World population declining?

Nigerian (and African in general) birth rates are decreasing, too, just along a different curve than in other continents. That means that Africa’s depopulation will begin later than in other places (and may not happen at all; our descendants could be looking at Africa as the center of civilization).

Of course, all this is subject to change. We didn’t foresee the current birth dearth 50 years ago and 50 years from now conditions and attitudes may undergo a dramatic shift in the opposite direction.

We may not have a “few centuries” until resources run out and the environment is wrecked. That’s just one hitch in that plan.

That said - things are a LOT better than some of the worst-case scenarios of the 1960’s and 1970’s. On the other hand, if we don’t get our collective shit together some disaster will chop the population for us. Which would be very unpleasant to live through.

People who are starving, in over-crowded slums with little law enforcement and poor public health/sanitation are unlikely to think up many solutions to problems other than “how do I survive this day?”. Well fed, well-cared for people are more likely to be the sort of problem-solvers global civilization needs to survive and progress.

These two together I think need to emphasized as more highly educated people often tend to work longer, not only not needing support from below while they do, but still providing taxes (and ideas/solutions) into the system. They also stay physically healthier longer, with less of their lifetimes taken up by periods of disability. AND with more education more women are working at significantly higher paying jobs than lesser educated women do, paying more into the system as well.

These simultaneous impacts of higher education do offset each other to some degree. “Old age” is less a fixed number than a function. Keeping larger shares of those of larger chronological age numbers productive and healthy into those larger numbers will be key, and to some degree the same factor that lowers birth rates increases that.

(FWIW Japan has been dealing with “shrinkonomics” for while now and may be a policy lab for the rest of us.)

Having the world population slowly decrease over the next few centuries is not the entire plan. If you’re saying that we can’t continue to exist at even the current population at the current rate of resource use, that’s going to take additional changes. We have to figure out how to decrease our use of resources to a level that we can continue to exist at. Otherwise there’s no hope.

Oh, there would be hope - AFTER the population crash and the slow rebuilding of civilization.

And no, we can NOT continue to exist at the present population and resource practices much longer. We are running out of time if we want to prevent a very big crash.

What’s predicted doesn’t seem to be a “crash” in population but a gradual lowering of the birth rate. With good governance, that’s manageable.

This was mentioned either in the article or perhaps in an op-ed or letter based on the information. It could be a problem - except that with fewer people there will be more resources for each child, and smart kids who might not get the chance to contribute today because of poverty might in a smaller population world. This might balance out the reduced numbers.

She’s more channeling Malthus and from my youth the Erlichs’ “The Population Bomb” which predicted worldwide famine by the ‘70s and ‘80s. Like fighting ignorance resources running out has taken longer than we thought!

Climate change may in fact do us in whatever population level we are at, and fewer people does not necessarily mean less warming emissions. Bigger deal though may be regional mismatches of resources and population and domino effects from that. There is the confluence of areas with more poverty, less education, higher birth rates, and more likely impact of climate change on limiting resources like fresh water and food.

Meanwhile many regions with relative wealth (responsible for most of the damage), higher education, and lower birth rates, may experience less severe climate impacts and be better able to implement adaptations.

Climate change refugees, likely mostly young, may be the base making up for low birth rates in wealthier nations, if allowed in.

We’ve been on this on the SDMB for 20 years, back when the conventional wisdom was that we were facing a population explosion. There was clear evidence even then that a demographic transition was taking place. The U.N even had models then showing a decline in global population after 2050 or so.

I don’t disagree but it would be nice if the article talked about some of the benefits and not just the problems that a decreasing population would cause.

The thing about Africa annoys me a bit, because all through my life (and I’m 42) I can remember people framing it as Africa being the continent that is “just about to” explode in population.

