Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Birthrate Ballyhoo
June 16, 2008 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Baby Bust! After 200 years of exponential population growth, and just four decades after overpopulation doomsaying began filling the bestseller lists, the First World is suddenly gripped with underpopulation hysteria. The governments of the developed world have always maintained an interest in birthrates and procreation, but the reasons why are changing, and the ensuing demographic debates about gender, race and culture are "ideologically fraught and scientifically questionable."
posted by amyms (120 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great news! The world needs less people. Despite the economic repercussions the environment can not sustain current populations levels.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:50 AM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well I've done my part. I once again for the fortieth straight year didn't have to see Father's Day as 'my' day. Yay me go me.

There's something called a condom. Marvelous device. More people should look into it.

The irony is that smart people use multiple forms of birth control, and dumb people don't. So we end up having less smart people giving birth to children and more dumb people giving birth to children. Granted, there's yet to be any scientific proof to indicate that the capacity for intelligent thought it genetic, but cougars don't give birth to baboons if you know whut ah mean and ah think yew dew!
posted by ZachsMind at 10:55 AM on June 16, 2008


Inflation Up, Babies Down. Pretty simple explanation in my anecdotal experience.
posted by fusinski at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2008


"the capacity for intelligent thought it genetic"

it = IS. Typo. Sowwy.

Boy, do I feel stoopid. =)
posted by ZachsMind at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2008


zachsmind: That irony was the basis for the movie Idiocracy. At any rate, my SO and I are sticking to one, max, and not for at least 10 years.
posted by Mach5 at 10:57 AM on June 16, 2008


...the First World is suddenly gripped with underpopulation hysteria.

I.e. racism.

If you need new, young workers to pay for your retirement benefits, why not kick the immigration rate up a notch? Wait, I think I know this one....
posted by DU at 10:58 AM on June 16, 2008 [7 favorites]


OH NOES! We're running out of white people!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:00 AM on June 16, 2008 [15 favorites]


Fine with me. I hate kids. Annoying snotty little shitbags!
posted by autodidact at 11:02 AM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


On a different track - is there any proof that China's one-child policy has actually worked?

In other words, what would have happened if there never was a one-child policy? Wouldn't people have had to practice birth control, anyway, since the land can only support so many people?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:03 AM on June 16, 2008


Major corporations must be very concerned about dwindling customer bases.
posted by anazgnos at 11:03 AM on June 16, 2008


On a different track - is there any proof that China's one-child policy has actually worked?

If the only result they were after was to bring their birth-rate below replacement value then China's one-child policy was a success.

But it has created other problems, like a population that's made up of something like 1000 or more men for every one woman.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:08 AM on June 16, 2008


The demographics in the US are fine, even without extended immigration.

Japan, however, is pretty scary. There's almost twice as many people in the age 30-45 cohort as the 0-15 cohort.
posted by tachikaze at 11:11 AM on June 16, 2008


Malthusians are cute.

If you want to change the world, raise kids.

If you want to change the world for the better, raise kids that can think.
posted by Skorgu at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


In other words, what would have happened if there never was a one-child policy? Wouldn't people have had to practice birth control, anyway, since the land can only support so many people?

So in other words, rather then use birth control, they simply could have allowed their resources to become exhausted at which point many people would die of malnutrition (since they could not be 'supproted' as you say) which would in turn cause some people to use birth control (and some not)?

The whole point of government policy is to avoid looming disasters, rather then just hanging loose and riding 'em out. Well, one of the points anyway.
posted by delmoi at 11:16 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


"On the liberal side you can find demographic thinkers such as Phillip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle, and the Australian demographer Peter McDonald, who argue that we’re headed for a dark future unless governments begin bestowing mothers with some serious baby shower gifts.

Soooo...we're damned if we do (too many people will lead to environmental collapse) and damned if we don't (demographic disaster)?
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:20 AM on June 16, 2008


Wouldn't people have had to practice birth control, anyway, since the land can only support so many people?

You mean like how we've all cut back on our use of oil because of global warming and reserves running out?
posted by DU at 11:20 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Malthusians are cute.

Yeah, because believing the Earth has finite resources is so far fetched.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:21 AM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


But it has created other problems, like a population that's made up of something like 1000 or more men for every one woman.

I don't know if you're simply exaggerating, but that would be pretty drastic. The actual figure is 106 men:100 women, and the under-15 category is significantly more slanted. Of course in a population of 1.3 billion, that means around 38 million more males than females, which can create some problems.
posted by napkin at 11:21 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't people have had to practice birth control, anyway, since the land can only support so many people?

To bad the people on Easter Island didn't have that foresight.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:22 AM on June 16, 2008


On a different track - is there any proof that China's one-child policy has actually worked?

The government of the PRC estimates they have avoided a number of births roughly equal to the population of the USA.
posted by adamrice at 11:27 AM on June 16, 2008


Previously. A better article IMO, even if 4 years old.
posted by stbalbach at 11:29 AM on June 16, 2008


(and better thread, so far, even if 4 years old)
posted by stbalbach at 11:33 AM on June 16, 2008


After living in rapidly depopulating Latvia - population growth rate per annum -0.6% - some of the consequences aren't just off in the future, and include regionally unbalanced economics: in 2005, incomes were 7 times higher per capita per annum in Riga than in the Rezekne district in the east of the country. Fully half of Latvia lives in Riga or its suburbs. That has huge consequences for a country larger than Switzerland, about the size of Sri Lanka, and only a little smaller than Ireland.
posted by mdonley at 11:33 AM on June 16, 2008


Previous previously
posted by stbalbach at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2008


Embracing historical continuity with the nativists who came before him, Mark Steyn takes time in America Alone to blame women for aborting the generation that might have stood between us and the coming Islamification of the West.

99.9% of the "baby bust" hysteria is racist bullshit like this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2008 [17 favorites]


Yeah, because believing the Earth has finite resources is so far fetched.

Earth does have finite resources, obviously. Fundamentally we're limited by insurmountable things like thermodynamics and heat radiation. Inside that envelope is engineering, outside it is fantasy.

The central conceit (and flaw) of Malthus was that yields are fixed. Technology has, over the past century or so proven that to be so far from true it's astonishing. I can't immediately come up with a person who has been more wrong on such a basic idea. Maybe the "5 computers" IBM guy.

Technological progress will, barring a massive fuckup on a global scale, bring the real yields closer and closer to that fundamental envelope. How fast and how evenly distributed it becomes is the real problem. Which is a people problem, like every other problem on the planet.

Breed. Teach your kids about our mistakes and how to avoid them. Build up a mass of people to whom it's more important to get it right than to be right. Then we might have a chance.

