World Population Awareness

Economics, Growth, Disparity of Wealth

Wealth inequality in America: what Americans think is their country's wealth inequality and what is the ideal wealth distribution in a capitalist society are far different from shocking reality. Click on the link to see the video.   9 Out of 10 Americans Are Completely Wrong About This Mind-Blowing Fact November 11, 2015, doclink

The expansion of our wealth is only possible so long as the oil supply continues to expand, says oil expert Dr. Colin Campbell. The financial and investment community is beginning to accept the reality of Peak Oil, which ends the First Half of the Age of Oil, during which banks created capital by lending more than they had on deposit, being confident that tomorrow's expansion, fueled by cheap oil-based energy, was adequate collateral for today's debt. Oil driven "economic growth" is absolutely necessary for individuals, businesses, and governments to pay off their debts.

Commentator John La Grou writes: ". . . debt service requires economic growth in proportion to the size of the debt. Today's industrialized debt is at its highest 'real dollar' value in human history. Personal debt, corporate debt, government debt - all are at or near historical highs, and growing at historically unparalleled rates. Hence, the level of economic growth required to sustain such debt is at an all time high."

People take out a loan with the expectation that there will be more money available in the future than there is now, not realizing that money is really just a symbol for oil, and there will not be more oil available in the future than there is now and they will have to default on their loan. If many individuals, businesses, or nations begin defaulting on their loans at roughly the same time - as they will once the economy begins to contract due to skyrocketing energy prices - the banks will be unable to make new loans without spiraling the economy into a hyperinflationary meltdown.

An overall "financial collapse" will further devastate our ability to implement alternative systems of energy since the capital needed to develop these alternatives will not be available. In June 2005, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), aka "the central banker's central bank", said that oil prices may well remain high for a prolonged period of time and that further rises may have more severe consequences than currently anticipated . . . Everyone needs to commit to some unpleasant compromises now, in order to avoid even more unpleasant alternatives in the future . . . The US current account deficit means that a further slide in the dollar was "almost inevitable", while the BIS sounded a warning that the deficit could yet lead to "a disorderly decline of the dollar, associated turmoil in other financial markets, and even recession."

Warren Buffet, the world's second richest man, recently warned of "mega-catastrophic risks" and "investment time bombs" currently threatening the global economy. High energy prices, destabilizing resource wars, less than inspiring leadership, a possible currency collapse, - all will add to that. It is not enough to focus solely on the price at the pump, more fuel-efficient forms of transportation, or alternative sources of energy.

A report commissioned by Cheney and released in April 2001 said: "The most significant difference between now and a decade ago is the extraordinarily rapid erosion of spare capacities at critical segments of energy chains. Today, shortfalls appear to be endemic. Among the most extraordinary of these losses of spare capacity is in the oil arena.

In May 2001, George W. Bush said: "What people need to hear loud and clear is that we're running out of energy in America." A Bush energy advisor, energy investment banker Matthew Simmons - regarded by the energy and banking community for his nonpartisan, heavily documented, and virtually infallible research & analysis - said in an August 2003 interview with From the Wilderness publisher Michael Ruppert when asked about the impending natural gas crisis, responded: "I don't think there is one. The solution is to pray. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it's a certainty." For more information on an excellent website, see (click on above headline link)   Economic Consequences of An Oil Shortage June 28, 2005, Life After the Oil Crash website doclink

Growth vs Steady State Economy

The Lesson of Empires: Once Privilege Limits Social Mobility, Collapse is Inevitable

April 18, 2016, Washington's Blog

Virtually every empire has experienced this lesson: once the privileged few limit the rise of those from humble origins (i.e. social mobility), the empire is doomed to rising instability and collapse.

The greater the concentration of wealth and power, the lower the social mobility; the lower the social mobility, the greater the odds that the system will collapse when faced with a crisis that it would have easily handled in more egalitarian times.

When the economy is expanding faster than the population and everyone benefits from the expansion, the majority of people feel their chances of getting ahead are positive.

But when the economy is stagnating, and those at the top are seen still amassing monumental gains, the majority realizes their chances of securing a better life are declining and frustration, anger and a disavowal of the corrupt status quo set in. Precisely what the U.S. is seeing in this election cycle.

The status quo exists to protect the privileged, period. Instead of hard work being rewarded, "getting ahead" is redefined as "running in place to keep from falling behind".

One of my projects is to better understand what social, economic and cultural elements of empires enabled their rise and durability. I was especially interested in locating traits shared by virtually all empires that endured.

Of all the empires that endured, they had in common high levels of social mobility: those of humble birth had multiple pathways to wealth, power and influence.

When social mobility is lost, all those denied access to the empire's top rungs leave for greener pastures or devote their energy and ambition to bringing the empire down.

Social mobility is only possible if merit is valued more than privilege. When only the cronies can reach the top, the empire crumbles under the weight of incompetence, squabbling among the elite, inefficiency and wasted resources, while the best and the brightest seek outlets for their ambition elsewhere--often in the ranks of the empire's enemies.

The Roman Empire accepted people of many ethnicities and origins as Roman citizens. A free citizen of a distant Roman province was as fully a citizen of Rome as a free resident of Rome.

In the Republic of Venice, new blood was able to enter the higher levels of power. Commoners could rise to power via commercial success or military service.

The Byzantine Empire offered multiple pathways to wealth and influence to the humbly born: the clergy, the army, trading, and service in the Imperial bureaucracy.

The question, not just for the U.S. but for every nation, is whether the ladder of social mobility is real or if it is largely propaganda.

In an economic crisis, who's piece of the pie gets trimmed to a sliver, and who's slice gets bigger?

The next few years will strip away the illusions of "growth" and reveal which dominates our society and economy: privilege (sludgy toxic oil) or social mobility (clean refreshing water). doclink

Karen Gaia says: So where is our economy now? Remember that our economy is falsely based on GDP, which rises even when we are paying for cleaning up for a climate disaster or fighting a rampant disease. Or cleaning up after oil spills, or not repaying loans made to unwise unconventional oil producers who produce at a high cost more than they can sell.

Ghana Needs 300,000 Jobs Annually - World Bank

This is according to the World Bank's Senior Country Operations Officer, Dr Beatrix Allah-Mensah who was speaking at the launch of the National Labour Intensive Public Works (LIPW) policy in Accra.
August 17, 2016, Pulse   By: Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu

The World Bank's Senior Country Operations Officer, Dr Beatrix Allah-Mensah said Ghana needs to create 300,000 new jobs annually in order to meet its employment needs by the year 2020.

A new policy aims to have community members as labourers instead of using heavy machinery to do all the work in public works such as the construction of roads and new schools.

"Job creation and job sustenance, which continue to plague many countries, are key to promoting development and eradicating poverty...Access to jobs is even more crucial in the rural areas and for the poor thus making job security a social protection issue," Allah-Mensah said.

A recent report from the World Bank found that about 48% of Ghanaians between the ages of 15-24 do not have jobs.

With 71% of Ghana's population projected to be under 35 years old in 2020, there is an ever more need to create jobs for the youth. doclink

Karen Gaia say: then there is involving youth in 'Future Planning' which includes being able to avoid pregnancy so that school and jobs can be secured and there is less competition for jobs and resources for future generations.

The Boiling Pot Post Carbon Institute

May 28, 2016, Post Crabon Institute   By: Richard Heinberg

So far, 2016 is the hottest year in history: every single month so far has set a record. This handy little animation (click here) shows a climate system that is shooting off the rails.

Slow, linear change is giving way to self-reinforcing feedbacks and non-linear lurches. Last December, delegates to climate talks in Paris agreed to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade. Extend the temperature trend shown in that animation for just another few months and we may well be beyond that threshold.

Arctic sea ice this month is at the lowest ever recorded; temperatures in Siberia are rising four times faster than in the rest of the world, releasing enormous amounts of methane and carbon stored in permafrost.

Conventional oil production flatlined starting in 2005, however the growth of unconventional oil and gas supplies appears to have postponed peak oil for a decade; all the supply increase since then has come from tight oil, tar sands, heavy oil, and deepwater oil) -- but at what cost? Unconventional oil production brings about greater environmental damage and risks, including increased greenhouse gases.

And then there is the massive investment to finance the surge in unconventionals. Easy-money central bank policies lengthened the fracking boom which would have been an unnoticeable blip without them. High prices weakened demand for oil, just as drillers flooded the market with the wrong grades of crude in the wrong places at the wrong time. This lead to an oil price crash and financial bloodletting within the industry.

Oil prices are now either high enough to stimulate new supply, in which case they are also high enough to cripple the economy; or they are low enough to stimulate the economy, but also so low as to decimate the industry.

Today's price of $50 per barrel is high in historic terms, but still too low to allow the industry to recover from the past two years of staggering losses. The U.S. energy sector is drowning in $370 billion of debt, twice the amount a decade ago, according to FactSet and Yahoo Finance. Interest payments were $16.7 billion in 2015 -- half of their total operating profit. Now, after the first quarter of 2016, over 86% of energy sector operating profits are going to interest payments. Unless prices zoom back past $100 a barrel, the tens of billions of dollars in debt coming due between 2017 and 2020 will likely trigger a wave of defaults and bankruptcies.

The economy that has been on life support for the last 8 years, buoyed up by low interest rates, bailouts, and quantitative easing, though at the cost of more financial bubbles (in housing, fracking, and tech) and increased economic inequality. But when things turn ugly again what will finance wizards do? Negative interest rates will not help savers, and throwing trillions more at banks and investors won't help the masses afford to pay interest on their mounting debt or to buy more consumer goods.

A lot depends on the outcome of the U.S. presidential election, but a good outcome is hard to imagine; only shades of bad.

Whoever the next president turns out to be, her or his term in office will likely coincide with another financial crash, which could well turn out to be much worse than the 2008 debacle. Social pressures from rising inequality and dashed expectations will build to explosive levels. And climate impacts may well take forms that even a Donald Trump cannot ignore. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Of course the tremendous consumption of oil is due to growth in people and per capita consumption.

I left out most talk about presidential candidates in this summary. Please follow the link in the headline to see it and the great graphic on warming.

India's Population Explosion Will Make Or Break Its Economy

April 8, 2016,   By: Roshni Majumdar and Charles Riley

By 2020 the average age in India will be 29 and the country will have 900 million people of working age. Soon after that India will surpass China in population size.

If India makes big improvements in how it educates and trains students, India's vast potential could be unlocked and millions will be lifted out of poverty. Failure to make adequate improves will saddle the country with a generation of unskilled workers in low-paying jobs.

Only 2% of India's workers have received formal skills training. In comparison, 68% in the U.K., 75% in Germany, and 96% in South Korea have this training.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has found that India's education and professional development system has not kept pace with economic growth.

Critics say India's universities are too focused on rote memorization, leaving students without the critical thinking skills required to solve problems. Teachers are paid low salaries, leading to poor quality of instruction.

In primary education pupils are expected to perform two-digit subtraction by age 7, but only 50% can correctly count up to 100 and 30% can read a text designed for five-year-olds. doclink

The Global Run on Physical Cash Has Begun: Why it Pays to Panic First

February 28, 2016, Zero Hedge   By: Tyler Durden

Back in 2012, negative interest rates were viewed as sheer lunacy instead of the global monetary reality that has pushed over $6 trillion in global bonds into negative yield territory. At that time the NY Fed said, "if rates go negative, the U.S. Treasury will likely be called upon to print a lot more currency as individuals and small businesses substitute cash for at least some of their bank balances."

However, if physical currency is gradually phased out in favor of some digital currency "equivalent" then more currency need not be printed: in a world of negative rates, physical currency - just like physical gold - provides a convenient loophole to the financial repression of keeping one's savings in digital form in a bank where said savings are taxed at -0.1%, or -1% or -10% or more per year by a central bank and government both hoping to force consumers to spend instead of save.

For now cash is still legal, and NIRP - while a reality for the banks - has yet to be fully passed on to depositors.

In all countries that have launched NIRP, instead of facilitating spending, ultra-low rates may perversely be driving a greater propensity for consumers to save as retirement income becomes more uncertain."

However, just because negative rates have not been passed on to savers yet or just because cash still has not been made illegal, that doesn't mean it won't be.

The question at this point is twofold: what happens after the savings of ordinary depositors in the bank officially taxed and/or cash becomes phased out, and more importantly, what if there is a run on physical cash?

