"For many years it seemed that overpopulation was the looming crisis of our age. Back in 1968, the Stanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich infamously predicted that millions would soon starve to death in their bestselling, doom-saying book The Population Bomb; since then, neo-Malthusian rumblings of imminent disaster have been a continual refrain in certain sections of the environmental movement – fears that were recently given voice on David Attenborough’s documentary Life on our Planet.
At the time the Ehrlichs were publishing their dark prophecies, the world was at its peak of population growth, which at that point was increasing at a rate of 2.1% a year. Since then, the global population has ballooned from 3.5 billion to 7.67 billion.
But growth has slowed – and considerably. As women’s empowerment advances, and access to contraception improves, birthrates around the world are stuttering and stalling, and in many countries now there are fewer than 2.1 children per woman – the minimum level required to maintain a stable population.
Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.
The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019."
New York City looks like a ghost town. COVID-19 and the machinations of state and city government have accelerated the already present influences of declining birth rates brought on by the empowerment of women and their understandable desire to have fewer children in order to live better lives. And then, the severe limitation placed by the Trump Tax Law on deductibility of state and local taxes has caused a flight from high priced real estate markets and high local taxes.
I am a bit surprised to learn that the pressures on US population are so universally felt across the world.
People no longer compete so strongly for space with the fauna. You can see the effects here in Alexandria, Virginia where wildlife sightings are steadily increasing in the heart of this metropolitan area. Deer, foxes, opossum, bird predators, coyotes and of course raccoons are caught every night on the camera records of my motion activated security system. The raccoons climb the drain pipes leading to my roof, walk to the front of the house and sit observing traffic on this street in the heart of the city.
As someone who spent much of his life in the natural world on several continents, I confess to enjoying their company. pl