Otherwise we're just pissing upwind by nicely asking people not to fuck and rewarding those who don't listen with control over the ultimate destiny of the planet: children.
posted by Skorgu at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2008 [8 favorites]


A better idea:
1. Don't breed.
2. Steal the children of the people you find the most disagreeable, train them by night, and return them.
3. Repeat.
posted by crazylegs at 11:43 AM on June 16, 2008 [17 favorites]


[i]...The whole point of government policy is to avoid looming disasters, rather then just hanging loose and riding 'em out. ...[/i]

As demonstrated in New Orleans.
posted by de void at 11:43 AM on June 16, 2008


Gah, apologies for the Italics disaster there.
posted by de void at 11:44 AM on June 16, 2008


Hey man, the Duggars are doing the most they can, and then some. This all smells of White Panic. I'm pretty sure there are enough people in, say, India or Pakistan willing to immigrate to the West to handle the work that needs doing.
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2008


Embracing historical continuity with the nativists who came before him, Mark Steyn takes time in America Alone to blame women for aborting the generation that might have stood between us and the coming Islamification of the West.

99.9% of the "baby bust" hysteria is racist bullshit like this.


To be fair, that's not exactly racist. Islam is a religion that can be embraced by people of any race. The fear-mongering you've cited is more to do with a cultural difference than a racial one.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2008


I'm with Skorgu. The guy with 14 kids in Malawi isn't the problem. The selfish ultra-consumer in London or New York is the problem. Our zero-growth ageing population isn't consuming less, it's consuming more, more, more.
posted by WPW at 11:49 AM on June 16, 2008


Technological progress will, barring a massive fuckup on a global scale, bring the real yields closer and closer to that fundamental envelope. How fast and how evenly distributed it becomes is the real problem. Which is a people problem, like every other problem on the planet.

While I agree that technology can and has improved yield. I seems in doing so we really screw up something else. We have figured out how to raise pigs very efficiently compared to 100 years ago. However, we are now saddled with a waste problem that among other things is fucking up the groundwater in places.

Otherwise we're just pissing upwind by nicely asking people not to fuck and rewarding those who don't listen with control over the ultimate destiny of the planet: children.

I think the government should offer free birth control and free sterilization for anyone that wants it. The less irresponsible people raising children the better.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:50 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I want to know more about the economic correlations with fertility.

In early modern England, there was a period of low fertility in c1650-1750 AD which was also a period of low economic opportunity. The economy wasn't awful - conditions were better for the average person than they were during the c1550-1650 period, when the population was growing. But the labour market was tight - it was hard to get a livelyhood. And people married late, and many didn't marry at all. But a century later, more wage labour opportunities (expanding manufactures and the beginning of industrialization) led to earlier marriages, more marriages and a whole lot more babies, even though living conditions didn't improve, and the population just began to shoot up. It wasn't that people made more money, but that they had the chance to make some money earlier.

I want to know if this is any part of the pattern to low fertility now - is the difference between Canada and the US partly in the labour markets, for example? The article began to hint at some of the patterns between European countries, but it didn't really explore this side.
posted by jb at 11:52 AM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


To be fair, that's not exactly racist. Islam is a religion that can be embraced by people of any race. The fear-mongering you've cited is more to do with a cultural difference than a racial one.

Uh-huh. I'm sure that what Mark Steyn is afraid of is people that look like Cat Stevens having too many children.
posted by nasreddin at 11:52 AM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the government should offer free birth control and free sterilization for anyone that wants it. The less irresponsible people raising children the better.

But the irresponsible people won't step up for free birth control. Because they're irresponsible.
posted by WPW at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


But the irresponsible people won't step up for free birth control. Because they're irresponsible.

I beg to differ. I think that many of them would, which would help to some degree.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:56 AM on June 16, 2008


the First World is suddenly gripped with underpopulation hysteria

In some parts of the first world. Here in Sweden thanks to generous social policies like 390 days of almost full pay parental leave, professional and high quality full-time child care from 1 year, and a decent health care system, there's been a baby boom for a decade.

At the end of the day what this expensive system produces is an environment where a woman doesn't have to sacrifice her career to have kids. In the first world this is what make all the difference.

Countries which do not provide this should question their first world standing...
posted by three blind mice at 11:56 AM on June 16, 2008 [15 favorites]


I think the government should offer free birth control and free sterilization for anyone that wants it.
I agree wholeheartedly.

The less irresponsible people raising children the better.
Unfortunately I think the overlap between these two sets is going to be lost in the noise.
posted by Skorgu at 11:57 AM on June 16, 2008


I beg to differ. I think that many of them would, which would help to some degree.

I completely agree that birth control should be offered free and without precondition, at any rate. So we're on the same page.
posted by WPW at 11:58 AM on June 16, 2008


I'm sure that what Mark Steyn is afraid of is people that look like Cat Stevens having too many children.

Yes. He is. I'm not saying that makes it OK. I'm just saying it's Islam he has a problem with, not skin-tone. That's a cultural bias, not a racial one.
posted by wabbittwax at 12:01 PM on June 16, 2008


While I agree that technology can and has improved yield. I seems in doing so we really screw up something else.

Ya, that's about it.. Part of improving yields is exploiting externalities. Hence, technology improves yields while screwing up EVERYTHING else.

Except that I don't really blame technology for that.. More like economics. And in particular, the way group policies and personal choices are shaped by misguided application of inherently flawed economic theory.
posted by Chuckles at 12:06 PM on June 16, 2008


I completely agree that birth control should be offered free and without precondition, at any rate. So we're on the same page.
posted by WPW at 1:58 PM on June 16


I wonder why it isn't?

The cost of a few hundred thousand sterilizations each year is not a lot of money by governmental standards.

nasreddin and wabbittwax: I'm quite sure it's BOTH. I'm sure he doesn't want any more brown people, OR people that make funny noises when they pray.

That you guys think it is either-or is kinda funny.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:07 PM on June 16, 2008


But the irresponsible people won't step up for free birth control. Because they're irresponsible.

Play off that irresponsibility. Free Ipod with every free vasectomy! You've thus selected for sterility those who value their fertility less than a consumer trinket and those without the appropriate consideration of the consequences of their actions to realize that's the deal they're making. You want to make it something useless like an Ipod (and find some way to remove the resale value from these specific Ipods) so that you do not put someone in the position of getting sterilized because they are hard up for cash.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:12 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


I wonder why it isn't? The cost of a few hundred thousand sterilizations each year is not a lot of money by governmental standards.

To be honest, I wanted to limit my remark to birth control; I have some qualms about instant sterilisation on demand. But here in the UK birth control the healthcare situation is different.
posted by WPW at 12:13 PM on June 16, 2008


Play off that irresponsibility. Free Ipod with every free vasectomy! You've thus selected for sterility those who value their fertility less than a consumer trinket and those without the appropriate consideration of the consequences of their actions to realize that's the deal they're making. You want to make it something useless like an Ipod (and find some way to remove the resale value from these specific Ipods) so that you do not put someone in the position of getting sterilized because they are hard up for cash.

Great idea! But I was thinking more like WWE tickets and a carton of smokes.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:19 PM on June 16, 2008


Yay!
posted by phrontist at 12:23 PM on June 16, 2008


Wouldn't people have had to practice birth control, anyway, since the land can only support so many people?