If there is a rush to draw money out of existing bank deposits and move into physical currency - to avoid negative rate taxation - only those who panic first will be safe. There is not enough physical currency in circulation for everyone to withdraw their savings.

If everybody wanted to take their cash out of the bank at the same time, the system would not enough notes to pay them. Even if the printing of currency were doubled a demand for $3 trillion dollars would take 20 years.

Not only that, but one must also consider the threat by increasingly more economists that large denomination bills may be outlawed, first in Europe with the €500 bill and then in the US with the $100 bill.

If, and when, a run on physical cash begins, there will be roughly $1 dollar in physical to satisfy $10 dollars in savers' claims, a ratio which drops to 20 cents of "deliverable" cash if the $100 bill is taken out of circulation.

For NIRP to truly work, paper currency has to be substantially eliminated everywhere it is implemented.

HSBC's Steven Major says that people don't feel the rush to draw their money out because retail deposit rates have stayed at or above zero as banks have opted to not pass the lower market rates on.

However there have already been a sell out of safes in Japan - to hold cash that people are taking out of the bank -, and cash hoarding in Switzerland, where circulation of the 1,000 franc note soared 17% last year in the wake of the SNB's move to NIRP, according to the wall street journal.

The global run on physical cash is on - as much as the bankers of the world would like to keep it under wraps. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the depletion of resources has raised the cost of doing business, causing businesses to hire cheaper workers and to go more into debt. Debt is no longer backed up by real money anymore. Workers that were laid off or had received pay cuts have had to halt discretionary spending, lowering consumption, and thus impacting the economy. Lowering interest rates were meant to allow more businesses to continue business as usual and also to make risky investments which often did not pay off. Because of resource depletion we are on a downward spiral.

Of course, further lunacy could lead central banks to increase interest rates, with equally disastrous results.

The Inevitability of Dramatic Inflation

February 15, 2016, Zero Hedge   By: Tyler Durden

Through the creation of tremendous debt, the US, EU, and many other countries have created a condition that results in deflation. Stock and bond markets are in bubbles of historic proportions, assuring the inevitability of crashes in the near future - events that will contribute greatly to deflation.

Since 2008, despite all the fudged reports emanating from governments, much of the world has been in a depression since 2008 and remains in one. Depression lowers prices.

Governments (and banks) benefit from inflation. Inflation acts as a hidden tax and most people don't recognize that. Since the US Federal Reserve was created in 1913, it has devalued the dollar by roughly 97%. The average person wants stability, but might prefer a bit of inflation to deflation, however, worse than either of these possibilities is hyperinflation and when hyperinflation comes, it comes very fast and is uncontrollable.

Once the population begins to think of money as something to get rid of instead of something to possess, hyperinflation occurs. When it occurs, it culminates in a collapse of the monetary system. It's generally accompanied by a collapse in commerce, riots, food shortages, and famine.

The Fed and the ECB (European Central Bank) have announced a plan to introduce negative interest rates. This plan is intended to discourage saving and force people to buy goods. But once a population discovers that dumping currency is preferable to holding it, hyperinflation comes knocking.

The author advises that people internationalize their wealth (large or small) and even themselves in anticipation of events will have the greatest insulation against the effects of hyperinflation. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the new style of debt came about when there wasn't enough money in the banks to back the old style debt, so the new debt is backed by nothing really - just a promise. So now we have cheap loans tempting businessmen to make risky investments, which are more prone to failure. Investments in oil production are based on cheap loans backed by nothing - that is how they can continue to pour money into producing oil that is a) of poor quality or b) too hard to get to make it pay, or c) surplus because the demand for commodities has dropped. The demand for commodities has dropped because most would-be consumers are out of work or paid too little - the high cost of oil production had to be compensated with somehow, and so the workers bore the brunt of it.

Economics Might Be Very Wrong About Growth: Bloomberg View

January 29, 2016,   By: Mark Buchanan

We have probably reached a point where, despite technological innovations, mature economies won't grow as fast as before. Economist Larry Summers says that recent low growth rates might reflect a long-term stagnation that stems from accumulated household debts, rising inequality and other factors not related to the 2008 financial crisis. Economist Robert Gordon has reached much the same conclusion. And for nearly 20 years a group of mostly German economists have been rejecting the idea that an economy can keep expanding exponentially each year, no matter how big it gets. Exponential growth may occur in some young economies, but mature economies usually grow slowly, in a linear way, with the growth rate percentage declining.

A new study of the economic development of 18 mature economies confirms this view. Upon studying the economies of the U.S. and most major European nations from 1960 to 2013, it found that, with two possible exceptions, mature economies experienced linear growth in per-capita GDP (i.e., each year they had a lower percentage of economic gains per person). If correct, these findings suggest that economists need to factor this difference into their projections. But the idea of exponential growth rests at the core of modern growth theories that explain how capital, labor and technology combine to increase productivity. Governments rely on growth projections when they decide how much money they need in their social security funds or when summing up the costs and benefits of any proposed project. If growth isn't exponential, their calculations will systematically over-rate income and make their projections misleading.

But if the rapid growth of the last two centuries is giving way to a future of slower growth, there may be an up side. It will soon take nearly two planet Earths to sustain the world population at current consumption levels. We don't actually have two Earths, so growth should probably slow. If it's already doing so, that may offer some relief. doclink

Art says: The up-beat conclusion fails to mention that billions of people still live close to the edge. We will need to reverse population growth rates and distribute wealth more evenly if the poor of this world are to live better in any sustainable way.

Karen Gaia says: Our declining resources have brought us to a point where employers costs have gone up and they have had to stop giving raises to employees, lay off people, or hire cheaper labor. This has driven the wealth and income of the average worker way down, to the point where he/she can not longer afford discretionary spending. This has lowered the demand for fuel and other commodities and companies have had to stockpile inventories and resort to debt beyond any collateral that they or the banks might have. Lowered interest rates have made debt cheap, enticing corportations into pie-in-the-sky investments. See for a paper on the economy.

UAE Embarks on Post-Oil Journey

Only 30 per cent of the country's total GDP came from oil sector in 2015
January 31, 2016, AMEinfo   By: Mujeeb Rahman

His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said last February that his country would celebrate the last barrel of oil. Ever since then, the country has been ramping up efforts to build a sustainable economy for future generations.

In 1980, the total GDP of the UAE was AED555 billion; 21% of this amount came from non-oil sectors while 79% came from oil. But in 2014, the UAE's GDP was AED1.154 trillion, with 69% coming from the non-oil sector while the oil sector accounted for 31%.

"The UAE's GDP in 2015 is estimated to be with AED1.5 trillion with 30% of it from oil sector. We will not stop here; we are moving forward to reduce the oil contribution to our GDP," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

"Today, as always, we are all united as a team with one vision for our future and from Bab Al Shams (resort), we start UAE's post-oil journey", Sheikh Mohamed tweeted from the retreat venue. doclink

Nothing Grows Forever

Why do we keep thinking the economy will?
June 1, 2010, Mother Jones   By: Clive Thompson

The belief that a steady rise in gross domestic product (GDP) is central to our economic identity and underpins almost every financial move our leaders make. GDP is also seen as crucial for raising living standards and keeping the masses out of poverty

However ecologists are learning that Earth does have limits. Polluting a lake can ruin it forever; chop down enough forest and it might never grow back. Greenhouse gases have accumulated and when, by the beginning of the 21st century chunks of Greenland's glaciers began breaking off into the sea, the limits of earth became more evident.

"We've had 125,000 generations of humans, but it's only been the last eight that have had growth," economist Peter Victor said. "The signs are showing up everywhere that the burden we're placing on the natural environment can't be borne." Victor is a professor at York University in Toronto.

Without growth, we spiral into poverty. With it, we deplete the planet.

Victor thought there may be a third way and so he created a computer model replicating the modern Canadian economy. Then he tweaked it so that crucial elements -- including consumption, productivity, and population -- gradually stopped growing after 2010. He shortened the workweek to roughly four days, creating more jobs. He also set up higher taxes on the rich and more public services for the poor, and imposed a carbon tax to fill government coffers and discourage the use of fossil fuels. The model showed that, after a couple of decades, unemployment fell to 4%, most people's standards of living actually rose, and greenhouse gas emissions decreased to well below Kyoto levels.

In other words, if the model was accurate, the economy could reach a "steady state." This may be the only way for humanity to survive in the long term.

Other scholars have been interested in "no growth" economics. Adam Smith, the great-great-grandfather of capitalism, acknowledged that it might be possible for an economy to max out its natural resources and stop growing. John Stuart Mill in the 19th century argued that growth was necessary only up to the point where everyone enjoyed a reasonable standard of living. After that you could achieve a "stationary state." John Maynard Keynes in 1930 predicted a period in the future when the economy wouldn't need to grow and people would "prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes." Things like art, child rearing, and leisure.

Yet, instead of advocating no-growth, politicians came to see growth as a hedge against deficit spending and high unemployment. So Western governments imposed lower taxes on capital gains than on labor to promote growth by rewarding investment. They looked to GDP as the primary benchmark for whether things are getting better or worse.

At one time resources did seem limitless. Plus, economics doesn't account for things it can't price, and nobody could easily put a number on the cost of, say, polluting the Great Lakes, or driving a species to extinction by clear cutting its forest habitat.

Early economic thinkers who worried about exhausting the planet turned out to be premature. Thomas Robert Malthus in the early 1800s predicted that population was growing faster than the earth could support. His predictions did not come true because technological improvements in agriculture made land more productive.

By 1900, growth had become a deeply held political belief. When Franklin Roosevelt wanted to alleviate unemployment by decreasing the workweek to 30 hours, large corporations insisted that the administration pursued flat-out growth, loosening labor laws and other restrictions, so that the industrialists could revive the nation.

In the 1960s Rachel Carson's Silent Spring challenged the pro-growth orthodoxy, awakening the mainstream to the idea that relentless economic activity might wreck the natural world.

Soon after, Dennis Meadows led a team of MIT scientists to model the main components of world growth. They looked at things like population increases and breakthroughs that make workers more productive, the effects of pollution and the extent of the planet's natural resources. If we continue as usual, they found, global prosperity would rise until sometime when resources would become so scarce that they would skyrocket in price, driving the cost of almost everything upward. Global living standards would collapse. Meadows' conclusions were published in the book 'The Limits to Growth', and 12 million copies were sold.

Economists called the conclusions alarmist, pseudoscience, and "The Computer That Printed Out Wolf," and 'Marxist'. If basic resources ever became seriously scarce, companies would simply switch materials -- or make themselves more efficient, using fewer materials to deliver the same prosperity payload.

The economists claimed that, as economies mature, technology 'decouples' economic prosperity from resources; more jobs would provide services, rather that producing resource-based products. In fact, they argued, America's GDP grew during the 1980s and 1990s, even as industries eroded. Other critics attacked what they saw as inaccuracies in the model, such as when oil would run out.

Herman Daly remembers the Carter administration having "some openness" to no-growth thinking. "But then come the Reagan years, and oh man, forget it," he recalls.

To Daly, who served for six years as a senior economist at the World Bank, it seemed obvious that when nations shifted to service economies, they didn't stop gobbling natural resources. They merely outsourced the problem to some other country or found cheap new sources at home. For example, the Internet depends on energy and computer components. And making those components requires exotic metals, some of which are now in short supply. "This whole idea that we could have a constantly growing economy that doesn't use natural resources is just crazy, and the last couple of decades have basically proven it," Daly says.

Daly points out that the happiness of Americans, as reported by social scientists, rose steadily after World War II as GDP grew. But by the late '50s, that connection broke down: Although our median family incomes have nearly doubled since 1957, the proportion of people who say they are "very happy" has barely budged. Daly thinks we simply hit the point of diminishing returns. Our growth turned uneconomic: GDP now keeps growing mainly because we are producing gewgaws and services that don't significantly add to our happiness. Or worse: It grows because we are spending money to solve problems that growth itself created.

When bad things happen, they can raise the GDP. For example, when PCBs leak into a reservoir and local cancer rates spike, the economy gets a boost: crews clean the reservoir, doctors treat the cancer, and lawyers get involved. It is growth, but not economic.

