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Commentary: The West is Dying …Except for the US

We don’t hear too much these days about the population explosion.

The reason being is that there isn’t one anymore.

In order to take a closer look at this, we examine worldwide statistics on birth, death and immigration.

The birth rate is the ultimate determinant. In a developed nation, the average woman must bear 2.1 children in order to maintain its current level of population. In underdeveloped nations, the rate must be 2.3 or more because of higher infant and child mortality.

In most countries, during recent years, fewer people have died than have been born. This is because the average age of life expectancy has been extended, and for now, results in an increase in the total population.

This varies in different countries. Many people want to come into the US, Canada and other developed nations. Very few want to move to Libya, Cuba or Russia. This is why total populations in the US and Canada, particularly, continue to increase.

In the US, people born in 1970 had a life expectancy of 70 years. By the mid-90s it was 76 and has continued to slowly increase. With this, there has been a change in ethnicity. The US has become more Hispanic and Western Europe has become more Muslim.

To look at a tragic example of depopulation, Italy’s birth rate is 1.2 persons born per woman. This is the lowest in a nation where accurate records are kept. Ten years ago, there were about 5,000 more Italians buried each year than were being born, and this number has continued to rise. Projecting the above numbers forward a hundred years, Italy will shrink from 57 to 15 million people with half of these being over 65.

Russia also has one of the lowest birth rates in the West. Records there are not as accurate as some countries and medical care is improving. But a few years ago, there were still two abortions for every live birth. Life expectancy for men has dropped to 57 years, largely due to alcoholism and poor medical care. Russia is very concerned because it is still burying a half a million more people each year than are being born.

Another way to look at the shrinking population of the West is how many workers are there supporting each retired person.

When Social Security first began in the US, there were dozens of workers supporting each retired person, but with increasing life expectancy, by 1980, there were only four workers supporting every retired person. By 2000, it had shrunk to three, and it is estimated that by 2020 it will be 2.5 workers supporting each retired person.

There has been a mini baby boom in the US in recent years as some older women are having a child before they are “too old to reproduce.” This has raised the birth rate from 1.8 to 2.1 where it has hovered in the last several years.

While this is a positive trend in terms of total births in the US, the teen birth rate has dropped by one-fourth in the last two decades. Those births are largely to unmarried girls.

The overall number of people born in the world continues to rise because underdeveloped areas continue to have above replacement birth rates. However, the overall trend worldwide is down. For instance: Tunisia, 5.0 to under 4.0; India, 5.3 to 3.8; South Korea, 3.2 to 1.5; Mexico, 4.8 to 3.6; and the drop continues around the world in most countries.

What of food? Back when Paul Ehrlich wrote Population Bomb, there was a general scare throughout the developed world that soon there would be more people than the planet could feed.

But since that time, due to better agricultural methods, fertilizers, hybrid seeds and more, we have experienced a “green revolution.” So while world population rose from 3 billion in 1960 to 6 billion in the year 2000, food production outstripped this growth by 20%.

Along with this, the incidence of famine worldwide has dropped ten-fold since the early 1960s.

Two decades ago, there were cries of alarm that the planet would soon have to feed 10 billion people. It now seems that the reduction in birth rate worldwide is going to continue and is on an irreversible trend. As such, the increase is probably going to top out at about 2 billion less than 10, and as noted, this will contain a higher percentage of older people.

These worldwide demographic estimates today point toward a peak and a slow drop from a plateau in the years 2040 to 2050. After 2050, a sharp decline will commence.

The evidence is clear that the world doesn’t face a overpopulation program, but a Western world that is slowly dying.

[June 2010,  Life Issues Connector, J.C. Willke, MD, ]