Letters to the Editor, December 2021
Published: December 13, 2021
I was very happy with your last magazine that addressed the common misconception that a stable population means economic disaster. To the contrary, population stabilization is the only way we will ever have a livable earth and sustainable economy. I was so pleased, in fact, that I made an extra donation on top of my usual monthly gifts. I hope you continue to speak up on this issue. I would also like to see more detailed papers on this topic available on your website, if possible.
In “Estimates and Projections of U.S. Population by Age, 1950-2050,” all figures are based upon units of thousands, but that fact is nowhere indicated in the labeling. At the very least, the words “in thousands” should appear under the title of the chart. Yes, yes; I realize that any sensible person would ASSUME that the numbers reflect multiples of 1,000, but a good chart should be clearly labeled.
Joanne B. Auth
You had several articles about the lower birth rate in the September magazine. All the articles talk about our economy (blah! blah! blah!) and how it will be impacted by fewer people. I think our economy will survive. But when will I read an article about how having fewer people will help save our earth? Less people will help our climate crisis, our natural resources, maybe slow the extinction rate of our wildlife and native plants. Maybe fewer trees will be needed to build houses, less habitat will be lost—a plus for wildlife. There is a lot of good with fewer people. We should be celebrating!
The three main articles in the September issue of Population Connection on possible economic effects of a declining American birth rate include only one mention of immigration, citing it as a possible “short-term solution to an aging population.” However, immigration can be much more than that. With nearly 2 billion more people expected on earth by 2050, future immigration pressures across the Mediterranean and the Mexico-U.S. border are likely to dwarf the levels we see today. Rather than working to counter declines in fertility among American women, we should be grateful that below-replacement fertility leaves room to accommodate more of the (primarily young) people who seek to come to this country for a better life.
The September issue has hopeful articles by John Seager, Hillary Hoffower, and Jill Filipovic on how declining population might benefit the economy. None of the articles address the central issue of how to deal with the fact that economic prosperity has always relied on population growth to increase business sales and profit, which in turn drives capital wealth. How do we transition to a stagnant economy?
Stuart H. Brown
I am a great believer in fewer footprints on the planet, and your recent article on the U.S. shrinking population was most interesting. Of particular note to me is the mini piece “How to Shrink Smart.” I would really like to see more on this. Cities, counties, but also school systems and neighborhoods need to know how to get smaller smarter. In business, organizations generally know how to get smaller: sell off pieces, stop product lines, close plants, etc. This often brings very negative effects to employees and towns, etc. These decisions are guided by strategic thinking in the executive bodies for “the greater good” of stockholders. That business model does not work well in the “commons,” so more research is needed. The natural but uncontrolled experiments of the cities you name—but also Detroit, and now downtowns of many metro areas depleted from telework during Covid—need this guidance.
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