenarians and nonagenarians, when for
> just a small fraction of those costs we could provide children with
> preventive health care and nutrition. Eight million children have no health
> insurance, but their parents pay 3 percent of their salaries to Medicare to
> make sure that seniors get the very best money can buy in prescription drugs
> for everything from restless leg syndrome to erectile dysfunction, scooters
> and end-of-life intensive care.
>  Sir William Osler, widely revered as the father of modern medicine, said,
> “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to
> take medicine.” Perhaps the second duty should be to administer an ounce of
> prevention instead of a pound of cure. ...
> """
> Again, sick or dead young people can't pay for the health care of old
> people, nor can sick or dead young people be health care practitioners for
> old people. You would think old people could see it, but maybe it will take
> some leadership to help them see it?
> Again, this is not to disagree with Michel's main point that people need to
> focus on commonality to solve problems. The last paragraph in the first item
> makes a related analogy to old wars and how the young just want the same
> thing the older generation got. I'd suggest my point just above is one such
> point of commonality -- the young can not take good care of the old if the
> young are sick or dead.
> That point by David Willetts was actually the quote in my mind when I wrote
> my previous reply, but I could not find it.
> As with the comment on Ireland, that is why the industrialized globe is
> facing a "Peak Population" crisis, not a "Peak Oil" crisis, even though
> people are confusing the two, which is odd given solar is now (or soon will
> be) cheaper than coal. :-)
> But, think about it, how many of the industrialized world's current
> problems are better explained by "Peak Population" rather than "Peak Oil"?
> And how much has the "Peak Energy" misrepresentation of the "Peak Oil" fact
> by people like Catton led to smaller families and made worse the "Peak
> Population" crisis? Gloomsters and Doomsters are in that sense creating the
> terrible problems we are facing right now. In Voyage from Yesteryear, James
> P. Hogan talks about despair versus optimist in a culture, in part based on
> appreciation of the potential abundance energy in the universe.
> The less peers that are around, the less peers can help each other and
> contribute to a free commons. Maybe there are laws of diminishing returns,
> but are we anywhere near them? What would Wikipedia be like with only 100
> contributors instead of 100 thousand? Especially in a digital age, it is
> easy for a peer to add more to the free commons than they take away. What do
> you take away from Wikipedia by reading a page? A little electricity power
> perhaps, but Wikipedia shows us how to get all the power we need from the
> sun.
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_energy
> So, even in a physical sense, Wikipedia is helping peers physically power
> it by giving away such knowledge.
> We can support quadrillions of humans in the solar system (see my previous
> references to Dyson, Bernal, Savage, O'Neill, and there are many others), or
> about a million times our current population on Earth. We essentially had
> the specific technological ideas in the 1970s we needed to do that, even
> given refinements since then. So, a focus on zero or negative population
> growth for the human race as a whole right now, as opposed to just limiting
> the population currently on Earth (which might be sensible, even though I
> think we could easily grow 10X on Earth), has created a "Peak Population"
> crisis that we didn't need to have for 1000 years when we filled up the
> solar system (and by then, we would have better technology and better social
> ideology to deal with changing demographics of moving from a triangle to a
> square of population by age).
> Sure, let's set a population target for some carrying capacity on Earth the
> same way the health and fire departments limit the maximum number of people
> in a restaurant. But, you don't limit the human population of a city (or the
> solar system) the same way you limit the number of people that can safely be
> in a restaurant (the Earth). That is ultimately the mistake that gloomsters
> like Catton make -- they confuse the two, mostly IMHO from lack of
> imagination, but also because some profit from artificial scarcity, as well,
> as in Catton's case, the hypocrisy of having four children while telling
> everyone else to have less.
> 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. :-) And, no, that's not what I had in mind, get your
> mind out of the gutter. :-) I was thinking about this purely in terms of
> peers helping solve the "Peak Population" problem in academic and
> demographic and infrastructure and economic and space and ocean and free
> commons terms. :-) Still, I'd suggest, if you want to have four kids like
> Catton, don't feel guilty about it -- in fact, be proud you are helping
> solve the Peak Population crisis outlined above. :-)
> Robots and mind children are another way to solve the "Peak Population"
> crisis, and that is essentially why, as in the original article Ryan linked
> to, the Japanese are building robots to survive.
>  http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-is-dying-2009-8
> So, in thirty years we'll have a flood or humanoid robots and other "mind
> children", and so humans won't have to "work" except at what they like to
> do. :-) But that's another problem then caused by the crisis of "Peak
> Population", or essentially how to deal with sibling rivalry by figuring out
> how to get physical children peers and mind children peers to get along and
> play nice. :-)
> --Paul Fernhout
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
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