Daly is no longer alone. As concern over climate change has migrated from the science community to the mainstream, more economists are questioning growth. Recent books on the subject include Managing Without Growth by Peter Victor, Prosperity Without Growth by Tim Jackson, economics commissioner for the UK's Sustainable Development Commission, and a new edition of The Limits to Growth, complete with updated versions of their model.

They all conclude that, to move away from growth, we'll have to shorten the workweek so that most people would stay employed and make an adequate salary, but also would have less disposable income to invest or spend on more stuff. If new technology continued to drive productivity gains, citizens in a nongrowing economy would actually work less and less over time as they divvied up the shrinking workload.

Potentially the free time that we would gain could utterly transform the way we live, leading to a renaissance in the arts and sciences, as well as a reconnection with the natural world. Parents could stay home with their children if they liked, or look after sick relatives.

A nongrowing economy could have broad political appeal, ushering in the sort of togetherness and family values that social conservatives celebrate.

In 1982, labor unions in the Netherlands agreed to limit demands for higher pay in exchange for policies encouraging people to work less. Within a decade, part-time workers rose from 19% to 27%, the average workweek fell from 30 to 27 hours, and unemployment had dropped from 10% to 5%. This is called "the Dutch miracle."

No-growthers favor heavily taxing carbon and other pollutants and they want the government to invest in clean energy as part of a "Green New Deal" that also encourages private-sector investment to move people into labor-intensive jobs-entertainer, preventive health worker, artisan manufacturer, organic farmer, nurse-that consume relatively few raw materials.

But if we cannot create enough clean energy to completely replace fossil fuels, we need to do more. Daly suggests that Americans scale back energy consumption to 1960s levels. Victor points out that 1983 was the last year that "the world economy was just at the level of the capacity of the planet to support it." Since then, of course, world population has exploded and global resources have dwindled even further.

Western consumption rates would need to shrink disproportionately so that citizens of countries like India and El Salvador could enjoy a lifestyle upgrade. Reducing inequities between the rich and poor would make the world more stable and raising the economic lot of the poor is a proven way to lower fertility rates.

Americans would need to turn back the clock to 1960 -- when the median family made $35,994 in today's dollars. "We're better at making things now," Victor says, so our living standards would be considerably higher than this figure suggests. People might need to develop a renewed appreciation for durable goods that require lots of labor to make but ultimately use fewer resources than their throwaway counterparts.

The pathway to America voluntarily reducing its consumption levels seems obscure at best. There could be a lot of resistance to the notion that governments would have to pass new tax laws, seriously tackle income inequality, and return banking to its traditional role of raising and lending capital (as opposed to gambling on imponderable derivatives and credit default swaps).

If boosting poor people's means doesn't defuse the population bomb, what then? Population control by mandate is essentially totalitarianism.

Even talking about such ideas, Victor admits in his book, "could make a politician unelectable."

Daly, who's been arguing his case for four decades, has begun to think that only the Earth itself will compel people to act. In a few decades, if basic resources become scarce, prices spike, and climate change is causing global conflict, no-growth thinking could arrive whether we like it or not. "It'll be forced on us," he says. doclink

Karen Gaia says:

1) I am not sure that raising the economic lot of the poor will, in itself, sufficiently lower fertility rates, but women's education and availability of health services, including family planning, will certainly do so. People in the industrial world tend to lower their birth rates when the economy declines.

2) Currently 90% of the American people make an average of around $34,000. But half are below that line, and many in deep poverty. Instead of raising wages and giving more people jobs, it seems that employers have chosen to keep the fruits of greater production for themselves. Of course, this leads to fewer consumers to buy stuff and thus leads to goods and oil being warehoused and an eventual downfall of the economy.

Also see

Time to Replace the GDP with a Measure That Accounts for Natural Resources

Nation needs new economic yardstick
October 1, 2015, Upstate Business Journal   By: Matthew Heun, Michael Carbajales-Dale, and Becky Rosajaleus Haney

Many economists say that problems in the subprime housing market caused the Great Recession. Even today they are still focused on strategies to improve capital, labor and technology in hopes of preventing another meltdown.

We think the Great Recession was a resource depletion problem which could just the start of our troubles.

The depleted resource was oil: as demand increased, production flatlined. The average gas price spiked to over $4 a gallon in 2008, and homeowners in suburbs across the country faced difficult spending choices. With the need to put food on the table and gas in their tanks they chose not to pay their too-large mortgages.

We can clear-cut only so many forests, pump only so much oil out of the ground, drain only so much water out of aquifers, and pollute only so many emissions and contaminants before our behavior becomes unsustainable.

It's time to go beyond GDP, which only measures a nation's flow of income and leads to some perverse accounting.

GDP grew last year when agricultural runoff caused toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. Did you know that GDP grew and money was spent on bottled water and the goods and services needed to repair the damage. We have no incentive to sustainably manage our natural resources.

A new book, "Beyond GDP: National Accounting in the Age of Resource Depletion," suggests several steps that ought to be taken to create a more comprehensive system of national accounting. The system ought to track resources that flow into the economy and wastes that flow back to the biosphere.

Instead of thinking of the economy as an "engine" that can stall, we ought to think of the economy as a metabolism.

With metabolism, energy and materials are taken into the body, transformed internally and discharged into the environment. An organism that acquires less energy than it consumes is doomed.

We ought to develop a new system of national accounting that includes raw materials flowing into the economy, burning of fossil fuels for energy and disposal of waste wherever possible.

n the early 1990s, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis began a program called the Integrated Environmental-Economic System of Accounts (IEESA). This collection of data was banned by Congress in 1994.

Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and even emerging economies have moved ahead without the United States. Economic-environment accounts are now common outside U.S. borders.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis ought to seek authorization to restart its program.

If we as a society can begin collecting relevant data, perhaps we can begin to use the analytical tools, metrics and knowledge to go beyond GDP and make wise choices for the future. Our deepest hope is to make a positive contribution in that direction. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the Global Footprint Network and the World Resources Institute are making progress in the area of sustainability.

2016: Oil Limits and the End of the Debt Supercycle

January 7, 2016, Our Finite World   By: Gail Tverberg

We have been in an economic supercycle which has been benevolent so far, but we are reaching the limits of a finite world. Oil limits, as well as other energy limits, will cause a rapid shift into an economic contraction.

The problem of reaching limits in a finite world manifests itself by a slowing of wage growth for non-elite workers, who will become less able to afford the output of the system. These problems first lead to commodity oversupply and very low commodity prices which in turn lead to falling asset prices and widespread debt defaults. These problems are the opposite of what many expect, namely oil shortages and high prices.

With a surplus of oil we can expect to see limits to oil storage, which, as storage fills, prices can be expected to drop to a very low level-less than $10 per barrel for crude oil, and corresponding low prices for gasoline, diesel, and asphalt which will lead to debt defaults, failing banks, and failing governments, especially of oil exporters.

In an ideal situation, the availability of debt makes the purchase of high-priced goods such as factories, homes, cars, and trucks more affordable. These goods require the use of commodities, including energy products and metals, keeping their prices higher than the cost of production, making it profitable to produce these commodities, which, in turn, encourages the extraction of an ever-greater quantity of energy supplies and other commodities.

The growing quantity of energy supplies can be used to leverage human labor to an ever-greater extent, so that workers become increasingly productive. As a result, wages tend to rise, and businesses find that demand for their goods and services grows because of the growing wages of workers, and governments find that they can collect increasing tax revenue. The arrangement of repaying debt with interest tends to work well in this situation. GDP grows sufficiently rapidly that the ratio of debt to GDP stays relatively flat.

These things happen when resources are finite: As population grows, the quantity of agricultural land available per person tends to fall. So higher-priced techniques (such as irrigation, better seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides) are required to increase production per acre. Businesses tend to extract the least expensive fuels such as oil, coal, natural gas, and uranium first. They later move on to more expensive to extract fuels, when the less-expensive fuels are depleted. The least polluting commodities are used first. When mitigations such as substituting renewables for fossil fuels are used, they tend to be more expensive than the products they are replacing. The leads to the higher cost of final products. Overuse of other resources than fuels leads to problems such as the higher cost of producing metals, deforestation, depleted fish stocks, and eroded topsoil.

When the cost of commodity production rises slowly, its increasing cost adds to inflation in the price of goods and helps inflate away prior debt, so that debt is easier to pay. It also leads to asset inflation, making the use of debt seem to be a worthwhile approach to finance future economic growth, including the growth of energy supplies. The whole system seems to work as an economic growth pump, while the rising wages of non-elite workers push the growth pump along.

The wages of non-elite workers need to be rising faster than commodity prices in order to push the economic growth pump along. When the wages of non-elite workers start falling, relative to the price of commodities, this 'pump' effect fails, especially when the cost of commodity production begins rising rapidly, as it did for oil after 1999 and also in 2003 and 2008 when oil prices spiked and other energy prices rose sharply.

This happens because the rising cost of oil (or electricity, or food, or other energy products) forces workers to cut back on discretionary expenditures. Non-elite workers found it increasingly difficult to afford expensive products such as homes, cars, and washing machines. Housing prices drop. Debt growth slows, leading to a sharp drop in oil prices and other commodity prices.

As non-elite workers cut back on their purchases of goods, the economy tends to contract rather than expand. Efficiencies of scale are lost, and debt becomes increasingly difficult to repay with interest. The whole system tends to collapse.

Currently, jobs that are available tend to be low-paid service jobs. Young people stay in school longer, delay marriage and postpone buying a car and home because they can't find a decent job. All of these issues contribute to the falling wages of non-elite workers. Some individuals retire or voluntarily leave the work force, so they too cannot afford the output of the system.

It was temporarily possible to "fix" low oil prices through the use of Quantitative Easing (QE) and the growth of debt at very low interest rates after 2008. In fact, these very low interest rates are what encouraged the very rapid growth in the production of US crude oil, natural gas liquids, and biofuels.

However, debt is reaching limits because these very low interest rates have encouraged unwise investments. In China, more factories and homes have been built than the market can absorb. In the US, oil "liquids" production rose faster than it could be absorbed by the world market when prices were over $100 per barrel. While oil may drop to a very low price, say $20 per barrel, the world economy could probably absorb it, but such a low selling price doesn't really "work" because of the high cost of production.

The US government has recently decided to raise interest rates. This further reduces the buying power of non-elite workers, leaving a surplus of commodities, which results in commodity prices falling below the cost of production. Many defaults may occur.

China has acted as a major growth pump for the world for the last 15 years. Its growth was financed by a huge increase in debt. Low interest rates encouraged investors to make unwise investments. Paying back this debt is likely to be a problem.

If debt is contracting, asset prices (such as stock prices and the price of land) are likely to fall. Banks are likely to fail, unless they can transfer their problems to others - like those with bank deposits. Governments will find it more expensive to borrow money and to obtain revenue through taxation. Many governments may fail as well for that reason. doclink

Imagining a World Without Growth

December 1, 2015, New York Times   By: Eduardo Porter

The spectre of climate change has caused us to stop and think about whether or not we need to stop or reverse growth.

In study titled "Growth, degrowth and climate change: A scenario analysis," Peter Victor of York University in Canada compared Canadian carbon emissions under three economic paths to the year 2035. Stopping growth had only a modest impact on carbon emissions. Only "de-growth" would slash emissions in a big way. Under the de-growth scenario, Canadians' per capita income would shrink to its level in 1976 and the average working hours of employed Canadians would decline by 75%.

Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich has been arguing for decades that we must slow both population and consumption growth. "Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist," he said, quoting economist Kenneth Boulding.

Tim Jackson of the Sustainable Development Commission made a calculation under the assumption that citizens of developing nations are entitled to catch up with the living standards of Europeans by midcentury, and also assuming that Europe will grow by 2% a year between now and then. To stay under the 2 degree Centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) increase that scientists generally consider the upper bound to avoid catastrophic climate change would require the world economy in 2050 to emit no more than six grams of carbon dioxide for every dollar of economic output. Considering that today the United States economy emits 60 times that much and that the most carbon-efficient economy, in France, powered extensively by nuclear energy, emits 150 grams per dollar of output, staying under the 2 degree limit seems impossible.

India is demanding "carbon space" from the rich world, which requires that advanced nations deliver negative emissions - suck more carbon out of the atmosphere than they put in - so the world's poor countries could burn their way to development as the rich countries have done for the last two centuries.

