Effects of 4 Pandemic Scenarios?

The Flu Pandemic of 1918 infected 500 million people and killed 3 to 5% of the world’s population. It was unusual, in that it killed predominantly healthy adults, not children and elderly as is normally the case with influenza.

Imagine the outbreak of a flu pandemic today with an even higher mortality rate: 15% of the world’s population, with equal distribution around the globe.

Then, consider 4 different scenarios, based on what age group predominately dies:
[li]Healthy Adults (like the 1918 flu)[/li][li]Children[/li][li]Elderly[/li][li]Children and Elderly equally[/li][/ol]

[li]Which scenario would be most catastrophic in years 1-20?; 20-40?; 40+?[/li][li]Which scenario would be least catastrophic in years 1-20?; 20-40?; 40+?[/li][li]Would the choices in questions 1 and 2 be different for some countries?[/li][li]Would any scenario have a net positive gain globally beyond 50 years (or even before)?[/li][/ul]

Feel free to expand on the likely effects (good or bad) and your reasoning.

Killing off the elderly would of course be the least catastrophic for all the year spans. Both from an emotional and economic point of view. It’d probably even be a positive economic gain within a few years. Choice 2 would be a different scenario for countries with a high birthrate.

How about a gendered disease which:
[li]Kills off 40% of the men[/li][li]Kills off 40% of the women[/li][/ul]

Which would lead to the worst scenario?

I agree that having the elderly die would be least catastrophic in years 1-20. But, a case could be made that reduced population after 20, or more likely, 40 years (when the emotional and economic effects have waned) would be beneficial to the world in general and most countries in particular. In that case, having the children die would have the greatest effect future population reduction and therefore be most beneficial/least catastrophic.

You’re assuming population reduction is beneficial, which it is not for countries which have been below or at reproduction level for a long time. And certainly not through a sudden even larger birth deficit which will just put on an impossible elder burden on the shoulders of the reduced generation later on.

Yes, part of the debate is whether or not you believe a general reduction in population in the future is beneficial to the world and to most countries. I believe it would be beneficial, because I believe we could be approaching catastrophic population levels in ~40 years. If that’s the case, the Earth will kick in with homeostatic population control of its own which is likely to be more catastrophic than a flu pandemic.

Also, consider that the world rebounded from a 3 -5% death rate of its healthiest population in less than 20 years. 20 to 40 years should give us plenty of time to rebound from a 15% reduction.

Also, consider that the children who die today from scenario # 2 will be the ones who don’t survive to be the burdensome elderly in 40+ years. We’re just shifting the burden by time.

Germany just clocked in with a birth rate which went below Japan’s already very low rate. So those countries, and a lot others, are already having, or are set on, a population decline. Do you thus believe it would be most beneficial if the children’s plauge would hit countries which are experincing population growth due to high birthrates?

The viewpoint that a decrease in population would be beneficial is far out of the mainstream and is share by only a few fringe environmentalists and misanthropes. Declining population has catastrophic results, most notably in an inability to fund programs (like Social Security and Medicare in the US) that were designed around an ever-increasing population. In addition, a dearth of healthy young people would impair our national defense and cause a shortage of qualified workers for physically demanding roles like firefighters or law enforcement. If a substantial amount of young or adult people die, the whole system comes tumbling down. Even if the world is headed for a Malthusian collapse as you believe, we’d be best off avoiding it by redoubling efforts on conservation and promoting celibacy amongst undesirable groups like prisoners and incompetents. The answer is not to kill off a critically needed segment of society.

Madagascar’s still safe, right?

Everybody knows Australia is where you want to hole up – you get the two extra armies per turn.

In any realistic scenario, distribution (of fatalities) would not be equal around the globe. Some places have better healthcare than others. And even if hospitals are overwhelmed and useless, people not suffering from malnutrition and with access to clean water will be more likely to survive. Then you have the social instability caused by such a deadly disease - would people panic (probably) and how would that panic be manifested? While I’d love to read if someone else has ideas on this (particularly those based on previous events or psychological studies), I don’t have the skill to do more than just guess. So I’m going to do the absolutely ridiculous (as I think equal death distribution around the globe is) and say people die, but nothing else changes.

