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The population crash

Fred Pearce, Guardian
Across Europe, we are having fewer babies. In many places, such as the deserted town of Hoyerswerda in east Germany, the falling birth rate is already taking its toll

… The former ­people’s republic [East Germany] is staring into a ­demographic abyss, because its ­citizens don’t want babies any more.

“There has been nothing ­comparable in world peacetime ­history,” says the French demographer Jean-Claude Chesnais. After the Berlin Wall came down, millions of East Germans who stayed behind decided against producing another generation. Their fertility more than halved. In 1988, 216,000 ­babies were born in East Germany; in 1994, just 88,000 were born. The fertility rate worked out at 0.8 children per woman. Since then it has struggled up to around 1.2, but that is still only just over half the rate needed to maintain the population. About a million homes have been abandoned, and the ­government is demolishing them as fast as it can. Left ­behind are “perforated ­cities”, with huge random chunks of ­wasteland. Europe hasn’t seen ­cityscapes like this since the bombing of the second world war.

… Across the rest of Germany, Hoyerswerda is regarded as a feral wasteland – complete with wolves. Slinking in from Poland and the Czech Republic, they are finding empty spaces where once there were apartment blocks and mines. And the wolves, at least, are staying. A few kilometres down the road, near the tiny town of Spreewitz, wolf enthusiast Ilka Reinhardt can’t believe his luck: “We have more wolves than we have had in 200 years.” The badlands of former East Germany are going “back to nature”. And Europeans should be worried, for some fear that eastern Germany is, as it was back in the 1960s, a trailblazer for the demographic future of the continent.

Europe’s population is, right now, peaking, after more than six centuries of continuous growth. With each generation reproducing only half its number, this looks like the start of a ­continent-wide collapse in numbers. Some predict wipeout by 2100.

Half a century ago, Europe was basking in a postwar baby boom, with 2.8 babies per woman in Britain, 2.9 in France, and 3.2 in the Netherlands. Then levels sank back.

… ©Fred Pearce 2010. Extracted from Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations and the Coming Population Crash by Fred Pearce
(1 Febuary 2010)
Some of the best news about population is here spun as bad news. Much of the spinning is in the word choice: “demographic abyss”, wolves that are “slinking in from Poland.”

Perhaps some population control expert can re-interpret the data for us.

Getting connected: Europe’s green energy ‘supergrid’

Matt Ford,
It is a criticism frequently leveled at those promoting wind or solar power as an alternative to fossil fuels: what happens when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine?

Well, now there is a smart answer, at least in Europe — we’ll simply and instantly switch to another source of clean, green power.

Plans for a massive electricity grid dedicated to uniting the varied sources of renewable energy available in northern Europe have taken a step forward in January as nine countries formally agreed to work together on the project.

Using thousands of miles of high-tech undersea cables the ‘supergrid’ will unite wind farms on blustery British coasts with Dutch and Belgian tidal power, the vast hydroelectric potential of Norway fjords and Germany’s massive solar arrays.

The gird should mean that when one source falls short, another takes up the slack to ensure continuity of supply.

“A North Sea grid will connect offshore wind to our electricity supply, enabling Europe to exploit its largest untapped energy source,” Justin Wilkes, policy director, European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), told CNN…
(31 Jan 2010)

Pro-Moscow Yanukovych ‘to win Ukraine election’

BBC News
Ukraine’s pro-Moscow opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych will win a narrow victory in the country’s presidential election, electoral officials say.
With more than 98% of votes counted, Mr Yanukovych had a 2.7% lead over his rival, PM Yulia Tymoshenko, media said.

Mr Yanukovych called on Mrs Tymoshenko to quit, but she refused and is expected to challenge the result.

International observers described the vote as an “impressive display of democratic elections”.

“For everyone in Ukraine, this election was a victory,” the observers, led by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said in a statement, Reuters news agency reported…
(8 Feb 2010).
It will be interesting to see how this election will affect European natural gas supplies. -KS