I think it would be more accurate to say that Nature will practice "birth control" for us if we grow beyond our means of support.

If you catch my drift.
posted by Avenger at 12:24 PM on June 16, 2008


To be honest, I wanted to limit my remark to birth control; I have some qualms about instant sterilisation on demand.

What qualms? Worries about the irreversibility of the procedure?
posted by voltairemodern at 12:31 PM on June 16, 2008


is there any proof that China's one-child policy has actually worked?

Probably.. The wikipedia page sites a lot of sources and numbers. There have been some recent headlines about official relaxation of the policy, in part as it relates to the earthquake, but I remember something from early in the year as well. Without searching too hard, what I found was this article (did a more definitive statement or change in policy come out this year?) - China relaxes its one-child policy.
posted by Chuckles at 12:41 PM on June 16, 2008


It never ceases to amaze me how bitter and misanthropic Mefites get in these threads. We get it: you hate children. You're way too cool and awesome and free to be tied down to raising a bunch of smelly little shitbags. Who wants a bunch of young people who love you around when you're old and sick?

Not us, that's who!
posted by Justinian at 12:41 PM on June 16, 2008 [15 favorites]


To paraphrase: Not enough of us, too many of them.
posted by tommasz at 12:48 PM on June 16, 2008


It never ceases to amaze me how bitter and misanthropic Mefites get in these threads. We get it: you hate children. You're way too cool and awesome and free to be tied down to raising a bunch of smelly little shitbags. Who wants a bunch of young people who love you around when you're old and sick?

Not us, that's who!


Ummm.... I think there is only one person that expressed those views.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:52 PM on June 16, 2008


Give it time, Mr. Zero. Or look back at every other thread of this type.
posted by Justinian at 12:54 PM on June 16, 2008


> Technological progress will, barring a massive fuckup on a global scale, bring the real yields closer and closer to that fundamental envelope.

This seems disturbingly like an article of faith, and I don't take things on faith -- and I really don't think we should, as a society, be taking things on faith when the future of our civilization is quite possibly at stake in the long run.

The only reason anyone can get away with calling Malthus wrong, today, is because humanity discovered a vast, then-basically-untapped reserve of energy: petroleum. We used petroleum to build up our society, and fertilize our land to produce the abundant food supply that let the population grow astronomically. That's pretty much it.

It is a mistake (not to mention an act of enormous hubris) to think that this situation is unique. Many other societies have done similar things when they moved to a new land and discovered a seemingly inexhaustable supply of resources, and consumed them while their population increased. And when those resources run out -- because, let's face it, humans as a species are bad at managing resources within the envelope of sustainability -- bad things happened.

Furthermore, modern American-style Western civilization has only been around for an eyeblink. As devoid of foresight as we now think the Easter Islanders or the Norse Greenlanders (or insert your favorite dead civilization here) were, they managed to hang on for a lot longer than our society has in its current form. I'm sure there was plenty of time for members of any of those societies to look at their past track record -- centuries-long as it was -- pat themselves on the back, and declare that everything would turn out for the best.

Complex societies such as our own, where only a small fraction of the population are doing activities that are really essential to survival (like growing food) are extremely fragile. There are any number of physical limits that we could run into that would bring it crashing down around our ears if we're not careful; running short of energy/fuel would only be one. There are lots of others. Any of them might prove to be beyond our capacity to cleverly engineer our way out of in time: as they say about mutual funds, so it is about societies -- past performance is not necessarily an indicator of future success.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:58 PM on June 16, 2008 [7 favorites]


Justinian: while I wouldn't so so far as to label children in those terms ("rugrats and ankle critters" is about as far as I go), I think there's also something to be said against the attitude of "oh, I don't want to be lonely when I get old - quick, let's make some genetically diverse copies of me to take care of us in 40 years!". In the 1st world, at least, I find that attitude selfish, inconsiderate, and unnecessary. One shouldn't have children as a buffer against one's pension or the questionable health services of one's society. And besides which, based upon the number of elderly socially abandoned in nursing homes, it's not a terribly good bet to depend upon the largess and love of one's offspring.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


Justinian writes "Who wants a bunch of young people who love you around when you're old and sick?"

I'm making a long bet on Kurzweil. I'll be the young people when you're old and sick.
posted by mullingitover at 1:04 PM on June 16, 2008


The central conceit (and flaw) of Malthus was that yields are fixed. Technology has, over the past century or so proven that to be so far from true it's astonishing.

Technology and cheap energy. When you have to start growing fuel crops to replace that cheap energy as it runs out, this situation reverses so fast it'll make your head spin.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:11 PM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


There's something called a condom. Marvelous device. More people should look into it.

Before use, preferably, unless you want to glue your eye shut.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:12 PM on June 16, 2008 [4 favorites]


Technology and cheap energy. When you have to start growing fuel crops to replace that cheap energy as it runs out, this situation reverses so fast it'll make your head spin.

The crop for fuel thing is just another one of those technologies that is being pitched because the powers that be know it will not work in the long run. So after fucking around with it for a few years pretending to make progress we are still stuck with oil.
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:20 PM on June 16, 2008


What qualms? Worries about the irreversibility of the procedure?

Yes.
posted by WPW at 1:24 PM on June 16, 2008


What qualms? Worries about the irreversibility of the procedure?

IMO, better that than dealing with the irreversibility of them having a baby they really don't want.
posted by Mr_Zero at 1:27 PM on June 16, 2008


Reading this thread ... if you are in favor of limiting the world population because of concerns about limited resources, etc., then good on you.

If you are, as some have implied or even outright stated, worried that the Stupid People are going to outbreed the Smart People, then you are pretty much on the same level as the racists who are worried about too many brown folks.

Is there a genetic component to intelligence? Probably. But it is dwarfed by the effects of access to resources, education, and environment. In fact, it is entirely possible that if everyone had access to the same resources you did, you might find yourself on the lower end of the IQ scale compared to all those "dumb" people having lots of kids, and, in your "Let's Prevent Idiocracy" fantasy, one of the ones slated for sterilization. Yes, even though you read Metafilter. Imagine!

If you are worried about the negative effects of "them" outbreeding a class that contains "you" -- WHOEVER "they" are -- take a good, long look at your prejudices.
posted by kyrademon at 1:34 PM on June 16, 2008 [11 favorites]


The central conceit (and flaw) of Malthus was that yields are fixed. Technology has, over the past century or so proven that to be so far from true it's astonishing.

Technology and cheap energy.


Another problem with Malthus is that he did not investigate the social context of famine. During Malthus' time, land redistribution in countries such as France was seriously fucked up (or 'problematic', as the historians say). Successive generations of farmers were forced to subdivide their land to give to their heirs, and land allotments grew smaller and smaller. People had a hard time feeding themselves and their families, and still had to pay hefty tax bills each year.

Malthus also ignored the political realities of famine. The British government could have provided significant resources to aid victims of the Irish Famine, but chose not to do so.

