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Paying for the excesses of youth

Harvey Enchin, Vancouver Sun
… The study of demographics suggests the aging of Canada’s population will drive social and economic change, particularly as it influences the size and composition of the labour force and determines the level of spending on health care and wellness. The greatest threat to Canada and other developed industrial nations may not be global warming, peak oil, pandemics or rogue asteroids, but rather the ongoing demographic transformation.

A study by Andrew Ramlo and Ryan Berlin for The Urban Futures Institute gives a sobering account of the impacts dynamic population shifts will have. Consider that in 1955, there were more people under one year old than any other age. By 2005, the most common age had climbed to 42. Canada has had birth rates well below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman since 1970 and boasts one of the longest life expectancies in the world. Consequently, the number of Canadians aged 70 to 89 will double by 2035 to 6.4 million and by 2055, given life expectancy trends, a million of them will still be alive at 90 years old. Within a decade, the number of seniors over 65 will outnumber children under the age of 15, and by 2026 they’ll make up 22 per cent of the population, compared with 13 per cent in 2005.

At the same time, participation in the labour force will decline as more Canadians leave it than enter it.
(15 April 2009)

Consumption Dwarfs Population As Main Environmental Threat

Fred Pearce, Yale Environment 360
It’s overconsumption, not population growth, that is the fundamental problem: By almost any measure, a small portion of the world’s people – those in the affluent, developed world – use up most of the Earth’s resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions.
by fred pearce

It’s the great taboo, I hear many environmentalists say. Population growth is the driving force behind our wrecking of the planet, but we are afraid to discuss it.

It sounds like a no-brainer. More people must inevitably be bad for the environment, taking more resources and causing more pollution, driving the planet ever farther beyond its carrying capacity. But hold on. This is a terribly convenient argument — “over-consumers” in rich countries can blame “over-breeders” in distant lands for the state of the planet. But what are the facts?

The world’s population quadrupled to six billion people during the 20th century. It is still rising and may reach 9 billion by 2050. Yet for at least the past century, rising per-capita incomes have outstripped the rising head count several times over. And while incomes don’t translate precisely into increased resource use and pollution, the correlation is distressingly strong.

Moreover, most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population.

By almost any measure, a small proportion of the world’s people take the majority of the world’s resources and produce the majority of its pollution.

Take carbon dioxide emissions — a measure of our impact on climate but also a surrogate for fossil fuel consumption. Stephen Pacala, director of the Princeton Environment Institute, calculates that the world’s richest half-billion people — that’s about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for 50 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile the poorest 50 percent are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions.
(14 April 2009)

Attenborough warns on population

The broadcaster Sir David Attenborough has become a patron of a group seeking to cut the growth in human population.

On joining the Optimum Population Trust, Sir David said growth in human numbers was “frightening”.

Sir David has been increasingly vocal about the need to reduce the number of people on Earth to protect wildlife.

The Trust, which accuses governments and green groups of observing a taboo on the topic, say they are delighted to have Sir David as a patron.
(13 April 2009)

Overpopulation is a Cultural Challenge

Chuck Burr, Culture Change
It is a cultural and educational challenge for us to teach the next generation not to make the same indefinite growth mistake we made. Maybe the solution starts with telling our children the truth. [This report is revised for Culture Change from the original]

Debate is Polarized

The population debate is polarized between the view that population is the root cause of our problems, from global warming to environmental destruction, versus the view that human numbers pose no problem at all. Overpopulation denial stems from the fear that human rights would be trampled by a top-own population control and that it would distract us from “more pressing” social justice and economic issues.

This polarization is keeping either side from developing an appreciation for the other’s point of view. We may have to get past our Malthusian versus human rights logjam to develop a working holistic solution.

It has become a question of values. Do you value other species or humanity most? If you are a humanist, do you value your right to procreate most or the quality of life of your children and the many the most?
(4 April 2009)