Population paranoia

I just read an article in the NY Times about Germany’s fight against population decline.  For a professional demographer, the article is old news and a bit funny because of all the countries that are facing this problem (which is the whole developed world and some of the developing world), Germany is sort of the definition of “the least of our problems.”

I participate in meetings of academic demographers quite frequently, and I don’t think I have ever seen any panel on the problems of overpopulation (though I don’t study fertility).  Demographers long ago shifted their focus to the problem of sharp declines in fertility and the associated problems that occur when a population cannot even replace itself.  Some of those problems are economic, but they extend well beyond that.

When reading the article, I was betting, however, that readers who comment on the Times articles would all be upset, since much of the world is still stuck in the 1970s and the pseudo-problem of the population bomb.  Yup.  If you want a good laugh, read those comments, full of warnings about overpopulation, environmental catastrophes, resource depletion (fracking party, anyone!), silly references to the carrying-capacity of the planet, and our finite resources, and you will think  you entered into a time portal taking you back 40 years.

So, dust of your copy of Limits to Growth or the Population Bomb, and grab your disco shoes.  You are in for a good laugh.


2 thoughts on “Population paranoia

  1. Aren’t some environmental problems related to a burgeoning population? Off the top of my head, I’m thinking about overfishing.

  2. Are you suggesting, Sven, that perhaps the average reader of the Times may need a bit of elitist guidance?

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