And anyone thinking that the fear of a lowering birthrate in first world countries is so much racism had better be prepared to pay more taxes to support the non-working population. We'll be paying more taxes to receive even fewer services that we do now, and there will be no guarantee that those of us paying for the aging cohort will receive the same level of service once we retire (if we are able to).

And you're aware that paying more taxes means having less discretionary income, right?

So start having babies, or start increasing immigration.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:39 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm making a long bet on Kurzweil. I'll be the young people when you're old and sick.

Good luck with your nerd rapture!
posted by Justinian at 1:44 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


ZachsMind : but cougars don't give birth to baboons

Yet...

*raises eyebrow in a sinister fashion*
posted by quin at 1:44 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you are, as some have implied or even outright stated, worried that the Stupid People are going to outbreed the Smart People, then you are pretty much on the same level as the racists who are worried about too many brown folks.

Exactly. This kind of sentiment is classism (mixed with racism) at its very worst.
posted by nasreddin at 1:46 PM on June 16, 2008


I'll say in the defense of mine that I see many people of all classes or educational levels, etc. who exhibit a complete lack of foresight and planning. My specific example was even an Ipod as something that is not too class-specific.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:53 PM on June 16, 2008


I'll say in the defense of mine that I see many people of all classes or educational levels, etc. who exhibit a complete lack of foresight and planning. My specific example was even an Ipod as something that is not too class-specific.

I would think that there would be some demographic that could be targeted that would be take the most stress off of society. Perhaps taking a look at what people on welfare with a bunch of kids want. That doesn't necessarily target one group or another. Right?
posted by Mr_Zero at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2008


My girlfriend and I have decided to not have kids, not because we don't want them, but because both of us are convinced that our society is going down the tubes in a big way, if not during our lifetimes then certainly during the lifetimes of anyone born right now, or anytime soon after (i.e. our childbearing years).

In essence, we're placing a bet with ourselves. If we're right, we will at least be happy we didn't have kids who had to suffer through the (rapid and unpleasant) decline of our civilization. If we're wrong, we'll be sad and lonely in our old age*.

No need to point out that both outcomes are unhappy (societal collapse/lonely dotage); we're well aware that we're both pessimists.

* although, as others have pointed out, having children is no sure-fire protection against loneliness and neglect as you grow old
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 2:14 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


If we're all clarifiying our positions, I'd like to make it clear that I think people should be free to have as many children as they like. I also favour sex education in schools and freely available birth control. Freedom of choice is really the key. I think that attempting to tackle climate change through coercive population control is a costly and counter-productive red herring with a racist undertone. The West has got to get used to the idea of consuming less.
posted by WPW at 2:20 PM on June 16, 2008


If we're wrong, we'll be sad and lonely in our old age*

I doubt it. They will probably have really cool robots to take care of you by then.
posted by Mr_Zero at 2:20 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sounds ideal, Mr_Zero. if the robots are properly respectful of our elderly crotchets and have warm hands.
posted by Cranberry at 2:43 PM on June 16, 2008


IMO, better that than dealing with the irreversibility of them having a baby they really don't want.

Me and my Super Baby-Matic '76 agree that having a baby is indeed reversible.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:51 PM on June 16, 2008


Fully half of Latvia lives in Riga or its suburbs. That has huge consequences for a country larger than Switzerland, about the size of Sri Lanka, and only a little smaller than Ireland.

Wow, that really makes me want to move to Latvia - that's a lot of elbow room!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:51 PM on June 16, 2008


Ignore it...it's just the baby boomers panicking over whether there will be enough people left to pay all their bills as they get older. Sixty years of screwing up the present and future in order to subsidize the comfort of this one self-focused generation isn't enough...they need to make sure they suck up every last drop of resource before they depart.
posted by troybob at 2:56 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


> And anyone thinking that the fear of a lowering birthrate in first world countries is so much racism had better be prepared to pay more taxes to support the non-working population.

So we should continue to increase the population, unsustainably and ad infinitum, so that we can keep playing a Ponzi-scheme retirement plan with ourselves? I can't think of a more shortsighted reason to encourage people to have children.

Here's an idea: let's fix the system. Any plan, economic or otherwise, that relies upon or assumes never-ending population growth is inherently flawed.

That's not a peak-oil issue, it's just logic. Eventually, we're going to max out the planet's population. Not having a crystal ball, neither I nor anyone else can predict exactly what the limiting condition will be, that we won't be able to squeeze our way out of in time. But historical examples suggest that if we wait until we hit a hard limit before doing anything, the result won't be a gentle crest (as population management today might be), but instead will be a catastrophic crash.

It's stupidity beyond compare, when we have our own salvation in sight -- declining populations thanks to education, birth control, and female empowerment -- to undermine it by encouraging people to start reproducing like crazy again, just because we don't want to go to the work of coming up with an economic system for elder care that doesn't assume infinite population growth. (And heck, it's not like we're even going to have to figure it out ourselves here in the U.S.: the Japanese will be the first up to the plate, it seems.)

Yes, a system that didn't rob Peter to pay Paul (and then rob Peter's children to pay him down the road) would mean less discretionary income today. Getting people to stop putting their children in debt for their own benefit will be an uphill battle, because we've been doing it for so long. But it's worth fighting, because that's how we can create a society that's sustainable, and thus stable (or at least more stable) in the long term; one that doesn't just assume never-ending growth, with all its associated resource depletion.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:04 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's something called a condom. Marvelous device. More people should look into it.

You mean to tell me that I've been using it wrong all these years?! SHIT!!
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:10 PM on June 16, 2008


Petroleum? Sure. Don't forget selective breeding, genetic engineering, greenhouses, biodiverse farming, natural fertilizers, irrigation, crop management and rotation, etc ad nauseum. Ten thousand years of evidence may not be an indicator of future success, but it's nothing to discount either.

If my argument-from-progress was a bit sparse, let me elaborate. Plants suck. The best of them (sugarcane) get 6% efficiency on a good day. The entire earth's biomass converts ~0.023% of the total insolation into energy. That's all the forests, algae, corn, everything. That's of the billionth or so of the sun's total energy output that the earth as a whole gets.

What separates us from the bottomless well of energy right up there --^ is humanity, not science. Not even engineering. UNH did some great work on biodiesel from algae in the 90s, something like the area of Rhode Island could generate enough biodiesel to repace 100% of our oil dependence at an estimated cost of $500 billion (IIRC). That's assuming little progress in the efficiency of the algae and only modest progress in extraction. We are so far from the limits of gathering even the tiny bit of free energy we're beamed every day that talking about technical limits to growth is mind bogglingly far away. And that's not taking into account nuclear, geothermal, wind, anything else. Just direct insolation.

None of this is revolutionary. I called the Ethanol scam probably five years ago and I'm just some guy; the thermodynamics has been clear for decades.

because, let's face it, humans as a species are bad at managing resources within the envelope of sustainability

And here we agree :) Providing food for the world is not a technical problem. The problem is that people are far more focused on invading Iraq for $3 trillion than sponsoring biodiesel research (Bush canned the research project I believe). The problem is that we've got to placate Big Corn to get elected so we're using net-negative corn to ethanol process and driving food prices up. The problem is that we don't bother to teach our children, well anything really and then act surprised that they grow up to watch American Idol and vote for the guy with the better hair.