In the developed countries, the elderly being most affected would definitely be least catastrophic. They take government resources in healthcare and social security (in US) and don’t “produce” by working. Also, tragic as it is, people are generally more used to old people dying in developed countries. It’s emotionally less trying for survivors (though still very much so). As mentioned, children dying is particularly damaging to countries (can’t say as to the world as a whole) where birthrate is already low.

Working-age adults dying would be the most catastrophic to poorer countries, I think. Without a social safety net, it’s more elderly and children with no one to provide for/take care of them. And that’s a recipe for more poverty, crime, and death. Children dying would be emotionally painful, but some places already have really high under-5 mortality rates. So, as emotionally harmful as it would be, there’s not the same level of societal “children don’t die” mentality. I’m not even sure how much it would slow growth, long-term, as the generation that were children when it happened might grow up with the “need a lot of kids, because some may die” mentality. Right now, education and wealth leads to fewer children, generally speaking, but here wealthy, educated people’s kids died, too.

But globally? I just really couldn’t say.

Hmm, influenza or funnel web spiders and blue-ringed octopuses??…

…think I’ll just stay home and take TheraFlu®.

Besides, any country that has a surfin’ Santa just aint right.

First of all, wishing to live on a planet with less people doesn’t necessarily make one a misanthrope. I like people; I just don’t like too many people. I would never be in favor of killing anyone to reduce the population. Nor, would I wish for a war, or pandemic, or other catastrophic event to occur to precipitate the same result. I very much like some of my family, a few of my neighbors, and a couple of other people and I’m not unhappy that they were born. Some of [del]you[/del] those other bozos out there, however? Well, let’s just say, I wouldn’t be sad if the Pill were invented a number of years earlier and prophylactics didn’t break so easily (yes, it’s a problem for us abundantly endowed fellows).

I don’t buy that population reduction is seen as being beneficial by only a few fringe environmentalists. Indeed, there are a bunch of eco-nutters out there, but there are also a lot of well-credentialed scientists out there who believe there are devastating processes taking place now on our planet as a result of overpopulation and its stress on resources and accumulating pollution.

Tell me, why do you hate bees and frogs and Giant Bluefin Tuna? What did they ever do to you? Pretty soon, you’ll go to a seafood restaurant and there won’t be anything on the menu but jellyfish (yeah, those jellyfish are out there in the ocean f**king like Kardashians and reproducing like rabbits! Unfortunately, no other sea life is doing the same; they need Viagra or something).

As far as the OP, remember that we’re not talking absolutes here. Not all of a particular age group will die in this pandemic hypothetical; less than 15%. And the distribution is predominantly one age group, not exclusively. Also, it’s understood that a pandemic mortality rate would never have equal distribution around the globe, but, for the sake of simplicity, it’s ok to propose that in a hypothetical.

The 1-20year time period is pretty obvious. The oldsters must go. They gotta shuffle off their mortal coil. That will have the least adverse effect on the economy as well as social structure and emotional trauma. It is also too short a time period to reap any benefit from ecological benefit from an overall decrease in population which some people, like me, think is important in the big picture.

The 20+ and 40+ year time periods are more interesting to consider, though harder to discuss without battling an appeal to emotion (e.g. it’s hard not to feel shunned if people perceive you as a person who may, when faced with a Sophie’s Choice dilemma, choose to off wide grinning, little-league Billy and sweet, girl scouting Sally instead of wrinkled, snaggle-toothed Maude and crotchety, get off my lawn, Fred. But, remember this is simply a thought experiment considering the potential consequences to society of multiple outcomes for a pandemic—not a call to action plan to control population. Divorce emotion from the debate.

In very general terms, here’s what I think would happen, in a stream of consciousness kind of way (because it’s easier to illustrate), with the U.S. and similar nations playing out 3 of the possibilities:

Predominantly old people die: the first few years would be sad because the old people, though living a good portion of normal life span, didn’t get to go all the way to the finish line. Not much of an economic hit at all. The elderly do produce some (e.g. helping care for grandkids while the parents work, etc.), but this would be outweighed by the savings with Medicare and social security. By year 20+, the effects of an elderly die-off would be minimal, both good and bad. One potentially very bad consequence would be: after 20 years of relative economic boom from not having to fund much Medicare/social security, the next generation (today’s working class) will explode on the senior citizen scene and will rely on today’s kids to fund their social benefits—it’s hard to learn how to tighten your belts after having the generation before you (your parents) not have to wear any belt at all.

