Watch The World Grow Older*, In 4 GIFs : Planet Money : NPR

Japan may be the poster child, but the US isn’t far behind.

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Comments from a respected family member who shall remain anonymous (sent to me via e-mail directly):

Interesting and misleading. (As I’ve come to expect from NPR.)

Been watching population growth charts like the last one since 1960, when the Council of Rome (a UNESCO-sponsored think tank) predicted world population would top 20 billion by now and that there would be wide-spread death, disease and destruction.

It didn’t happen because the birth rates of the worst offenders, China and India have fallen dramatically. (By draconian measures in China’s case.) And because the Green Revolution resulted in improved crop yields worldwide.

What really happens is that, even in countries trying to maintain higher birthrates for religious or cultural reasons, birth rates plummet one generation after death rates rise. If nothing else, even poor, uneducated women manage to have fewer pregnancies. (Poor and uneducated they may be; stupid they’re not.)

That one generation lag is the real problem: no one believes it until they see it. But once they believe it, populations are higher than they should be for sustainability.

Then the problem is that the increasingly integrated world economy is increasingly vulnerable to disruption … by just about anything: war, over-production one year, rumors or war, etc.