Be the change you desire for the world. Or the game-theory way, act like you want everyone else to act. No matter what the problem is, it's a people problem and the only way to solve a people problem is with better people.

So, please, don't be selfish. Look down the road. Have children. Teach them well.


On Preview: But it's worth fighting, because that's how we can create a society that's sustainable, and thus stable (or at least more stable) in the long term; one that doesn't just assume never-ending growth, with all its associated resource depletion.

Agree completely. Growth and sustainability are interdependent beasts, the balance between the two has to be sought, held and fought for.

posted by Skorgu at 3:10 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


Justinian writes "Good luck with your nerd rapture!"

It seems like better odds than my current immortality tonic, whiskey and loose women.
posted by mullingitover at 3:37 PM on June 16, 2008


Excellent points all, Skorgu. But I'd like to suggest that breeding our way out of the problem ("if we fuck enough, we're sure to get an Einstein!") is not necessarily the only solution. We can do both: attempt to achieve zero or (ideally) gently negative population growth, while simultaneously investing everyone, young and old, in making effort to raise fewer, better educated, better nurtured, healthier kids. People who choose not to reproduce, like myself, still have a great deal to contribute: as mentors, Big Brothers / Sisters, favorite uncles / aunts, and teachers. For my part, I'm all of those (well, the male ones, anyway).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:45 PM on June 16, 2008


Wow, that really makes me want to move to Latvia - that's a lot of elbow room!

Apparently a better bet for guys than girls. I've heard that one of the factors behind the depopulation there is that since joining the EU, a large proportion of Latvian guys with decent skills or education have headed towards old Europe to make a better living, leaving only the deadbeats and alcos for the women left behind.

Why the educated women haven't migrated as well is beyond me, but supposedly that's the way it is.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:50 PM on June 16, 2008


because both of us are convinced that our society is going down the tubes in a big way

It's a sure bet that a lot of people have felt this way at any point in history since antiquity. And yet we're still chugging more-or-less happily along. And we'll still be chugging along 50 years from now.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on June 16, 2008


And yet we're still chugging more-or-less happily along. And we'll still be chugging along 50 years from now.

You are way too sure about this. You sound like an Easter Islander.
posted by marble at 3:56 PM on June 16, 2008


No, just a realist. Peak Oil? Even if you accept it, that's a lifestyle crasher, not a world ender. Melting economy from real estate? Ditto. Global Warming? The possibilities are pretty bad, but certainly not as bad as, say, the Thirty Years War or the Black Plague even if more global in nature. And the human race got through those.

I'm not sure that things will be great or even good; I'm sure that the human race in general is far more resilient than the doomsayers are giving it credit for. We can survive some pretty awful stuff. Even if that isn't obvious to people who consider things like their favorite science fictional TV show being cancelled by FOX a major calamity.
posted by Justinian at 4:07 PM on June 16, 2008


It's a sure bet that a lot of people have felt this way at any point in history since antiquity.

You bet. Most of them were wrong, but some of them were right.
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 4:09 PM on June 16, 2008


Any plan, economic or otherwise, that relies upon or assumes never-ending population growth is inherently flawed.

I'm not going to wade into this debate again, but this is a dumb thing to say.

Having children is an evolutionary necessity. The human race is biologically programmed to fuck and reproduce and want children and care for them. Any plan that relies on or assumes ending population growth is inherently flawed, because there's no government program in the universe that's going to prevent people from fucking and reproducing for any length of time. The people responsible for that policy would be swinging from streetlamps all across the world within a month or two. Assuming otherwise is a naive utopian fantasy.
posted by nasreddin at 4:18 PM on June 16, 2008


But limiting it to two children per woman doesn't keep people from fucking and reproducing and wanting children and caring for them. And yet you'd have negative population growth. Adjust a little bit if you want to keep the same population. Hell, you could give away a free license-to-have-a-third-kid occasionally as a prize for being a really awesome contributor to society or something.

I don't see anyone besides the voluntary human extinction movement advocating for nobody, anywhere, to have any kids, at all.
posted by marble at 4:27 PM on June 16, 2008


But limiting it to two children per woman doesn't keep people from fucking and reproducing and wanting children and caring for them.

No, but having a large family is fundamental and culturally non-negotiable for many people. Not to mention that having the government permanently policing everyone's womb would be more or less the exact opposite of what liberalism and democracy have always claimed to stand for.
posted by nasreddin at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


You bet. Most of them were wrong, but some of them were right.

True. But the point is that you can't actually read anything into the fact that some people, including people in this thread, feel like things are going rapidly into the crapper. Because if Metafilter existed 15 years ago, people would be saying the same thing for different reasons. Ditto 50, 100, 500, 1000, and 2000 years ago. People always feel like the past was better than the future and we're in a state of inevitable decline.

Hell, that's the entire point of LORD OF THE RINGS; the world is in a permanent, inevitable decline from a previous state of grace. That decline can be slowed but not stopped.

Personally, I think that's an abhorrent worldview. It absolves people of taking any responsibility for making the world a better place. If the whole thing is going to shit and there isn't anything we can do about it, well we might as well just sit around on our butts and let it happen.
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


A question for supporters of population control in this thread who also support abortion rights: how do you reconcile those two positions? How can you say abortion should be legal because a woman's rights to her body are absolute, and at the same time say it should be mandatory (if the child happens to be #3) because of the greater good? Doesn't that involve an even greater violation of women's rights?
posted by nasreddin at 4:38 PM on June 16, 2008


Any plan that relies on or assumes ending population growth is inherently flawed, because there's no government program in the universe that's going to prevent people from fucking and reproducing for any length of time.

Maybe not an overt government plan, but current economic & social conditions in the west are having exactly that effect.

I'm talking about spiralling real estate prices, the erosion of traditional job security, a lack of affordable childcare, parental leave policies that act as disincentives to reproduction, divorce laws that make having kids a huge & unpalatable risk for men, unrealistic Hollywood expectations of perfect partners causing people to delay marriage, the need to set up a viable career for economic security doing likewise, and a continued shift away from extended families & community ties that can share responsibility for childcare increasing the pressure on isolated couples.

Whatever you think about the popularity of policies restricting population growth: the proof is in the pudding. There's a multiple-headed dragon actively making it difficult, at best, for western middle classes to reproduce faster than they die off.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:39 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


The human race is biologically programmed to fuck and reproduce and want children and care for them.

Misleading and inaccurate statement.

What "programming" there is is deeply flawed. Sure we are programmed to fuck. But not necessarily to "want to have" children. And. We only "care" (and I'd use that term loosely) about our own children... at the expense of other children.

We don't give two shits for other people's children. At 7-8 billion people on the planet you can see the problem arising there.