Instead, the total population of the whole, vast continent of Africa, is still less than India’s. That doesn’t mean it won’t still explode at some point, but I feel for decades a lot of commentators and armchair experts have had us looking the wrong way.
Not only has Africa’s population not grown anywhere near as fast as many of those estimates, the issue should be more about resource footprint anyway. So our eyes should have been on the Western countries (particularly the US), and China the whole time (despite being a developing country, China’s resource footprint per capita is still not great for things like CO2 emissions and plastic use).

One reason Africa’s population hasn’t “exploded” as predicted is the number of dead from war, famine, and disease combined with a lack of modern medical care. I would have much preferred the reason to have been a reduced birth rate rather than a high death rate.

Sure, but as grim as that is, it was somewhat predictable.
Like I say, the rhetoric annoys me, because Africa has been blamed, essentially, for many of the world’s problems, for something that they haven’t done yet. Meanwhile in the Western world we’ve been busy cooking all the fossils and generally exporting a way of life that is not sustainable for over a century.

Actually birth rates are coming down across Africa, as the same demographic shifts are happening as elsewhere. How big a factor it is among all the other things you list is debateable, but there is no arguing about the direction.

In general, the birth rates are declining around the world and the standard of living is increasing. That doesn’t mean that everywhere now people are rich and have few children. It means that we’re closer in income and birth rates than you may think. You might want to read the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling et al.

I think it’s an easy misconception to have if you have only watched news reports in the past few decades, which always manage to highlight terribly crowded and poverty-stricken slums. But the confounding reality is that the continent’s population is “only” a billion currently, less than India’s or China’s individually.

Demographers are currently estimating that Africa’s continental population will reach three billion in 2100, making it possibly the world’s pre-eminent demographic force 30 years after populations have declined in more developed countries. Western AND Eastern countries are in for a century of difficult re-evaluation of immigration policies in light of these coming changes.

This is all said with the caveat that demographic trends can certainly change. For example, China just announced an increase in allowable child bearing from two to three children per couple. Which is not, of course, the same thing as expecting an immediate increase in fertility as a result.

Again, fascinating stuff.

The reason that China increased the number of children allowed per family is that the population is now only slowly increasing. It’s expected that the population of China will soon begin decreasing, just like it has in many other countries. It appears that most Chinese people now don’t want to have a lot of children per family, so the increase in the number allowed probably won’t have much effect.

Incidentally, be suspicious of any news story that says that there is an “explosion” in any trend. Often there is no increase in that trend, but it’s just that some given region (or group of people) has a higher amount than other places. Sometimes that region (or group of people) is decreasing in that thing, but they just aren’t decreasing as much as other regions or groups.

And that’s why we’re doomed.

I fully agree that with good governance and forward-looking policies we could easily make any necessary adjustments to society to accommodate a shrinking population. But the politics of it are likely to be brutal. Just one aspect – reducing social security from being so reliant on current worker’s contributions – would provoke a political bloodbath. Options such as increasing taxes, pushing back retirement age, reducing benefits, investing the current surplus in the stock market have all met with enormous opposition whenever politicians have toyed with addressing the fact that social security will go bankrupt in 2035. And so the politicians do nothing, and all of the potential solutions get more drastic and more painful the longer the can gets kicked down the road.

“National health care will require death panels to decide if Grandma should die!”

segue to:

“We have to let Grandma die so we can go to the mall.”

Stale jokes (at the expense of conservatives and Covid) aside, Millennials and Zoomers will be dealing with this issue in the U.S. the most in the important decades to come, because (1) Boomers cease to be a numerical force in 20 years, (2) Gen X is significantly smaller and (3) the generation following Z will also be smaller in numbers.

Things will change and it’s a good thing that there are two adaptable generations more comfortable with change coming along to deal with it.

Boy, we haven’t hardly touched on technological innovations yet that might have huge effects on these issues. Interested to hear those ideas from this board (not all of you are old and/or stodgy).

This doesn’t mean that it won’t be possible to pass it as time goes by. Incidentally, “bloodbath”, “brutal”, and “enormous” are further examples like “explosion” of terms that are thrown around too much.