Bring Back the Malthusian Trap, or The Return of Paul Erlich

If you are interested in demography, you’ve probably already heard of the Demographic transition - Wikipedia.
The US is already below replacement level, with 14 births per 1000, and 8 deaths per 1000.
Sure, there’s a lot of variation in fertility rates but overall most developed nations are already below replacement rate, and most developing nations either are too or quickly heading that way.

I’m also pretty sure the average age in most countries is also rising, it certainly is in • Australia - median age of the population 1950-2050 | Statista, which is another sign of that.

Shit, the global population growth rate peaked half a century ago - and the United Nations estimated in 2019 the population will peak at 10.9 billion by the end of the century. Most of that coming from sub-Saharan Africa, since the rest of the world was predicted to have declining populations over the next century.

I’m not even going to touch global carrying capacity, because there is no scientific consensus on how to even determine that, let alone put a number to it.
You can find plenty of studies to support pretty much any conclusion you want on it.

So, what exactly are you advocating for here? Because the whole having less kids, and stabilizing the population thing is already happening without a smug greener-than-thou shaming of “breeders” at a societal level.


Yes - the military has a huge carbon footprint. They’ve got planes, and the keep wanting to fly them.

And then every time there’s a disaster anywhere in the Oceania region, the Australian military go and prove how useful and efficient they are in getting food, water, electricity generators, medical staff and life-saving supplies into the affected region, and providing logistic and communication support. It’s really hard to prune your military when they keep showing how useful they are in peacetime.

Agreed. I’ve also never seen evidence that people have children because of the subsides. They don’t seem anywhere near high enough to do that. Plus governments are also fiddling with tax breaks and subsidies, and there can be major changes each time the government changes. The financial support just isn’t stable enough to rely on.

Thanks for taking the time to express your thoughts so clearly.

Yes. All good.

Yes. Here is a recent CDC report showing the Net Replacement Rate in USA has been below 1 for most years since 1990. All good, since it means you’ll have capacity for climate refugees. Here is a US Census projection guessing the USA population growth to 2060. Still growing all the way to 2060. All very rubbery of course, since fertility rates and immigration rates are so hard to predict accurately, which is why they call them projections rather than forecasts.

Yes. I’m starting to wonder if COVID might briefly reverse the upward trend of the median age in some countries. The majority of COVID deaths have been above the median age.

The rising dependency ratios are causing concern in many countries. But if we’re living longer we’ve been staying fit longer, so there is a case for gradually lifting the age cutoffs used in dependency ratios. Labelling everyone over 65 as a strain on the economy seems overly harsh. These days there a lot of people over 65 still fit and happily working, or doing valuable volunteer work for charities.

So the rate of increase is no longer increasing. I’d be hugely worried if it wasn’t.

Say we were talking about climate change and the global annual output of CO2. Let’s say a politician stated that global output is increasing, but they went on to say that there’s nothing to worry about because the rate of increase is no longer increasing. In that situation I think we’d really need to suggest to the politician that maybe they should be setting a more ambitious target.

That’s an awful long time.

When I heard population researchers discuss their work in 1980s Australia they were open about the consistency issues. Papers would give likely ranges and the ranges in different papers didn’t even overlap sometimes. But that’s not uncommon in the early history of a new area of research. I recall one researcher referring to some of the very primitive early calculations that assumed that all food could be instantly teleported anywhere within the country without cost and without the need for refrigeration. But that’s how research works. You start with something rough, you make jokes about the gross simplifications to ensure you remember they are gross simplifications, you read what other teams are doing and adopt the things that work well, and gradually you get consensus. I thought the experts in this field were reaching consensus on the best methods around the turn of the century, though at the time I don’t think they were building in allowance for climate change. But I will stress that even with the simpler models of last century, the models were well beyond my ken so I am relying on the dumbed down presentations for the general public.

Advocating? Probably more suggesting. It would be great if people get enough information to make their own decisions without family, religion or society trying to convince them they are failures if they choose not to breed. It would be great if all kids felt wanted. It would be great if everyone had access to reliable birth control.

Well that suddenly turned hostile.

Yes; some things are moving in the right direction, but they’re moving so slowly. As you said, under the WHO projections the world population doesn’t cap out until the end of the century. With the level of inaction on climate change, I fear that the environment is going to impose a cap much sooner and in a much harsher manner.

My first post was in response to a humorous comment about being “evangelised to by vegans”. You might be reading my first two paragraphs literally when I labelled them as hyperbole? Don’t know.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic which is in the middle of a climate emergency, so I don’t feel smug about anything at the moment. Well - except maybe that I’ll be dead soon enough that I won’t have to live through the worst of the climate emergency. Actually, I can’t even feel smug about that because I have friends who will last another 20 years. So no smugness intended. There are occasional attempts at humour to try to counteract the overall depressing tone of the subject, but definitely no smugness intended.

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