Any plan that relies on or assumes ending population growth is inherently flawed, because there's no government program in the universe that's going to prevent people from fucking and reproducing for any length of time.

Sure there is. It's called starvation. And that is what the results of the government program called "global consumer capitalism".

But I'd like to avoid that if possible.

Assuming otherwise is a naive utopian fantasy.

Bold statement. And also insulting and stupid.

I remember reading lots of statements like that in regards to slavery and equal rights for black people. Hey. People said all that racial superiority stuff was all "genetically programed", too!

One could just as easily say "it's a naive utopian fantasy" to want to end war or even think there is another system besides our current economic model. At some point your gonna come up against this "Genetic Programming" canard. One way or the other.

Tell people they cant own a single family home, or a car, nor can they have 24/7 electrical grids and they will have to have a more restrained caloric intake, and no more cheap casual air travel... and.. oh about a thousand other things people in the west take for granted and the stuff people in the east WANT to take for granted. Tell them that. Tell me there will be a government program that will demand THAT of them. Becuause if we don't limit and reduce populations those are the types of things (and worse) we will end up having to do.

Or we will let war and starvation do it for us. Anyway. With logic like yours I can see why you wouldn't want to wade in here. You might drown.
posted by tkchrist at 4:46 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's a sure bet that a lot of people have felt this way at any point in history since antiquity. And yet we're still chugging more-or-less happily along. And we'll still be chugging along 50 years from now.

I get a chuckle when people say this.

Societies didn't chug along happily. Many societies DIED OUT.
posted by tkchrist at 4:55 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


It absolves people of taking any responsibility for making the world a better place.

Some of us think that making a conscious decision to limit population growth is taking responsibility for making the world a better place. It doesn't mean that's all you have to do, though ("I've done my part! I'm not having kids!").
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 4:59 PM on June 16, 2008


And we'll still be chugging along 50 years from now.

See: Exceptionalism, American.
posted by you just lost the game at 5:02 PM on June 16, 2008


Justinian: No, just a realist. Peak Oil? Even if you accept it, that's a lifestyle crasher, not a world ender. Melting economy from real estate? Ditto. Global Warming? The possibilities are pretty bad, but certainly not as bad as, say, the Thirty Years War or the Black Plague even if more global in nature. And the human race got through those.

Consider this: If civilization goes, we lose things like the CDC, WHO, and medical science in general. With a huge, stressed, and unhealthy population and no doctors, a species-ending plague really isn't that unlikely. Particularly if combined with extreme famine, massive climate problems, or nuclear war.

Also, is the collapse of civilization not a big deal to you? You'd probably die and everyone you knew even if the species made it, all progress would be lost, and irreparable damage would be done to the planet's ecology. Restricting people to having reasonable numbers of kids seems like a slight price to pay to avoid it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:06 PM on June 16, 2008 [2 favorites]


You know, for those arguing that population reduction programs are necessarily invasive and undemocratic, there are plenty of population reduction plans that are not "you are forbidden from having more than [X] children!" policies.

For example, introduce a substantial tax benefit for anyone with [X] children or fewer. Reduce the benefit substantially, or remove it entirely, for any child after that, and continue to reduce it for all subsequent children, or even introduce a tax penalty. Meanwhile, ensure that abortion is cheap and legal, birth control is effective and abundant, education is available and high-quality.

I'm not saying this is the best idea. In fact, I think "no more than two children" or whatever is probably more fair in many ways. But there are plenty of ways to encourage fewer children, if that becomes a desired sociopolitical goal, without a full-scale ban on them. Especially if the policies are enacted when the potential problem is forseeable but not yet acute.
posted by kyrademon at 5:07 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do we care? Western countries can support more kids. Western countries can survive with fewer kids. So who cares?

Our real issue is poorer nations that can't support their own populations because they don't have the water resources. India has set a bad example for these countries, by once giving population control to Indra Gandi's moron son, but China has now set a good example.

There is a separate short term problem because many "water poor" countries use their water for their people and import their food, while food prices have recently sky rocketed. But this problem will likely abate once less evil politicians are elected in the west, and this creates some long term population control incentive in the mean time.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:11 PM on June 16, 2008


Having children is an evolutionary necessity. The human race is biologically programmed to fuck and reproduce and want children and care for them. Any plan that relies on or assumes ending population growth is inherently flawed, because there's no government program in the universe that's going to prevent people from fucking and reproducing for any length of time. The people responsible for that policy would be swinging from streetlamps all across the world within a month or two. Assuming otherwise is a naive utopian fantasy.

Except for all the countries with below-replacement fertility rates without even really trying and China's one-child-policy which seems to be pretty low on the list of things the Chinese want to swing their authorities from streetlamps for.

No, but having a large family is fundamental and culturally non-negotiable for many people. Not to mention that having the government permanently policing everyone's womb would be more or less the exact opposite of what liberalism and democracy have always claimed to stand for
.

Slavery and rape used to be culturally non-negotiable.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:14 PM on June 16, 2008


Bora Horza Gobuchul:
...I'd like to suggest that breeding our way out of the problem ("if we fuck enough, we're sure to get an Einstein!") is not necessarily the only solution.
I think that, within reason, population growth is nearly orthogonal to societal change. What matters far more than the quantity is the qualty. As you say, raising better educated, better nurtured, healthier kids.
People who choose not to reproduce, like myself, still have a great deal to contribute: as mentors, Big Brothers / Sisters, favorite uncles / aunts, and teachers. For my part, I'm all of those (well, the male ones, anyway).
Absolutely and without reservation. I did not mean to imply or state that everyone should just start breeding regardless of their personal desires, though I was not nearly clear enough and for that I apologize.

The roles played by all of those positive role models are just as crucial as those played by the parents and the world is a better place for them (and you). Everyone must make their own decision on how, when and if they decide to form a family be it biological or otherwise. I am against the view of artificially limited fertility, it would be massively hypocritical of me to then impose a view of artificially increased fertility. We will make the planet work with however many people wind up on it, just as we have always done, whether that is the hundred million who are permitted by some planetary Hegemony or the twenty billion that push us, finally, to the stars.

I wept for Yalson.
posted by Skorgu at 5:21 PM on June 16, 2008


Global Warming? The possibilities are pretty bad, but certainly not as bad as, say, the Thirty Years War

Well, that one comparison stands out in particular as exceedingly over-optimistic about one of global civilization's more dangerous problems. The first thirty years (starting from the time it starts to cause problems, which is probably about now) of global warming may not not be so bad for the world as that war was for the small part of the world that participated. The next thirty years, and the couple of centuries after that have the potential to be very bad indeed.

that's a lifestyle crasher, not a world ender.

So if losing the lifestyle to which we've been accustomed, and being forced to adapt to a more limited one, doesn't count as the "end of the world," what does exactly? Because it's not like humanity won't survive in some form for a rather long time, no matter what happens. You could kill five billion people, and still have twice as many people left as were around during the Thirty Years War. Or fifty times more than there were for the majority of human history.