For thousands of years there was little or no economic growth. Much of Europe experienced no growth at all in the 500 years that preceded the Industrial Revolution. In India, real incomes per person shrank continuously from the early 17th through the late 19th century.

About 200 years ago growth took off by means of carbon-based energy, most of it derived from fossil fuels like coal and petroleum.

No matter how compelling, the proposition of no growth has absolutely no chance to succeed, because our fossil-fueled growth has delivered gains in living standards in even the poorest regions of the world.

Economic development was indispensable to end slavery and was a critical precondition for the empowerment of women. Democracy would not have survived without it.

Zero growth gave us Genghis Khan and the Middle Ages, conquest and subjugation. The only mechanism to get ahead was to plunder one's neighbor.

Naomi Klein, newly converted to the environmental cause, gleefully proposes climate change as an opportunity to put an end to capitalism. Were she right, it is doubtful we will see the workers' utopia she appears to yearn for. In a world economy that does not grow, the powerless and vulnerable are the most likely to lose.

The good news is that we need not do any such thing. There are technological paths that will allow civilization to keep growing and afford the world economy a positive-sum future.

The question brought out by climate change is how to fully develop and deploy sustainable energy technologies - in a nutshell, to help the world's poor, and everybody else, onto a path to progress that doesn't rely on burning buried carbon. doclink

Karen Gaia says: The old 'technology will take care of it' argument. And no word of finite resources.

Yes, there is some hope in renewables, but it is lunacy to count on them to be developed to a scope large enough to do the job. Energy demand is projected to double this century as more people aspire to have automobiles. Except for the very poor, everyone must curtail their consumption. What with resource depletion, which the author does not mention, we cannot keep on going unless large scale renewables are in place before we run out of recoverable oil.

The author gives no attention to family planning and how making it possible for women to control their own reproduction will reduce energy demand, costing only US $1.11 per ton far more than any renewable energy alternative. Family planning will help women be more resilient and empower them.

In addition, there is no mention of depletion of water, and arable land - and how severely it, along with energy, will impact civilization and

The World Hits Its Credit Limit, and the Debt Market is Starting to Realize That

October 18, 2015, Zero Hedge   By: Tyler Durden

In a critical report Citigroup's Matt King asked "has the world reached its credit limit?"

Even as central banks have continued pumping record amount of liquidity in the market, the market's response has been increasingly shaky. There is too much global debt accumulating at an ever faster pace, while global growth is stagnant and in fact declining. As of early 2014, total debt build up among US corporations was 35% higher than its prior peak, as was net debt.

It used to be that incremental debt results in incremental growth, but now we are currently in an unprecedented place where economic textbooks no longer work, and where incremental debt leads to a drop in global growth.

The world is now tapped out, and there are virtually no pockets for credit creation left at the consolidated level, between household, corporate, financial and government debt.

Although large corporations seem to have no problems with accessing debt markets and raising capital, the biggest use of proceeds is stock buybacks, thereby creating a vicious cycle, in which the rising stock prices courtesy of more debt, is giving debt investors the impression that the company is far healthier than it actually is precisely because it has more, not less, debt!

The debt build up among US corporations has more than surpassed the increase in cash. In early 2014, total debt was 35% higher than its prior peak, as was net debt.

IBM, for example, bought back so much stock its investment grade rating was put in jeopardy and the company has seen its stock languish ever since. doclink

The World Economic Order is Collapsing and This Time There Seems No Way Out

The refugee crisis is paralleled by the savage fallout from a global financial system running out of control
October 10, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Will Hutton

Over the last 70 years there has been nothing like the millions of refugees fleeing from Middle Eastern conflict, voting with their feet, despairing of their futures. The catalyst: failing states and the grip of Islamic fundamentalism, shows no sign of disappearing.

In the economic order there is another collapse that is less conspicuous: the hundreds of billions of dollars fleeing emerging economies such as Brazil and China. Banks have lent trillions that will never be repaid. Capital flight and bank fragility are profound dysfunctions that will surface as real-world economic dislocation.

The IMF warned last week of excess credit globally and weakening global economic growth. An international co-ordinated response is needed, but the anti-state philosophies of the dominant Anglo-Saxon political right in the US and UK makes such intervention unlikely.

The world financial system that has gone rogue. Global banks make profits from doing business with each other, creating money out of nothing. Creating credit depends on the truth that not all depositors will want their money back simultaneously.

In the past, lending was carefully regulated by national central banks, but with a global banking system, central banks are less able to monitor and control what is going on. Cash generated out of nothing can be lent in countries where the economic prospects look superficially good. Property prices rise. Companies and households grow overconfident about their prospects and borrow freely. Economies surge well above their trend growth rates and all seems well until something - a collapse in property or commodity prices - unravels the whole process. Bust banks and governments are left picking up the pieces.

The Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane delineates the crisis into three parts. The first took place in Britain and the US during 2007-08. Throughout the previous decade high inflows of globally generated credit had created false booms, after which overconfident banks found that they had lent too much. Collateral behind derivatives was worthless. Britain's banking system lost money and was going bust, to rescued by £1 trillion of liquidity and special injections of public capital.

The second part took place in in Europe during 2011-12. Lending had been made on the incorrect assumption that all eurozone countries were equal, and when it became obvious that they were not, money flooded out and the only thing holding the line was extraordinary printing of money by the European Central Bank and tough belt-tightening measures in overborrowed countries such as Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

In the third part, emerging market economies (EMEs), countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, China, all rode high on sky-high commodity prices and wild lending. China manufactured more cement from 2010-13 than the US had produced over the entire 20th century. Only a few of the many loans the China banks made can ever be repaid. China's real growth is now below that of the Mao years: the economic crisis will spawn a crisis of legitimacy for the deeply corrupt communist party. Commodity prices have plunged. The EMEs do not have a Federal Reserve or European Central Bank to rescue them.

Yet these nations now account for more than half of global GDP.

Needed is a bigger, reinvigorated IMF that can rescue the EMEs and properly supervision of global finance. It needs western governments to launch massive economic stimuli, centred on infrastructure spending. It needs new smart monetary policies that allow negative interest rates.

None of that is in prospect, vetoed by an ideological right and not properly championed by the left. If there is no will to deal, collectively, with the refugee crisis, there is even less to reorder the global economy. We may muddle through, but don't bet on it. doclink

Karen Gaia says: What hope do we have of a benevolent IMF? Our own Federal Reserve has given to the rich and left 90% of our population struggling. The IMF does not, and cannot be counted on to, take into account resource depletion and the vast inequities of resources that led to conflict in the first place. Resource depletion is the primary reason conflict is increasing and world economy is crashing in the first place. Debt and lending were only a incorrectly perceived way to put off the limitations of a finite planet. The entire exercise only succeeded in leaving the rich richer and the poor poorer. Now the rich will squander the remainder of world's resources in a war to wrestle resources from each other.

Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal

February 17, 2015, Stratfor Global Intelligence   By: George Friedman

In George Friedman's book The Next 100 Years, he says that there is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic.

The population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies the birthrate among women has been declining. The world is urbanizing and, as it does, the economic value of children declines and people have fewer children For most people, a family of eight children would be a financial catastrophe. Therefore, women have two children or fewer, on average.

The contraction of the population, particularly during the transitional period before the older generations die off, will leave a relatively small number of workers supporting a very large group of retirees, particularly as life expectancy in advanced industrial countries increases. In addition, the debts incurred by the older generation would be left to the smaller, younger generation to pay off.

Given this, the expectation is major economic dislocation.

The most obvious solution to this problem is immigration. The problem is that there are cultural problems with integrating immigrants. In addition some of the historical sources of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexico, are exporting fewer immigrants. As Mexico moves up the economic scale, emigration to the United States will decline.

But does a declining population really matter?

If the downward curve in gross domestic product matched the downward curve in population, per capita GDP would be unchanged. But there is no reason to think that GDP would fall along with population. The capital base of society, its productive plant as broadly understood, will not dissolve as population declines.

One of the key variables mitigating the problem of decreasing population would be continuing advances in technology to increase productivity. Growths in individual working productivity have been occurring in all productive environments from the beginning of industrialization, and the rate of growth has been intensifying.

Throughout the history of modern industrialism and capitalism, there has always been a surplus of labor. Now, for the first time in 500 years, this situation is reversing itself. Since fewer humans are being born, the labor force will contract and the price of all sorts of labor will increase. In the past, the scarce essential element has been capital. But now capital, understood in its precise meaning as the means of production, will be in surplus, while labor will be at a premium.

This would raise per capita GDP and the actual distribution of wealth would shift.

In the recent period of time the accumulation of wealth has shifted dramatically into fewer hands, and the gap between the upper-middle class and the middle class has also widened. If the cost of money declined and the price of labor increased, the wide disparities would shift, and the historical logic of industrial capitalism would be, if not turned on its head, certainly reformulated.

The decline in the value of housing will put the net worth of the middle and upper classes at risk, while adjusting to a world where interest rates are perpetually lower than they were in the first era of capitalism would run counter to expectations and therefore lead financial markets down dark alleys. Since the decline in population is transparent and highly predictable, there is time for homeowners, investors and everyone else to adjust their expectations.

Population decline will significantly transform the functioning of economies, but will not represent a catastrophe. In the past 500 years bankers and financiers have held the upper hand; now in a labor-scarce society, having pools of labor to broker will be the key. doclink

Kick it Over Manifesto

January 5, 2015, Kick It Over

We, the economics students of the world, make this accusation:

That you, the teachers of neoclassical economics and the students that you graduate, have perpetuated a gigantic fraud upon the world.

You claim to work in a pure science of formula and law, but yours is a social science, with all the fragility and uncertainty that this entails. We accuse you of pretending to be what you are not.

You hide in your offices, protected by your jargon, while in the real world forests vanish, species perish, human lives are ruined and lost. We accuse you of gross negligence in the management of our planetary household.

. . . more doclink

The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System

Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other.
May 28, 2014, Common Dreams   By: George Monbiot

According to Jeremy Grantha's calculations, if one cubic meter grew by a compounded 4.5% since 3030 BC, it would now occupy 2.5 billion billion solar systems. The point is that our target of 4.5% growth is unsustainable, especially if you begin with today's very large world GDP. Yet the economic model in today calls for continuous compound growth in the range of 4.5% throughout the world. That would be enough to support population growth and allow most people to live a little better each year. Considering this, we can quickly reach the paradoxical conclusion that we have based our economic model on a doomed formula. To fail is bad, but to succeed is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we face. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, simple math shows that endless compound growth is impossible.

Before we began using fossil fuels, every industrial growth spurt collapsed. But coal, oil, etc. broke this cycle and enabled - for a few hundred years - the phenomenon we now call sustained growth. Neither capitalism nor communism were responsible; they were mere ideological subplots. It was coal, followed by oil and gas - a carbon-fueled expansion. Now, as the most accessible reserves have been exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain the momentum. We go on extracting fossil fuels and perusing our doomed growth strategy without considering where is headed. The scouring of the planet has just begun. As the global economy continues expanding, we will seek out every resource deposit, extract and disperse its treasure, and reduce that place to a potentially hazardous cleanup site.

Iron ore production increased 180% in ten years. Even paper consumption is at a record high level and still growing. If, in the digital age, we don't reduce paper consumption, what hope is there for using less fuels and other commodities?

The super-rich set the pace by consuming far more than they can use. Are their yachts and houses getting smaller? To supply this wasteful demand, we race to extract ever more of our non-replenishable resources.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, continuing compound growth means that if last year's predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if miraculously we were to reduce the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. The unavoidable failure of building a society on endless growth and the resulting destruction of the Earth's living systems are the overwhelming, yet rarely mentioned, facts of our existence.

The topic is guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbors. People would rather focus on the standard middle class conversation topics: recipes, renovations and resorts. Talk of the obvious outcome of basic arithmetic is brushed aside, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn't worthy of mention. You can measure the depth of this problem by our inability even to discuss it. doclink

Birth Control Saves Money. Lots of It.

July 9, 2014, VOX Media   By: Ezra Klein

A simple fact about contraception seems to get lost in much of the coverage: A study of Medicaid found that contraceptive services saved $4.26 for every dollar invested.