***Predominately healthy working age people die: *** This would indeed be very catastrophic for the first 20 or less years…but, it wouldn’t be the end of the road for society. Strong nations have historically rebounded from population shrinkage by war and pestilence, and those that couldn’t…perhaps, like biological evolution, weeding out weak nations by selection may be healthiest for the whole herd of humanity. And, I believe the tired adage, *“what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” *is appropriate in this instance. If 15% of working-aged people disappeared, we’d have to come up with a good strategy and effective tactics, fast. More elderly would have to care for children. Perhaps kibitzes would return to the mainstream. Robotics would need to be ramped up. Laissez faire capitalism may need to be remolded. Whatever happens, I’m confident that what results on the other side will be better than what we have now.

Then, 20 years hence, as the very small working population ages into doddering old fools, today’s kids who age into the wage-earners, will have the advantage of not having to fund the senior citizens Medicare and SS. But, that’s only fair: they had to be raised by their grandparents, not their dead parents (which, if you think about it, would be kind of disgusting). Instead of growing up doing cool things like going fishing with dad or hitting the mall with mom, they had to help Grandpa soak his dentures in Polident® and trim Grandma’s corns and calluses…and incise and curettage the abscesses on her back.

Predominately kids die: This would certainly be the saddest scenario for the first 20 years, and lie somewhere between adults and the elderly dying with regard to deleterious economic effect. But 40 years hence, I believe this would yield the best scenario for society in general. I wish not to be accused of being a baby killer, so I won’t elaborate.

The thing is, our population is expanding by ~200,000 per day. That’s not sustainable. Oh, it may be sustainable for a long while in some countries, but not forever. Then, when you have, as we have in America, an economic system tied to a growing population (i.e. Medicare, Medicaid, SS, etc.), something, someday will have to give. Why shift the entire burden onto future generations? I propose that, right now, half the population must limit their procreation allowance to 2 kids; the other half must become gay.

The US is below replacement level reproduction. The US population is mainly expanding because if immigration. Is it that you wish to stop immigration to the USA?

Tibby or Not Tibby, what do you think of the idea that that scale of child-death would lead to higher fertility rates in the future? People more likely to have more kids because now they don’t have the same expectation (in the developed world) that the children you do have will live? Not to mention current parents choosing to have another child because their child(ren) died (admittedly, parents in developed countries tend to be older these days so that might be difficult, but certainly I know it happened some after the tsunami in 2004). And, of course, there’s general pattern of declining birthrates in the developed countries anyway so the children of today are likely to contribute fewer children (per capita) in the future than the current generation of adult childless are.

No, where did that come from? No political agenda. Influenza mortality, particularly in my scenarios is being controlled with only age-group variability. And, immigration/emigration doesn’t really result in a net gain or loss of world population, which is the main focus of the OP.
Also, I obviously meant Kibbutz, not *Kibitz * upthread.

Sure, population rebound after a large child die off could very well be a factor and a good point to discuss. Questions to consider are: would it rebound to the same level?; how long would it take to do so?; and which scenario would result in greater population decline and recovery over time: predominantly children dying, or adults?

I don’t believe Western European countries in general, or the US would rebound very much at all from a 15% child die off. A case could be made that immigration may increase to fill the job void, but again, that corresponds to equal emigration from elsewhere with near zero sum gain in world population. I don’t believe countries like China and India would recover to the same levels either. Do you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

Sure some countries would suffer a great deal from a 15% reduction, and those would probably be the ones who would repopulate the most. But, don’t you think most countries, and more certainly areas with the highest population densities would benefit from lower population, after economic recovery from the pandemic?

Do you think China, with 20% of the world’s population and India with 17.5% would benefit after economic recovery, from a 15% population decline? Would the rest of the world benefit if China’s and India’s population declined? If yes, then that’s 37.5% of the world’s population directly benefitting from decreased population and the rest benefitting indirectly. That’s only considering 2 countries.

A side benefit of a large young adult die off for future generations in a country like the U.S. is that it would force us to fix an unsustainable economic sink hole now (funding Medicare/SS), instead of leaving the problem for our progeny.

Any way you slice it, a 15% die-off of either kids or young adults would be catastrophic on a number of fronts for the first years. But, I think 20+ years after the fact, most people on Earth (and the Earth itself) would benefit.

I’ll be hiding out in Greenland until the disease dies down.