Personally I just think there are too many people around, not only because it means that unless some magic new technology comes along to save it the global civilization will probably collapse horribly. Aside from that, it's just too crowded, most places. Even in Canada, you have to go pretty far from the places more hospitable to human life as we know it to find any place that hasn't been visibly affected by the Works of Man. World wide, there seems to be noticably less wilderness than there used to be. Just one of the many things of which there'd be more of to go around if there were fewer people. Maybe it's not life-threatening right now, but if I had to pick an ideal level of population for this planet, it'd be a bit lower than at present. I don't see any benefit to the world in trying to make it higher.

The arguments that we need to do something to increase birth rates because of a temporarily-inconvenient demographic shift remind me of some people's response to the housing bubble: Prices got too high, causing all kinds of problems when they inevitably decline, so the answer is government programs to make prices get higher again. Something seems a bit wrong with that kind of logic.
posted by sfenders at 5:22 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe the prophet B. Rhymes saw the coming apocalypse and spoke of it in his work:
Little Girl: Daddy what's it gonna be like in the year 2000?
Dad: Well sweetheart, for your sake I hope it'll all be peaches and cream, but I'm afraid the end time is near: the cataclysmic apocalypse referred to in the scriptures of every holy book known to mankind. It will be an era fraught with boundless greed & corruption where global monetary systems disintegrate, leaving brother to kill brother for a grain of overcooked rice. The nations of the civilized world will collapse under the oppressive weight of parasitic political conspiracies which remove all hope & optimism from their once faithful citizens. Around the globe, generations of polluters will be punished for their sins. Unshielded by the ozone they have successfully depleted, left to bake in the searing naked rays of light. Wholesale assassinations serve to destabilize every remaining government, leaving the starving & wicked to fend for themselves. Bloodthirsty renegade cyborgs created by tax dodging corporations wreak havoc. Pissed off androids tired of being slaves to a godless & gutless system, where the rich get richer & the poor get fucked over and out, unleash total world wide destruction by means of nuclear holocaust, annihilating the terrified masses, leaving in its torturous wake nothing but vicious, cannibalistic, mutating, radiating, and horribly dis-figured hordes of satanic killers bent on revenge, but against whom? There are so few left alive. Starvation reigns supreme, forcing unlucky survivers to eat anything & anyone in their path. Massive earthquakes crack the planet's crust like a hollow egg shell, causing unending volcanic eruptions. Creatures of the seven seas, unable to escape the certain death upon land, boil in their liquid prison. Disease encircles the earth, plagues & viruses with no known cause or cure laying waste to whatever draws breath, and humankind, having proven itself to be nothing more than a race of ruthless scavengers, fall victim to merciless attacks at the hands of interplanetary alien tribes who seek to conquer our charred remains. This is Extinction Level Event, the final world front, and there is only one year left.
Little Girl: Wow, that's cool, I can't hardly wait!
Dad: You don't have to, because here it is.
He's just off by a few decades, that's all.
posted by mullingitover at 5:36 PM on June 16, 2008


Slavery and rape used to be culturally non-negotiable.

Precisely.

The idea that humanity can grow it self out of every problem and in essence let these magical "market" like forces resolve every problem we face is garbage. We need paradigm shifts. We need to make tough deliberate choices and change how we do things. Ending slavery was such a choice.

The idea that humans should have this immutable right to have as many mouths to feed as they want is almost as ethically bankrupt and irresponsible as the idea eveybody has the right to bury toxic waste or the right to own slaves. Feeding them all is only part of the problem. Do you want clean air and clean water? Do you want wild places? Do you want a natural environment? Do you want oceans that have something living in them? Well get to 12 billion people and I don't care how the world's life style has adjusted to be "sustainable." You won't have ANY of those things. Let alone a life worth living for most of the 12 billion. Unless you want to live like the god damned Borg.

People who believe this sentimental bullshit about unchecked reproductive rights need to go and take care of the millions of tortured, abused, starving, and unwanted children of this planet. Just so they know they are stumping for more of the same.

Telling people to live sustainably without also taking steps for family planning and controlling populations is doomed to fail.
posted by tkchrist at 5:45 PM on June 16, 2008 [3 favorites]


I doubt it. They will probably have really cool robots to take care of you by then.

... Until your dog kills them.
posted by lukemeister at 6:41 PM on June 16, 2008


I'm scared to have kids. I don't want to fuck something so innocent up in any way, so I just won't have any because I'm not sure that I could raise one without hurting them in some way. But if rugs could get pregnant by human sperm? Well, you know.
posted by Flex1970 at 7:37 PM on June 16, 2008


I think that having a child is cruel.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:50 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


Stonewall Jackson said: My girlfriend and I have decided to not have kids, not because we don't want them, but because both of us are convinced that our society is going down the tubes in a big way...

Justinian said: It's a sure bet that a lot of people have felt this way at any point in history since antiquity.

I was born in the Spring of 1968 (smack dab in between Martin Luther King's assassination and Bobby Kennedy's, amidst Vietnam protests and worldwide civil unrest). I'm sure my parents thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket when I came along. But they ended up screwing me up in ways that had nothing to do with politics or economics or world affairs... So, you know, just adding some perspective.
posted by amyms at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would think a reduction in the Earth's population is a net positive. If the whole world's population was, say, more like 1 billion, and staying about the same size, there would be considerably less competition for resources, and we'd all be better off. I don't see what there is to fear. We're a bit overpopulated at the moment, frankly.

It seems like the trend to fewer children is what happens when countries get wealthier.

Check out this TED TALK from Hans Rosling, where he shows with pretty computer graphs how countries in Africa, etc. all get lower population growth which correlates with increased wealth. I'd highly recommend it.

We have nothing to worry about. The world's economies will flatten, the poor will get richer (through outsourcing and globalization, just look at China and India), which naturally leads to fewer children! Yay!

In some ways, we'll look back at the mid-20th century baby boom as a aberration in the future. We're bouncing back towards some kind of equilibrium.

This sounds like great news to me.
posted by MythMaker at 8:48 PM on June 16, 2008


I was born in the Spring of 1968 (smack dab in between Martin Luther King's assassination and Bobby Kennedy's, amidst Vietnam protests and worldwide civil unrest). I'm sure my parents thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket when I came along. But they ended up screwing me up in ways that had nothing to do with politics or economics or world affairs... So, you know, just adding some perspective.

In 1968 the King crab season lasted 3 months. Now they are only allowed to catch them for 3 days. Just a little more perspective.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:52 PM on June 16, 2008


In 1968 the King crab season lasted 3 months. Now they are only allowed to catch them for 3 days. Just a little more perspective.