Insurers pay $18,329 for the average vaginal delivery and $27,866 for the average C-section (prices for the uninsured are much higher: $30,000-$50,000). Nearly half of these pregnancies are unplanned - and direct costs from unintended pregnancies total more than $5 billion annually. On the other hand, contraception costs $100-$600 annually and cuts the risk of unplanned pregnancies to nearly nothing. Estimates of the savings vary: $6,000-$10,000 per person for every two years on contraception; another: $13,000 over five years of contraceptive coverage.

These estimates don't count how much more money a women made over her lifetime because her education or her career wasn't interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. And they don't count, of course, the emotional benefits of being able to plan when to start a family.

A program in Colorado provided free contraceptive services to low-income women and teens resulting to a drop in teen births falling of 40%. Governor John Hickenlooper said the program saved Colorado millions of dollars and helped thousands of young Colorado women continue their education,.

A National Business Group on Health study in 2000 showed that employers who didn't offer contraceptive coverage spent 15-17% more because of the costs of pregnancy and reduced productivity. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I read somewhere that it costs around $200,000, on average, to raise a child.

Why the Next 20 Years Will Be Completely Unlike the Last 20

Presenting the 'Accelerated' Crash Course
June 20, 2014, Peak Prosperity   By: Adam Taggart

Let's pull back for a moment and look at the Really Big Picture:

We're facing a future in which the economic growth the world has enjoyed over the past century can no longer continue.

Over-indebtedness, mal-investment, cronyism, manipulation, and misguided policymaking have all certainly contributed to our current predicament. But the principal causes are much bigger. And much harder to address.

Simply put, we're entering an era when it's becoming increasingly difficult to obtain the resources we need -- at the cost we need -- to power the economic activity we need.

The trends of resource depletion, escalating mining & drilling costs, species die-offs, emptying aquifers, declining energy yields and the like are increasingly pitting the world's 7 billion people (soon to be 9 billion before 2050) against each other in competition for the remaining biomass and minerals that make industry possible.

As a result, massive changes to our way of life are in store. No matter where each of us lives.

This brand-new video shines a bright light on these trends and the risks we face as a result. But it also offers hope. If we take action now, while there's still time, there's much we can do not only to reduce our personal vulnerability to these threats, but also to step into this new future with newfound optimism.

Length: Approx. one hour doclink

Karen Gaia says: everyone should see this video.

This is No Recovery, This is a Bubble - and it Will Burst

Stock market bubbles of historic proportions are developing in the US and UK markets. With policymakers unwilling to introduce tough regulation, we're heading for trouble
February 24, 2014, Mail and Guardian   By: Ha-joon Chang

In the UK the current levels of share prices are extraordinary considering UK economy has not yet recovered the ground lost since the 2008 crash and per capita income in the UK today is still lower than it was in 2007. Also share prices back in 2007 were themselves definitely in bubble territory of the first order.

Even more worrying is the situation in the US. The Standard & Poor 500 stock market index reached the highest ever level in March, surpassing the 2007 peak, even though the country's per capita income had not yet recovered to its 2007 level. Since then, the index has risen about 20%, although the US per capita income has not increased even by 2% during the same period. This is definitely the biggest stock market bubble in modern history.

No one is offering a plausible narrative explaining why the evidently unsustainable levels of share prices are actually justified.

During the dotcom bubble, the predominant view was that the new information technology was about to completely revolutionise our economies for good. Given this, it was argued, stock markets would keep rising (possibly forever) and reach unprecedented levels.

Unfortunately these stock market bubbles of historic proportion which are developing in the US and the UK - the two most important stock markets in the world - are threatening to create yet another financial crash.

One obvious way of dealing with these bubbles is to take the excessive liquidity that is inflating them out of the system through a combination of tighter monetary policy and better financial regulation against stock market speculation. Of course, the danger here is that these policies may prick the bubble and create a mess. doclink

Karen Gaia says: few economists take into consideration what the depletion of natural resouces does to the economy, especially energy resources and the energy it takes to produce them. We are currently living on both monetary debt and the over-withdrawal of non renewable natural resources, and this cannot last.

It's Simple. If We Can't Change Our Economic System, Our Number's Up

It's the great taboo of our age - and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity's undoing
May 27, 2014, Guardian   By: George Montbiot

Although anything close to perpetual growth is unsustainable, our inability to discuss this problem logically could prove our undoing. A calculation by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham shows that after 3000 years of continuous 4.5% growth a single cubic meter would expand to consume 2.5 billion billion solar systems. Considering this example, he concludes that "salvation lies in collapse." To succeed for several generations in meeting our economic expansion goals could lead to our destruction. That is the bind we find ourselves in. Ignore, if you must, climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuous growth impossible.

A few days after scientists predicted the collapse of the west Antarctic ice sheet, the Ecuadorean government decided to allow oil drilling in Yasuni national park. Ecuador had offered to leave the oil in the ground if other governments would pay them half of its profit potential. Be this blackmail or fair trade, poor Ecuador has rich oil deposits, so why leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is taking the money? Ecuador gave the contract to Petroamazonas, a company known for habitat destruction and spills. Petroamazonas may now enter one of the most biodiverse habitats on the planet, where a hectare of rainforest supports more species than exist in all of North America.

In a similar manner, the UK firm Soco hopes to drill in Virunga (Congo), Africa's oldest national park. Virunga is home to endangered mountain gorillas, the okapi, chimpanzees, and forest elephants. Wealthy districts are not exempt. In Britain, possibly 4.4 billion barrels of shale oil may exist in the south-east, so the government is changing the trespass laws to enable drilling without consent while paying off some local people. These new reserves will not for long satisfy our growing needs. Our plans for compound growth have no end in sight, so we will continue scouring of the planet until we have consumed all the extractable oil available. As the global economy expands, all resources will be extracted and dispersed, and some of the world's most biodiverse regions may resemble slag heaps.

While man has occupied the earth for thousands of years, every prior economic expansion collapsed when the growth rate hit a limit. Coal pushed back the barriers and enabled what we now call sustained growth for more than two hundred years. We may credit capitalism for the cumulative wealth of the modern age, but without carbon-fuelled expansion (coal, oil and gas), our current GDP would not be possible. Our economic systems are "mere subplots." Now, with our accessible reserves growing scarce, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our current rates of consumption.

The super-rich now set the pace for global consumption, with giant yachts, personal jets, multiple large homes, they squander scarce resources on things they don't even need. Sensing that this is unsustainable, some now fantasize about colonizing space where an untapped store of new resources awaits us. For those who expect that technological breakthroughs will allow endless growth, the numbers show a different picture. Iron ore production has risen 180% in 10 years. The trade body Forest Industries tells us that, despite digital reading material, "global paper consumption is at a record high level and it will continue to grow." If, we can't cut paper consumption, what hope exists for other commodities?

Efficiency solves nothing so long as growth continues. Philosopher Michael Rowan explains that if we sustain the predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%), even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay collapse by just 75 years. The more we rely on growth, the greater the destruction of the Earth's living systems. But economists rarely mention this. Warnings based on the outcomes of basic arithmetic are conveniently discarded, while the impossible proposition that founds our economy they consider so normal and unremarkable that it isn't worth mentioning. They would rather discuss recipes, renovations and resorts. We can measure the depth of this problem by our inability to even discuss it. doclink

Art says: Reducing population will help, but it will not solve this problem. Even negative growth rates would not restore non-renewable resources. Only a switch to renewable and recyclable resources will solve the long-range problem.

This Planet Comes with Limits

May 8, 2014,   By: Carl Safina

Because economists presuppose that unlimited economic growth is necessary and also believe adding billions more humans to the world is desirable, I would like to share some thoughts about such thinkers, whom I'll call "Growthers."

Growthers and I agree that it's great that farmers can grow more food on fewer acres than in the past. We disagree utterly on why it's great. Growing food with increasing efficiency could solve human hunger and the need to give space back to other animals who need it -- if humanity doesn't continue to grow.

But no-limits people want more food to feed more mouths. That keeps civilization on an endless treadmill of running faster to stay in place. It means that more efficient food-growing accomplishes nothing. It means that more food will not end hunger.

Digital tech saves us time. It doesn't save elephants and apes, lions and tigers, bears and eagles, salmon and rivers, orchids and forests, giraffes and pandas, coral reefs and turtles.

It's only fair to poor people to let them in on the main secret of wealthy, educated and successful people: smaller families mean larger lives. In the happiest of coincidences, the thing that brings fertility down fastest happens to be the same thing that brings down poverty: educating girls.

Illiterate women bear three times as many children as do literate women, and their children tend to stay poor. Meanwhile, each year of schooling raises women's earning power by 10% to 20%. And when people are a little better off, they desire fewer children. doclink

Economists' Growth Insanity

April 29, 2014, MAHB - Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere   By: Paul R. Ehrlich

People that want to keep growing the GDP do not seem to understand that continued growth will destroy our civilization.

Even most smart economists, like Paul Krugman, for example, cannot get over the notion that growth is necessary to solve human problems. Krugman recently was seen on TV talking about how to get growth without bubbles, suggesting that Japan's growth had slowed partly because of its demographic situation.

If economists could (or would) take into account the ongoing depreciation of the planet's natural capital, it is likely that economic growth has already halted, along with (as economists ironically have demonstrated) the growth of human satisfaction.

The critical economic question today is simply: "is there a humane, equitable, and well-being-providing substitute for physical growth and, if so, how can we transition to it?

Economics may be the discipline that has the most to contribute to avoiding a collapse of civilization. It's a great pity that most economists are growthmaniacs -- very much part of the problem rather than the solution. doclink

27 Huge Red Flags for the U.S. Economy

May 20, 2014, The Economic Collapse   By: Michael Snyder

As we look toward the second half of 2014, there are economic red flags all over the place. Industrial production is down. Home sales are way down. Retail stores are closing at the fastest pace since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. U.S. household debt is up substantially, and in 20 percent of all U.S. families everyone is unemployed. In so many ways, what we are witnessing right now is so similar to what we experienced during the build up to the last great financial crisis.

The following are 27 huge red flags for the U.S. economy... (Note: not all are covered here. Click on the link in the headline to see.)

#1 The number one concern for U.S. voters is "Unemployment/Jobs" according to a recent Gallup survey.

#2 Sales for equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, good indicator of where the global economy is going, Unfortunately, were down 13% last month and have now experienced year over year declines for 17 months in a row.

#3 During the first quarter of 2014, profits at office supply giant Staples fell by 43.5 percent.

#6 The labor force participation rate for Americans from the age of 25 to the age of 29 has fallen to an all-time record low.

#7 According to official government numbers, everyone is unemployed in 20% of all American families.

#8 As families struggle to pay their bills, many of them are increasingly turning to debt in order to make ends meet.

#9 Interest rates on student loans are scheduled to increase substantially on July 1st...

#11 Manufacturing job openings in the United States have declined for four months in a row.

#12 Existing home sales have fallen for seven of the last eight months and seem to be repeating a pattern that we witnessed back in 2007 prior to the last financial crash.

#14 The homeownership rate in the United States has dropped to the lowest level in 19 years.

#16 Jan Loeys, JPMorgan's head of global asset allocation, is warning that the Federal Reserve is creating a huge financial bubble which could "push us into a credit crisis"...

#17 Peter Boockvar, the chief market analyst at the Lindsey Group, is warning that the U.S. stock market could experience a 20 percent decline once quantitative easing completely ends.

#20 Poverty continues to grow all over the country, and right now there are 49 million Americans that are dealing with food insecurity.

#21 According to Pew Charitable Trusts, tax revenue in 26 U.S. states is still lower than it was back in 2008 even though tax rates have gone up in many areas since then.

#23 Climatologists are now saying that the state of Texas is going through the worst period of drought that it has experienced in 500 years.

#25 It is being projected that the drought in California will cost the agricultural industry 1.7 billion dollars and that approximately 14,500 agricultural workers will lose their jobs.

#26 Due in part to the drought, the price of meat rose at the fastest pace in more than 10 years last month. doclink

Three Reasons Investors Are Beginning to Take Sustainability Seriously

May 21, 2014, World Resources Institute - WRI   By: Janet Ranganathan

At an annual conference of the CFA Institute there was a session on sustainable investing.

Essential parts of sustainability are food, clean water, pollination, and hazard protection. Business models that exploit these put pressure on the Earth's natural resources.

