A recent clip of an NBC News interview with a middle-aged German in Berlin didn't draw the response that the interviewer expected. He pointed to assorted migrants standing in line for assistance and told the Berliner: "You know, these people - these new migrants - could help bring much needed economic growth and also help to support Germany's pension system. What do you say to that?"
The Berliner laughed, then said in highly accented English: "That is rubbish! We already have five million unemployed Germans here in Germany! So how about we get them to work first to support pensions!"
In many instances, this is the same problem for many advanced nations as well as newly minted prosperous ones, including India and China. But still, one sees and reads the siren calls for "more people" to propel economic growth for nations whose GDP is slipping, or "to help support all the burgeoning gray beards".
The late, noted science writer and biochemist Isaac Asimov- in various essays written over decades- never bought this balderdash at all. Indeed, he repeatedly warned of severe constraints on humanity's use of resources, particularly in terms of how population growth impinges on finite resources and sets limits to growth. Asimov was probably also the first to use the term "carrying capacity" which he estimated to be 3 billion humans for this limited world.
Most upsetting to him and others was the pseudo- justification for increasing birth rates (such as in the U.S.) "to support the elderly and Social Security". This idiotic meme was originally germinated in Ben Wattenberg's 1987 book, 'The Birth Dearth' and is still echoed, regurgitated by many.
For example, in a WSJ piece last month ('How The Birth Dearth Saps Economic Growth', Sept. 24) Ruchir Sharma lamented at length what he referred to as the "plummet" and "collapse of global population growth" from 2 percent in the decades after World War II to 1 percent at present. No remote clue that nearly all the problems plaguing our world, including fouled water, polluted air and soil, melting glaciers, severe crowding - not to mention mass panic migrations (such as claimed over 850 lives this week) arise from overpopulation.
Nor any cognizance of the fact that multiple lines of research have already questioned the UN estimates that project a global population of 10.9 billion by 2100. Especially if women - mainly in the poorest nations and without access to contraceptives- have even 0.5 more offspring each (than projected) that 2100 estimate could turn into 12.3 billion or even 15.8 billion, e.g.
Where will all these people go? What will they do? Well, the fact is most of them - given they are overpopulating areas with limited resources (like Africa), will be trying to escape and migrate to more beneficent regions - with more potential jobs, as well as social supports. The trouble is the areas they wish to move to are already struggling under the burdens of lower economic growth - not because of smaller populations - but because of the ongoing degradation of efficiency and 'pop' in our fossil fuel energy sources. See e.g.
Apart from that, these airy fairy "two percenters", who call for increased global growth to that level, aren't even remotely aware of what they are asking. A population growing at 2 percent annually doubles every 35 years. Hence, if we had a global population of 6 billion in 2000 and it were to have kept growing at the 2 percent rate advocated (to support pension systems in the 'graying world') then by 2100 there'd be 40 billion people on Earth! So, uh, you've successfully supported the pensions of maybe 500 million, but now have to support the life needs of 30 billion extra!
This despite the fact that even now, with the Earth supporting 7.3 billion people, and a 1 percent birth rate, we humans are currently consuming the equivalent resources of 1.5 Earths per year, which is clearly unsustainable. In fact, it is now approaching 1.6 Earths per year consumed because of the added humans - more than eighty million per year (1 million added every 4.5 days according to Alan Weisman).
Do these economic growth numbskulls process any of this? But it gets worse: continuing at the same 2 percent per annum growth rate the population would be 320 billion by 2200 (if humans manage to survive so long with the runaway greenhouse effect) . There is no way, in a practical sense, any technology could cope with that. And then, to add to this idiocy, we have these "longevity" freaks writing and talking about extending the human lifespan to 140.
Haven't they ever heard that there is a good age to die (one scientist recently put it at "75:) , and further humans in a limited resource world were never meant to live that long?
As it is, the population here in the U.S. is growing by almost 1 percent annually because of some of the highest sustained immigration rates in the nation's history. This is not to play into "the Donna's" hands but only to note that any economic egghead that blabbers about adding more to increase that rate "for economic growth" - given we already have 3.5 million unemployed and 22 million under-employed - is a moron.
The same goes for advocating such increases in India or China. Basically, then, calling for higher birth rates to support existing graying populations' pensions is a mammoth Ponzi scheme. Because - at the end of the day - WHO is going to support all those pensions of the millions of extra birthed people? Huh? Are you going to bring in Martians?
In the case of the U.S., the increased population from higher immigration (and this includes immigrants' higher birth rates) will result in going from 322 million now in 2015, to 400 million sometime after 2050, and to more than 500 million by 2100. WHERE will all the tens of millions of jobs come from to support even half of this population? Especially as degraded energy sources immediately impacts job creation.
It is easy to spout bull pockey when it comes to economic growth, especially by those who haven't done the math, but we need to hold them accountable and force them to back off. The bottom line is that growing human numbers to support oldsters is not a plan that can work, now or ever.
Instead, how about we put all those millions of unemployed and under-employed people to work? Especially as the U.S. current "labor participation rate" is barely 63 percent.