Oh I totally get where you're coming from, Mr_Zero: resources vs. people using them up at unsustainable rates. My offer of perspective was more about the emotional ("the world is going to hell, so I dare not bring children into it") point of view.
posted by amyms at 9:06 PM on June 16, 2008


Oh I totally get where you're coming from, Mr_Zero: resources vs. people using them up at unsustainable rates. My offer of perspective was more about the emotional ("the world is going to hell, so I dare not bring children into it") point of view

Sorry I misconstrued your comment. I just get caught up in the holy shit, the ecosystem is failing and I am dependent on it angle.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:24 PM on June 16, 2008


I've been waiting for the fucking apocalypse for 25 years. With my luck it will arrive when I'm 80 goddamn years old, and I won't be able to lift my battle-axe. My life sux.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:23 PM on June 16, 2008


I've been waiting for the fucking apocalypse for 25 years. With my luck it will arrive when I'm 80 goddamn years old, and I won't be able to lift my battle-axe. My life sux.

There, there, The Light Fantastic, don't worry about saving your energy for the apocalypse. Raise your battleaxe against the miscreants who are running across your lawn now.
posted by amyms at 11:32 PM on June 16, 2008


OH NOES! We're running out of white people!

I can't believe people are missing the obvious solution of sterilizing immigrants.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:43 AM on June 17, 2008


KyraDemon: "If you are worried about the negative effects of "them" outbreeding a class that contains "you" -- WHOEVER "they" are -- take a good, long look at your prejudices."

If by "them" you mean "human beings" then you're right on the money. I don't care if they're blue and polkadotted. Nowadays I'm prejudiced against humans. As individuals they're okay, but as a group they creep me the freak out.

You humans and your guns.

*makes a face*

You humans and your ipods.

You humans and your credit cards.

You humans and your digital watches.

*spits on the ground*

I echo the sentiments elsewhere in this thread: in today's society, it's cruel to bring a child into this world. There's too many of "THEM" in it.

With that said:

A friend of mine and I were discussing a different angle on this topic: population control will have to deal with an entirely new factor in the very near future. With advances in medicine and science and many other fields, she read recently that anyone forty and younger today, has a very good chance of living forever, or at the very least doubling and tripling their lifespans. She thinks she's not gonna have to worry about this cuz she's currently a few years over forty, so she'll be able to die of natural causes just like it should be.

She's cursed me though. She thinks that by the time I get to a point where cancer or alsheimers or heart disease is ready to take me, around that time there will be enough breakthroughs in science that doctors will be able to keep me alive indefinitely, with little to no adverse affects to my quality of life, considering. Maybe I won't be able to move as easily as I do now, but advances in virtual reality and remote sensing and robotics will mean I won't care.

Those of you in your twenties may be facing a worse curse than me. Provided science can figure out how to get around the religious sociological implications of stem cell research (which I understand is already happening outside the United States - information wants to be free), it's plausible that cellular regeneration, artificial organ crafting, genetic reprogramming, and the more archaic biomechanical engineering and prosthetic advances will allow human bodies to be rebuilt and even redesigned to improve on the natural model. Within the next two centuries we could be looking at people souping up their bodies the way people currently soup up their motorcycles and cars. Maybe you won't be able to try out for the football team cuz you make steroids look like Advil, but you won't care. An entire new series of sports will develop, where those who improve their bodies beyond the current normal parameters will have opportunities to show off, and people will pay handsomely to watch this stuff.

If you have a child now, twenty years from now you may find yourself deciding whether you want to use your savings to pay for his college, or if you wanna get those new artificial legs that will let you run faster than you ever have before. Those of us who don't have kids? Won't have to have that dilemma. Though how we'll save up for medical advances giving the impending series of stock crashes that are now inevitable is beyond me.

Living forever might sound like a good idea at the time, but it's bound to get old eventually. If we ALL live forever? Everyone forty years and younger as of today, and some of us continue having children? We're definitely gonna be looking for more elbow room.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:45 AM on June 17, 2008


> We will make the planet work with however many people wind up on it, just as we have always done...

See, that's the attitude I take issue with. Saying 'we've always made it work in the past' isn't even correct -- lots of societies haven't made it work in the past, and have collapsed or retreated to lower standards of living, some more gracefully than others. Much of human history is marked by boom-bust population cycles.*

That statement is only correct if you're looking at a very, very narrow slice of history -- say the last few centuries or so. And not only is that a scale that's too short to really draw any conclusions from, it's an era that's been marked with increasing non-renewable resource consumption. (And by rapid, aggressive expansionism into areas held by non-agricultural people, which is no longer an option either.)

We've "made the planet work" for all those people by burning through non-renewables at an absolutely staggering rate. That is not a long-term solution. It's quite possibly not even a short-term solution. It's the exact same road that lots of other societies have gone down, only with different non-renewable or slow-renewing resources.

There are examples of societies that have figured out how to live sustainably, and are very stable as a result. Some areas of the Pacific have had stable, agricultural populations for thousands of years. However, virtually all stable societies have found ways to hold population growth in check, as well as prevent resource depletion. Unrestrained population growth is absolutely, fundamentally incompatible with sustainability.

* Arguably, much of human history -- the first 100,000 years or so of it -- was marked by hunter-gatherers who didn't have the food surplus to allow much in the way of boom/busts; it's really only since the introduction of agriculture that we've started to run into trouble. So really I'm talking only about the subset of human history since the development of agriculture.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:08 AM on June 17, 2008


I don't see population as the prime or even significant cause of any of those: I don't see that any of these is an argument for population control so much as an argument for more efficient society. The fundamental problem isn't the number of people it's the behavior they exhibit, and I posit that rearing children is the most effective way to effect that change.
posted by Skorgu at 10:27 AM on June 17, 2008


Location: Tenochtitlan, Mexico
Time: Circa 1520

Ahuaxpitzatzin: Hey. Huitzilihuitl.

Huitzilihuitl: Yes?

Ahuaxpitzatzin: Did you here about those metal clad gods that arrived in Tenochtitlan yesterday?

Huitzilihuitl: Oh. Yea. I hear they rode tall beasts, had fantastically sharp pointy metal weapons and pulled sledges with large round things that let them "roll" over the ground. Crazy, huh?

Ahuaxpitzatzin: Cough. Yea. Cough. Motecuhzoma says not to worry. He says' despite all the tricks and technology they are inferior Barbarians. He says he keep the Empire going just as we have always done. No need to worry. COUGH!

Huitzilihuitl: Wow that is some cough you got there.

Ahuaxpitzatzin: Just something going around since the metal gods arrived. No biggie. I've always gotten better before.
posted by tkchrist at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2008


I would think that there would be some demographic that could be targeted that would be take the most stress off of society. Perhaps taking a look at what people on welfare with a bunch of kids want. That doesn't necessarily target one group or another. Right?
posted by Mr_Zero at 5:08 PM on June 16 [+] [!]

My filter may well be seriously broken -- was this comment made in earnest, or is a massive self-Goodwin?

Weird coincidence: I finished Consider Phlebas literally last night after reading about it here on MeFi. I wept for Yalson, too, largerly because she had been humanized ironically, in the context of this thread) by her pregnancy with Horza's child.
posted by The Bellman at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2008


« Older Lagerfeld Confidential...  |  Teach the Controversy.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments