by Ibn Warraq (April 2016)
One of the most startling and original books I have read in the last five years is surely David P. Goldman’s How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying too).
Right from the beginning of his Introduction, Goldman shatters so many of our strongly held beliefs that we are left reeling, and pondering the truly disturbing implications of his conclusions, which are all backed by statistics from recognized sources such as the United Nations. Here are some of his observations from his dramatic introduction, “For the first time in history, the birth rate of the whole developed world is well below replacement, and a significant part of it has passed the demographic point of no return.” more>>>
Greetings to my friend Ibn Warraq. Like Goldman's book, I'm afraid your review overlooks one essential part of the calculus: the critical need to stabilize and, within decades, significantly reduce human numbers. Today's world population of 7+ billion is environmentally unsustainable. 2050's projected population of 11 to 13 billion will be more so. Ironically, the recent growth in income and consumption and the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries only compounds the problem. If every human alive today attained an average European standard of living -- never mind an American one -- we'd need five Earths to feed them all and absorb their wastes. Of course, we don't have five Earths. That is why I think the trend across so much of the world toward sub-replacement fertility rates is to be welcomed. (If I went in for such things, which I don't, I night view the spontaneous achievement of low fecundity in so many countries as a product of divine intervention. It's that fortunate a trend.) If there are too many people, it follows that we need to be working toward a future with fewer people, QED. Necessarily, that means every country will need to find ways to deal with a social reality where elders outnumber the productive young. We'll need to be in that mode for several generations to get down to a global population that is sustainable in the long term. Most analyses suggest that level is around 2 billion people. Demographic inversion is not a bogeyman; instead it's something humanity needs to achieve. That means economists and other specialists need to focus on ways to make such a regime livable, which admittedly we do not yet know how to do. Goldman -- and Warraq -- praise the US for, almost alone, maintaining a stable or slowly-growing population. But that model entails that human numbers will continue increasing indefinitely, and that's a recipe for ecological suicide. If anything, it should merit especial concern that America is staying off the population-decline bandwagon, because Americans are by far the globe's most profligate consumers and emitters. The model both Goldman and Warraq espouse makes short-term political sense. But that's the sort of thinking we need to move past if we are to recognize global population decline not as a crisis but as an opportunity -- and an imperative.
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