Baby bust chronicles

All trends are reversible, as I like to say in my little pep talks from time to time. Verily, enslavement to trends is among the worst trends of our glib modernity. I continue to argue for freeing the slaves.

Let us consider, for this morning’s example, the global trend towards depopulation. According to the University of Washington’s “Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation” (i.e. trends) — women, who were having towards five babies each around the time I was born, are now down towards two; and this number is still shrinking. Of the world’s 195 formal states, 183 will be below the two-point-one replacement rate, soon enough, and population will have halved in twenty-three of them, in a mere eighty years. These latter include Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and a selection of European countries, including Italy, and Spain. China and others will be only slightly above half, and we may look forward to the number of fresh-minted octogenarians exceeding the number of live births, worldwide, in just these next four score of solar revolutions.

Meanwhile, the planetary population will grow, from past momentum, for a little while longer. We might top out slightly short of ten billion; unless something very bad happens in the interim. Perhaps we can even expect that, given the latest strains of plague, and swine flu, rumoured from the PRC; and a world war with current technology might accelerate the downturn wonderfully. (I like to use “wonderful” in the Newfoundland sense.) But the Washington study does not even consider such artificial depressants.

Suffice to say, we could stop worrying about a few inches of global sea rise — a trend that has continued since the last Ice Age, so that it is overdue for reverse. The “rôle of women” is rather more consequential, as they have been turning their attention, globally, away from child-bearing and raising, and towards factory and desk jobs.

I should also like to mention the rôle of men, who, according to my information, are not supplying the deficit. They may increasingly stay at home like old housewives, but are notoriously too lazy to have children themselves. They also lack the nurturing skills to deal with whatever we might eventually hatch from incubators.

The time until the end of the present century — some eighty years, or about three human generations — is a flash in the pan of geological history; indeed a micro-flash speck. But for human beings themselves, it is a long time. For instance it is at least twice the time elapsed since we were last being told that “the population bomb keeps ticking,” by the population bombers at the United Nations. By that standard, I calculate that we should only be half as alarmed as we were made by their last projections.

It is a sign of the times that the more recent study (published in the Lancet) demands that we should act in some way. “We need a fundamental rethink of global politics,” says some expert quoted by the BBC, and the experts are always happy to provide it. All they need to do is turn their last policy suggestions upside down.

Whereas, I recommend complacency.