This session made three points:

1. Environmental degradation and the impacts of climate change are material business risks

Consider the case of Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest beer brewer. Drought in the U.S. Pacific Northwest in 2001 severely affected its operations. When the amount of water available for irrigation dipped, the price of barley, a key ingredient in beer, skyrocketed. At the same time, the availability of aluminum for cans dropped as smelters, which rely on low-cost power from hydroelectric dams, reduced output because of rising electricity prices.

2. Companies that damage the environment can no longer hide

In a similar case, the world-renowned Gibson Guitar Company's reputation was tarnished after it had to pay a fine for its use of exotic wood imported from Madagascar and India.

3. Sustainability is a major driver of business strategy and competitiveness

Philips has committed to investing €2bn (£1.6bn) in green product innovation by 2015. And Wilmar, a leading Asian agribusiness group, which trades more than 45%of the global palm oil supply, is committed to a deforestation-free supply chain.

It will not be easy, but the consequences of business as usual are unthinkable. As Nelson Mandela said: "It always seems impossible until it's done." doclink

Charles Plosser Thinks There's a Ticking Time Bomb at the Fed

May 20, 2014, Marketwatch   By: Jeffry Bartash

The Federal Reserve is sitting on a ticking time bomb that could severely damage the economy.

There $2.5 trillion excess reserves sitting in the Federal Reserve, available for loanable funds to individual or corporate borrowers through the nation's banks. However demand for loans has been unusually weak amid an economic recovery that's the slowest on record since the Great Depression.

The Fed has created these reserves through unpredented purchases of U.S. Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, a strategy known as quantatative easing.

If borrowing begins to surge and those reserves start to pour out of the banking system, "that's going to put pressure on inflation," Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser said. This might force the Fed to raise interest rates faster and earlier than it would like and perhaps slam the breaks on the economic harm in the process

In the past this was avoided simply by not creating so much excess reserves in the first place. If the excess reserves did not exist, banks could not lend out too much money and trigger an inflationary spiral.

"We have to restrain the pace at which banks lend those reserves out," Plosser said. Go too fast and economic growth could get stunted. Go too slow and inflationary pressures would build rapidly. In the past, Plosser asserted, the Fed has almost always reacted too late.

There is considerable contention about how fast the reserve funds should be drawn down.

When the Fed ends its bond-buying campaign the central bank's total balance sheet could reach a record $4.5 trillion. doclink

Karen Gaia says: sounds like a Ponzi scheme which benefits only the rich and fails in the long run. Our energy-hungry economy is now seeing the effects of a lower EROI and more costly extraction methods. It we're not careful, we will spend our precious energy on things we don't need or that won't work, or are more inefficient than alternatives.

UK Population Growing Faster Than Economy

March 25, 2013, Population Matters

Commentators on the Budget do not seem to have noticed that, while GDP is forecast to grow at 0.6%, the population is growing at 0.7%. While this continues, it means that GDP per capita will steadily shrink by 0.1% per year, Population Matters pointed out today.

"Income per person is clearly vastly more important to people than any growth in that slippery abstraction 'the economy','" said Population Matters Chair Roger Martin. "s long as our numbers keep rising, currently at the rate of one new Liverpool every year, any amount of 'economic growth' will to some extent just be running to stand still - or in this case to run backwards more slowly.

"t present, we have to produce enough new jobs, houses, roads, power stations, schools, hospitals, fire and police stations, water supplies, waste facilities etc to meet the needs of a new Liverpool every year, just to stand still in standards of service, before anyone is actually better off," he went on. "This is really recurrent expenditure (like depreciation) rather than capital 'investment' (a current sacrifice for future gain); so it increases the long-term deficit and loads more debt onto our children, while taking money out of current consumption, and trashing our little planet even faster.

Whatever GDP does, carbon emissions and congestion will certainly rise with population, however, and food, water and energy security - and quality of life - will go down. England is already the most crowded country in Europe, and not getting any bigger. Our polls show that 80% of us already want a smaller population; yet the ONS projections for 2050 show us somewhere between 67 and 87 million - or nine and 53 more Liverpools!"

"The economic case for a Population Stabilisation Strategy is just as overwhelming as the environmental and social case. The pundits really must end their bizarre indifference to this issue", he concluded. doclink

Swiss Insurer Invests $1b to Fight Global Warming

November 14, 2013,   By: Mark Thompson

The Swiss financial services group, Zurich Insurance, plans to invest about 0.5% of its $200 billion portfolio in green bonds issued by the World Bank and other institutions to support sustainable growth and development without sacrificing financial returns. This investment will make the group the biggest holder of dollar-denominated green bonds, holding about 10% of the global market.

Impact investing is becoming increasingly popular with both institutions and individuals who want to do good while making money. The global financial meltdown, financial scams and Wall Street misconduct have left many people disillusioned with traditional investments. A growing awareness of inequality and diminishing natural resources has also helped fuel a hunger to do good with finance, particularly among young people.

Extreme weather, such as floods and typhoons, has caused $76 billion of insured losses in east Asia over the past three decades.

Naderev Sano, of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, said that the highest increase in measured sea levels over the past seven decades "has been in the waters just east of the Philippines." ... "you shouldn't wait for full scientific certainty before doing something or taking action." .. "How many lives do we want to lose, not just in the Philippines but in communities that have other climate impacts?"

Zurich will finance initiatives such as an energy efficiency project in Turkey aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 1.4 million tons per year by investing in solar, geothermal and other renewable resources. doclink

Growth is Obsolete

Society needs to realize growth does not equal prosperity
October 15, 2013, Chris Martensen's Peak Prosperity   By: James H. Kunstler

Reverend Malthus's notorious Essay on the Principle of Population was first published in 1798, about the same time the industrial revolution - which ran on fossil fuel - got started.

First coal allowed populations to expand because it extended the extractive reach for resources by colonialist nations.

Then oil - which was better than coal for converting fuel into food - ran farming machines, was made into oil and gas based herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers, and transported food over long distances, leading to the "hockey-stick" swerve of population growth that took human numbers worldwide from under 2 billion in the year 1900 to more than 7 billion today.

Now we have reached the end of cheap oil, which is misunderstood because people don't see us running out of oil. But it's about running out of cheap oil, the oil that was extracted at a price we can afford in terms of available capital and energy invested (and also ecological destruction).

Sadly, oil is now too expensive to permit further expansion of economies and populations, impacting virtually every system we need to run modern life: transportation, commerce, food production, governance, for example. Expensive oil means that not enough new wealth can be generated to repay previously accumulated debt, and new credit cannot be extended without a reasonable expectation that more new wealth will be generated to repay it. This destroys the cost structures of banking and finance. Attempts are made to "offset the failure to create new real wealth with fake wealth generated by accounting fraud, "innovative" swindling, insider chicanery, high frequency front-running, naked shorting of securities, and the construction of a vast untested network of derivative counterparty wagers that give every sign of being booby-trapped."

Our smartest people are tied up making a profit from oil, absorbing all their energies and they don't have time to figure out a sane and practical way to run civilization in the absence of cheap energy.

For example, the "innovation" in securitizing and repackaging mortgages expresses itself in the activity we call "housing starts," which economists agree are a good thing for the economy and hence for society. But these housing starts manifest themselves in new suburban housing subdivisions, strip malls, big box stores, producing more suburban sprawl and destruction of rural land, which is about the last thing this society needs when faced with the realities of peak cheap oil, since it is absolutely certain to make these things obsolete, and very soon.

"Shovel-ready" highway projects are another fiscal outlay playing to the fantasy that the Happy Motoring matrix will go on forever. But "oil will never be cheap again; it will impair future capital formation; there will be far fewer car loans; there will dwindling public funds to maintain the roads; and there is no practical substitute for gasoline that scales to the existing system, nor any prospect of one within a time frame that makes sense -- not to mention the gigantic background problem of pouring evermore carbon into the sky." doclink

Top 10 Policies for a Steady-State Economy

October 29, 2013, CASSE Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy

Herman Daly offers ten ideas as an economic guideline for a more sustainable future. His "steady state economy" explains how to slow the rate of consumption to support a quality life without overwhelming the restorative capacity of our ecosystem. It channels energies toward improving science, technology, and ethics, while discouraging the over-consumption of resources and placing more limits on those who pollute. In the interest of space I have merged or omitted several of Daly's ideas.


Each year the government can auction a limited set of rights to consume resources that are scarce or contribute to pollution (e.g. fossil fuels, timber and wild fish). This would prevent over-consumption and create new revenues for "equitable redistribution." The auction revenues can replace several regressive taxes to reduce the burden on those with the lowest incomes. Third parties can freely buy and sell any portion of the quotas purchased at auction. The cap ensures sustainable limits; the auction serves the goal of fair distribution; and trading enables efficient allocation.

An excise tax or quota might be necessary to prevent the rich from always outbidding the poor for end products such as fuel or fresh fish. As an alternative or supplement to the cap-auction-trade system, Daly advocates "ecological tax" reform.  Disincentivize pollution and resource depletion by taxing them, and encourage conservation and the wise use of those resources by not taxing work and investment activities which serve that end. Miners and drillers should pay, not just the cost of extracting natural resources; but also the cost of buying those resources from the public's reserves. Economists have long advocated taxing our resource heritage both for efficiency and equity reasons.

Work toward major income redistribution: 

Perhaps we can't steal form the rich to give to the poor, but we can and should seek fair limits on the range of inequality. The GINI index shows that most prosperous nations enjoy far more equitable ranges of income distribution than we do. Our vast income differences undermine the sense of community we need for democratic harmony. Separated by income differentials of 500%, our rich and poor share few common interests or experiences, and that can lead to social unrest (or recessions).

More and better jobs might help to raise peoples' incomes, but that normally translates into greater productivity and consumption. Other industrial nations that have achieved a better distribution of wealth often spread the work around more by encouraging higher wages, shorter hours and more opportunities for part-time work, longer vacations, extended leaves, etc. Use of the GDP index should also be modified or replaced by a measure that better reflects all of the costs and benefits associated with sustainability and quality of life.   International trade agreements and regulations:

To make American products price-competitive in international trade, companies have forced our workers to do more for less.  To reverse that course, we must renegotiate our trade agreements based on the interests of both our workers and our corporations.  No one can force our nation to sign trade agreements that sell out the interests of American workers.

Those who prefer our markets to our products must be told that we will sign only those agreements that serve the interests of all concerned.  To sell in the U.S., a company or nation must agree to a mutually advantageous set of rules.  This "new protectionism," as critics might dub it, does not shelter inefficient domestic firms. Inefficient firms will still face pressures from both foreign and domestic competitors, as they do now. Our current agreements coupled with free capital mobility leads to a standards-lowering competition that favors price above fairness or human and environmental costs. The new rules "count all the costs," including environmental costs and the fairness of our trade deals with all major partners.

Current WTO agreements allow some nations to set tariffs on what they import from us. If tariffs have a legitimate place in our economy, it should be to ensure that all nations have a healthy balance of trade (i.e., they consume as much as they produce).  Such a change will run afoul of existing WTO, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund agreements, so we must take a firm stand to change those agreements and several international commerce regulations. The new rules must not only help to level the working field, they must also require all firms to pay the social and environmental costs they inflict.

Population and prosperity: 

We should support initiatives for family planning and make contraception available everywhere. Nations that don't support the family planning initiatives of poor nations may find it difficult to stem the flow of desperate immigrants. Nations often accept immigrants for humanitarian reasons or to help fill labor shortages, but they need reasonable, democratically enacted immigration laws to avoid being overrun by the surplus populations of other nations.

We can help to slow this invasion by assisting poor nations. Instead of saddling poor nations with large interest-bearing loans that drive them deeper into debt, we should assist them with free and actively shared knowledge and small grants that enable people help themselves. We should compensate the holders of patents and intellectual property rights in ways that better promote the public good so they do not inhibit the advancement of knowledge and life-saving technologies.

The political environment determines the extent to which we can enact these needed changes. We might expect the new breed of conservatives in the U.S congress to brand most of my proposals as radical. Yet other nations have already enacted some of them and they are seeking solutions to the problems my other ideas address. Some of these ideas may need review and adjustments, but other writers, both current and historical, have offered proposals similar to most of mine.

Rather than attack the basis of our economic system, my proposals call only for reforms and adjustments to make the system sustainable. An endless growth-based system will eventually fail like a Ponzi. For several reasons people have been losing confidence in the fairness of a private ownership economic system where the rich keep gaining the bulk of the wealth. To survive the challenges of the changing world we face, we should consider that private property loses its legitimacy where the rich are disproportionally rewarded; markets lose their legitimacy if prices do not reflect the true costs; and economic rules become absurd if they call for growth beyond the the Earth's capacity. doclink

Our Chat with Jeremy Grantham

He called the Internet bubble, then the housing bubble. What alarm bell is Jeremy Grantham, the chief investment strategist at GMO, ringing about now?
September 5, 2013, Wall Street Journal

Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist at GMO, has a investment advice track record that is hard to beat. He also warns about resources becoming more expensive and about climate change. Because of this record, it is hard to ignore his predictions.

Commodity prices came down for a hundred years by an average of 70%, and then starting around 2002, they shot up and basically everything tripled, he says. This is perhaps due to the ridiculous growth rates in China -- such a large country, with 1.3 billion people using 45% of the coal used in the world, 50% of all the cement and 40% of all the copper. These are numbers that you can't keep on rolling along without expecting something to go tilt.

Grantham says the most valuable and critical resource is phosphate or phosphorous. Phosphorous cannot be made, only placed. We are mining it, and it's depleting. 85% of the low-cost, high-quality phosphorous is in Morocco...and belongs to the King of Morocco, which means the supply is much more constrained than oil in the Middle East ever was. The rest of the world has maybe 50 years of reserve if we don't grow too fast.

Investors are advised to own reserves of phosphorous, potash, oil, copper, tin, zinc, etc. Grantham wouldn't own coal or tar sands because it's hugely expensive to build coal utilities, and the plants they have to build for tar sands are massive, and before they get their money back he suspects that the price of solar and wind will have come down enough to be worthwhile.

Grantham also suggests that investors own very good farmland in distinctly stable countries -- Australia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S.

Politicians and corporations are only interested in the short term. If they are benefiting from the current situation, they don't want change. For example, if the oil industry is making a bundle, they don't want to change to a system that recognizes climate change and the need to have a tax on carbon. So we have vested interests and politicians depend on campaign contributions from the vested interests, so it's a miracle anything gets done.

Grantham was predicting "seven lean years," but with the Fed pushing it, it can go into another bubble. The rising stock prices makes you feel richer and the whole thing bites you, and you have a recession and a bad stock market. doclink

The Great Growth Disconnect: Population Growth Does Not Equal Economic Growth

September 30, 2013, Atlantic Cities, The

While many people use population as a way to gauge regional growth or decline, it actually tells us little about economic growth. A study by José Lobo of Arizona State University and researchers at the Martin Prosperity Institute used figures from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis to track the entire decade of the 2000s.

Trends in population growth and productivity growth (measured as economic output per capita) were examined for all 350-plus U.S. metros.

Roughly 46% of metros had above average population growth, while 43% had above average productivity growth over this period. Fewer than one in five metros experienced both population growth and productivity growth over the past decade. There was no statistical association between the two, according to the team's analysis.

Only one of the top 10 leading population growth metros broke into the top 100 in terms of productivity growth, Austin in 64th place. Six of out of the top 10 metros with the highest rates of population growth saw real declines in productivity over the course of the decade. And the average rate of economic growth across these top 10 metros was also negative, (-0.53 percent per year) and beneath the U.S. metro average (of 0.48 percent annually). When it comes to fast growing large metros, Houston and Atlanta both experienced considerable population growth rates over the past decade, while seeing real declines in productivity over the period.

It's time to put to rest the conventional notion that a growing population equals a growing economy. More than a decade ago, urban economist Paul Gottlieb dubbed this disconnect between population and economic growth "growth without growth," dividing metros into "population magnets," where population grew but not income, and "wealth builders," where incomes rose much faster than population. Population growth, in fact, creates a troubling fake illusion of prosperity.

Follow the link in the headline to see the maps, charts, and graphs. doclink

Workers of the World: Relax! How Can We Create a Successful Economy Without Continuous Economic Growth?

Center for Humans and Nature

Is continuous growth required for economic a success? No, says Italian economist Stefano Bartolini in his Manifesto for Happiness, which the University of Pennsylvania will publish in English this year.

Over the last hundred years, people have consumed more resources than all of their ancestors. We have damaged our farmland soils, drastically reduced our fish stocks, caused the extinction of countless species, and changed our climate. Although our business leaders would have us continue on that course, it is no longer sustainable. Rapid growth actually leads to economic decay.

But the U.S. economy feeds on continuous growth and consumption. We use GDP to gauge our success. It measures the cost of goods and services that we make, buy, and sell. As Bobby Kennedy said, "It measures, in short, everything except that which makes life worthwhile." Bartolini describes how Madison Ave shapes our choices. Want an attractive image? Buy a hot car... Want nature? Fly to a tropical paradise... Of course you will want a big home and yard. So we now have sprawling burbs where public transit is impractical, cars and long commutes are essential, and we see our neighbors mainly through windows. We have less public space and access to nature. What's more, during the past three decades, while GDP doubled, worker earnings stayed flat. To buy more consumer goods, we work longer hours and buy on credit. Straddled with debt, we call for slashing taxes and cutting support for public services, like transportation, education, and public parks. It's a vicious cycle that leads to health problems, stress, anxiety, and high suicide rates.

Our economy may grow faster than Europe's, where people work and consume less and devote more time to social relationships, but as we run ever faster, we never move forward to better lives. As productivity increases, we increase production to maintain jobs. Bartolini says that working less could produce more economic security and allow more time for self-chosen activity -- exercise, gardening, volunteering, environmental restoration and stewardship, socializing, stress-reducing leisure, personal caregiving. We can stretch our job opportunities by sharing and shortening work hours, taking longer vacations, offering liberal family and sick leave policies, and granting even part-time workers more benefits. So, as Canada's Conrad Schmidt says, "Workers of the World, Relax!"

A better measurement of "success" is the first step toward well-being. The Happiness Initiative promotes ten measures of progress and life satisfaction: financial security; environmental quality; physical and mental health; education; arts and culture; government; social connection; workplace quality, and time balance. And the United Nations now advocates "equitable and sustainable well-being," not just GDP growth. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we could take a lesson from Cuba, one of the world's most sustainable countries. Cuba promotes communities and culture. Its per capita GDP is about $9900, compared to $50,000 for the United States.

Getting India Wrong

Critics and supporters of the country's economic liberalisation make the same error-they forget about pollution and population
July 26, 2013, Prospect   By: Partha Dasgupta

Modern development economics puts a lot of emphasis on income growth. The gross domestic product (GDP) -- based on the market value of what a country produces (including services) -- in theory creates employment and investment opportunities as it rises; and as incomes grow, both citizens and government are increasingly able to set aside funds for the things that make for a good life. And a good government would establish conditions that encourage this kind of economic development.

India in the early 1980s initiated a programme of economic liberalisation, and the resulting structural reforms led to the GDP impressively rising to 7.6% annually since 2000. The proportion of people whose incomes are below the country's official poverty line declined from 45% in the early 1980s to 28% in 2005. The decline is impressive, but the latter figure tells us that the country still harbours widespread deprivation.

However, the World Bank tells us that 45% of Indian children under five are underweight and 25% of women remain illiterate, figures that are worse than those in a number of countries that are poorer in terms of GDP per head.

Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya, in their new book, insist that two stages of reforms are necessary for successful long-term economic development: "Track I" reforms, aimed at enabling GDP growth and pulling up the poor; "Track II" reforms aimed at providing healthcare, education and guaranteed employment in rural areas.

Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, also prominent experts on the Indian economy, have studied poverty and hunger over the past 25 years. Focusing on the neglect by successive governments of health and education, they find India wanting. They see a far better pattern of economic development in which GDP growth is to an extent traded off for more rapid improvements in health and education.

Unfortunately the analyses in the two books are based on a belief hallowed by tradition, but is misconceived. The model implicit in the books is one where labor (human capital), knowledge and manufactured capital are the basis of production, exchange and consumption. Nature is hardly mentioned as a player, and the idea that population growth could contribute through habitat destruction to the persistence of poverty and hunger is in neither book.

The problem is that GDP is not a suitable indicator of economic development. Development should instead be assessed on the basis of a comprehensive notion of wealth measured by the social worth of an economy's stock of capital assets, comprising manufactured capital (roads, ports, machinery, and so on), human capital (population size and composition, education, health), knowledge (the arts, humanities, and sciences), and natural capital (ecosystems, sources of water, the atmosphere, land, sub-soil resources). If institutions are weak or simply bad, the social worth of those same assets would be small, and that would translate into a low value of wealth.

GDP is the market value of the flow of final goods and services during a year. The depreciation of capital assets is not counted. If a wetland is drained to make way for a shopping mall, the construction of the latter contributes to GDP, but the destruction of the former goes unrecorded. If the social worth of the mall were less than the social value of the wetland, the economy would have become poorer.

The UN's human development index adopts misleads in the same way: an economy's GDP could be made to grow and its human development index made to improve by "mining" its natural capital.

Both books overlook the importance of "externalities," which are the unaccounted consequences for others (including future generations) of decisions made by each one of us about reproduction, consumption, and use of the natural environment.

Even though empowering women and expanding education certainly help to reduce fertility, a deterioration in the way a community manages the local woodland and water source or in the way the government adjudicates over property rights to forest land may mean an increase in the need for "hands" in each household, which then puts further pressure on the woodland and water source.

Deep connections have been found between the persistence (indeed, often worsening) of rural poverty in the Indian sub-continent and the habitat destruction that has accompanied economic and population growth.

Authors such as Indian economists Narpat S Jodha and Kanchan Chopra, and young economists associated with the South Asian Network of Development and Environmental Economists have found that interactions between people and the environment harbor tipping points, where an unexpected collapse of the rural resource base means a sudden dramatic loss in a community's wealth. Its source could have been population pressure and unprotected property rights over a fragile resource base. Civic strife has been known to follow attempts at migration by local populations. These researchers also found that the claim that "every 1 per cent increase in GDP per head reduces poverty by around 1.7 per cent" is unwarranted.

Neither book broaches the economic distress associated with high population growth in a poor society. India's population has grown at about 1.6% annually.

A recent paper by Kenneth Arrow, Lawrence Goulder, Kevin Mumford, Kirsten Oleson and Partha Dasgupta (the author of this article) tentatively estimated that during 1995-2000 wealth per head in India increased at an average annual rate of only 0.2%. This includes natural capital assets such as forests (as sources of timber), carbon in the atmosphere, land and sub-soil resources. A great swath of ecosystems and sources of water, which many studies show have degraded in recent years, were left unaccounted for because of lack of data). It appears that wealth per head in India may have declined in recent decades. doclink

Growth Bias Busted: Hounding the Pro-growth Media Machine

June 21, 2013, GrowthBiasedBusted website

A website by Dave Gardner of Growth Busters. Rates people and media on their growth-promoting or growth-retarding actions, and places them in a Wall of Fame and a Wall of Shame. doclink

U.S.: The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever Isn't Scary Enough

NPR National Public Radio

The scary chart from the blog Calculated Risk tracks the job market in every U.S. recession and recovery since WWII shows our 2007 employment recession reaching 6% unemployment after 25 months and headed back up to its previous peak.

The chart cuts off when employment gets back to its previous peak. But, because of population growth, getting back to where we were five years ago isn't enough. To get back to full employment, we need to have millions more jobs than we had then.

Another chart, Recessions and Recoveries Since 1948 - source: Bureau of Labor Statistics - shows that, In previous postwar recoveries, the number of jobs was about 7% above its previous peak by this point, on average.

In other words, if this had been a typical recession and recovery, the U.S. economy would now have roughly 10 million more jobs than it did at the previous peak. In fact, there are now three million fewer jobs.

Follow the link in the headline to see the charts. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Not many people make the link from population to the economy. But when energy EROI reaches 10, energy and money will be used to make more energy and diverted from things like industries, computers, health, education, etc., and employment will no longer keep up with population.

Our Investment Sinkhole Problem

February 8, 2013, Financial Sense   By: Gail Tverberg

We have learned to expect that more investment will yield more output, but things don't always work out that way.

Usually GDP growth is a little greater than oil consumption growth. This happens because of (a) Increasing substitution of other energy sources for oil, (b) Increased efficiency in using oil, and (c) A changing GDP mix away from producing goods, and toward producing services, leading to a proportionately lower need for oil and other energy products.

In Saudi Arabia, however, a huge increase in oil consumption does not seem to result in a corresponding rise in GDP. Part of problem is that Saudi Arabia is reaching limits of various types, including inadequate water for a rising population. Adding desalination plants adds huge costs and huge energy usage, but does not increase the standard of living of citizens.

With oil and gas fields it is doubtful that there is an increase in capacity that is proportional to the cost of expensive investment that is needed. New investment just offsets a decline in production elsewhere. It is expensive, but adds little to what gets measured as GDP.

Now the investment sinkhole issue is being seen in the world outside of Saudi Arabia in several forms: water limits that require deeper wells or desalination plants; oil and gas limits that require more expensive forms of extraction; and pollution limits requiring expensive adjustments to automobiles or to power plants.

Higher investment costs mean higher costs of goods using these products which eventually transfer to other products that most of us consider essential: food because it uses much oil in growing and transport; electricity because it is associated with pollution controls; and metals for basic manufacturing, because they also use oil in extraction and transport.

These investment sinkholes mean the economy is becoming less efficient, crowding out other types of investment. From a consumer's point of view, they lead to a rising cost of essential products that can be expected to squeeze out other purchases.

Say, for example, a city government decides to install a desalination plan, because the citizens clearly need the water. But can the citizens afford the desalinated water from their discretionary income? If they spend more on desalinated water, the amount of discretionary income available for other goods will be reduced.

Suppose the air pollution is approaching limits - perhaps too many people in too small a space, and too many waste products for the environment to handle. It is assumed that buyers of electricity or of an automobile will be willing to use some of their discretionary income for pollution control equipment or renewable energy requirements, but these too tend to impose higher costs, and indirectly reduce consumers' discretionary income.

In mining, companies extract the cheapest to extract resources first, and move on to the more expensive to extract resources later, resulting in rising commodity prices.

With energy products, consumers really need the products extracted - the oil to grow the food they eat and for commuting, for example. Oil is the most portable of the world's energy sources, and because of this, is used in powering most types of vehicles and much portable equipment. It is also used as a raw material in many products. As a result, limits on oil supply are likely to have an adverse impact on the economy as a whole, and on economic growth.

New oil development is increasingly occurring in expensive-to-extract locations, such as deep water, Canadian oil sands, arctic oil, and "tight oil" that requires fracking to extract. This oil requires more energy to produce, and more inputs of other sorts, such as water for fracking. Because of rising costs, the price of oil has tripled in the last 10 years.

Worldwide, oil and gas exploration and production spending increased by 19% in 2011 and 11% in 2012, according to Barclays Capital. These investments resulted in only a 0.1% increase in crude oil production in 2011, and 2.2% increase in the first 10 months of 2012, based on EIA data. Natural gas production increased by 3.1% in 2011, according to BP. For 2013, only a 7% increase in worldwide oil and gas investment is predicted by Barclays. Virtually none of the investment growth will come from North America, apparently because oil and gas prices are not currently high enough to justify the high-priced projects needed. This forecast contradicts the IEA claim that North America is on its way to becoming an energy exporter.

To "grow" oil and gas production, businesses will need to keep investing increasing amounts of money (and energy) into oil and gas extraction and prices paid by consumers for oil and gas will need to continue to rise. In the US, the cost of producing shale natural gas is estimated by Steve Kopits of Douglas Westwood to be $8 - far above what it sells for - the Henry Hub spot natural gas price is now only $3.38.

The author suggest that, for most of the developed (OECD) countries, the ultimate impact will be a long-term contraction of the economy.

If more and more investment capital (and physical use of oil) is allocated toward the investment sinkholes, the prices paid for resources that are subject to these sinkholes need to continue to rise, in order to continue to attract enough investment capital. This is true both for goods that directly come from investment sinkholes (oil, gas and water) and from products that depend on rising-cost inputs (such as food and electricity). And products outside of essential goods and services will increasingly be starved of investment capital and physical resources.

People talk about inventing a substitute for oil, but biofuels and intermittent electricity are very poor substitutes. Often substitutes have even higher costs, adding to the investment sinkhole problem, rather than solving it.

When resource prices rise, the impact is felt almost immediately. Salaries don't rise at the same time oil prices rise, so consumers have to cut back on some purchases of discretionary goods and services. The initial impact is layoffs in discretionary sectors of the economy. Then governments need to pay benefits to laid-off workers at the same time they are collecting less in taxes.

As the government attempts to extricate itself from the high level of debt it has gotten itself into, citizens are again likely to see their budgets squeezed because of higher taxes, lay-offs of government workers, and reduced government benefits.

In a way, what we are talking about is the Limits to Growth problem modeled in the 1972 book by that name. It is the fact that we are reaching limits in many ways simultaneously that is causing our problem. doclink

Energy, Economy and the Impending Rite of Passage

January 10, 2013, Resilience

From 1950 to 2007, inflation adjusted per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States generally increased. Throughout 2008, though, US per capita GDP went into a tailspin. Although per capita GDP rebounded since 2009, we have yet to surpass the 'peak' seen in the final quarter of 2007. It is likely we never will.

I could go on at length about outsourcing manufacturing jobs, greedy businessmen and corrupt politicians, but these are all red herrings, distractions from an underlying cause. That underlying cause is energy depletion. The purpose of this essay is to clarify the link between energy depletion and economic performance, and to back up my claim that we may never see US per capita GDP rise to the level it reached before the most recent recession. This essay is not all doom and gloom, however; it will end with a discussion that puts our energy and economic conundrum into a broader perspective that will hopefully empower and motivate readers.

GDP is a measure of the dollar value of all goods and services bought and sold within a defined region. These goods and services don't materialize out of thin air, they're made by someone, often using machines. The machines we use to manufacture products require fuel, such as diesel or electricity, and require energy to build and maintain. Human labor requires food, which, in our modern industrial agriculture, requires fuel to grow. Fuels also don't materialize out of thin air, they're made from energy resources such as oil, natural gas and coal, and these energy resources are the real foundation of our economy. Without energy resources we have no fuel, and without fuel man and machine sit idle and can't produce the goods and services that, when sold, are recorded as GDP. GDP is built on the transformation of energy resources into fuels and the use of those fuels.

Since energy resources power our economy, their prices have powerful economic influence. Most major recessions in recent US history are correlated to periods when energy prices, and therefore consumers' energy expenditures, increased. When consumers' spending on energy remains constant or declines, the economy chugs along fine, but when energy prices increase and force people's energy expenditures upwards, other areas of spending fall (or consumers take on debt that must be repaid with future spending). When non-energy spending falls, businesses outside of the energy sector see lower revenues, and eventually must lay off workers to balance their bottom lines. If people start losing their jobs, public confidence falters, people tighten their spending habits to brace for the worst, banks stop lending, and the economy slides into a recession.

As economic growth resumed in late 2009 after being in a tailspin for over a year, oil prices also began rising and by the end of 2011 had surpassed $100 per barrel. As oil prices rose, fuel prices followed suit as have consumers' energy spending, and now we're at the cusp of another downturn driven by another period of rising energy expenditures.

Transport fuels' importance in our global, mobility-dependent economy drives oil's dominance in our energy mix, as we can't refine usable transport fuels from other energy resources at a reasonable cost.

Oil comes from small aquatic plants and animals which grew in warm, shallow lakes and seas hundreds of millions of years ago. These microscopic critters were fueled by sunlight, either directly or indirectly, so oil is nothing more than a vast stockpile of ancient sunlight stored in the Earth's subsurface. Natural gas and coal shares similar origins to those of oil. Oil, natural gas and coal are still forming within the Earth's crust today, but the rate at which we're extracting them far exceeds their rate of formation. For all practical purposes, they are finite resources.

Decades ago when the first oil well was drilled, the resource was readily accessible from shallow wells dug on land, and the cost was just a few dollars a barrel. It was easy to get oil. Now to retrieve a barrel of oil we need sophisticated technology to drill wells miles below the surface and often beneath miles of ocean, along with massive drilling platforms, toxic hydraulic fracturing fluids, and myriad other costly technologies. Today the costs of adding new extraction capacity often surpass $60 per barrel and sometimes even $100. Oil firms have little incentive to extract expensive oil unless oil prices remain high. When the cost of production is so high that the high oil prices needed to justify extracting the oil drive personal energy expenditures too high and instigate a recession, you have an economic recipe for peak oil. Recessions always reduce demand for oil and other energy resources, prices fall with demand, and prices never remain high enough long enough to convince oil companies to make the needed investments in new, more costly capacity to keep global supply growing. For purely economic reasons oil supply reaches a peak, and as old fields are exhausted and extraction capacity isn't replaced due to the high expense of developing potential resources, supply falls.

The most common oil alternative in the U.S. is natural gas. Not too long ago analysts were concerned about natural gas depletion and predicted a North American supply peak. Up until 2005, US gas production had been on a plateau for decades and seemed poised to decline. Natural gas price spikes were starting to emerge as well, much like they have since 2005 for oil. But along came the highly controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', which involves injecting a mix of toxic, caustic chemicals into gas or oil wells under very high pressure to fracture rock that was otherwise not porous enough for the resources to seep through.

Fracking is banned in many countries and was recently banned in my home state of Vermont. Given that groundwater contamination, unusual seismic activity and a host of other concerns are linked to the practice, it's not clear how long hydraulic fracturing will remain legal in enough regions to deliver continued gas supply growth. The natural gas industry's adoption of fracking speaks to how desperate they and governments are to maintain supplies and moderate prices; if there were more benign methods to bring new supplies to market, firms would be using them. In the same way that oil producers are forced to seek out less accessible deposits to bolster supplies, gas producers are forced to use progressively more debilitating extraction practices to do the same.

Coal is another fossil fuel to consider. For decades political figures have touted coal as the road to American energy independence. Recoverable coal resources are certainly vast, but coal may be nearer its decline phase than many suspect, at least in North America. Despite rising prices, coal production has not increased since about 2000. Productivity at US mines is also falling because mining companies have exhausted their most accessible reserves and remaining reserves are less efficient to mine. Unfortunately the way coal statistics are compiled by the US Energy Information Administration monthly data are not available over a broad enough timespan to present a useful supply curve graph. We're left to wonder whether we also facempeak coal in the United States.

The most well developed alternative energy source aside from fossil fuels is currently nuclear power. Reactor technology has moved forwards in leaps and bounds since the first wave of US reactors was built decades ago, but the accident at Fukushima, Japan in March 2011 raises huge questions about the technology's ability to withstand unexpected events. Several countries, including Germany and Japan, that previously embraced nuclear energy are backing off investments in new plants. And it has been decades since a new plant made it through the permitting process and construction in the United States. And no acceptable, long-term radioactive waste storage facility has been designed and constructed anywhere in the world. Nuclear power plants provide only electricity and restructuring our current transportation infrastructure to run solely on electricity would require massive investments.

Unfortunately the magnitude of our energy-dependence on fossil fuels prohibits replacing them with renewable energy sources.

Although hydroelectric potential throughout the United States is vast, economically developed potential is largely tapped so little growth in this arena is expected. Hydroelectricity will certainly play an important role in the United States' energy mix, but we can't expect it to substitute for declines in the supply of fossil fuels to any meaningful degree.

Biomass, including wood, herbaceous plant material and agricultural residues, can deliver a wide range of liquid, solid and gaseous fuels for space heating, electricity generation and liquid transport fuels. The potential for sustainable biomass use in most developed countries is far less then current fossil fuel use. Biomass currently delivers roughly 4% of the US' primary energy and this figure could be increased to 12%-16%, but this still requires total primary energy demand be reduced radically. Biomass also has relatively low energy density compared to fossil fuels and is costly to transport over long distances, relegating it primarily to local markets.

In theory, solar photovoltaics and wind turbines could provide all of the United States' electricity and all of its energy more generally. The problem is it's cost, key resources such as rare earth elements needed in manufacture, and the fact that they deliver intermittent electricity that must be stored. Storage technologies are poorly developed at the present time, and to switch our infrastructure over to run totally on electricity rather than a mix of electricity and solid, liquid and gaseous fuels would require a magnificent investment.

We'll be using fossil fuels for decades to come. However supplies of these resources will face constraints, and these constraints will factor into price volatility that will challenge our economic productivity. The current recession may not - and probably won't - end.

We need to get used to the idea that high and volatile energy prices are the new normal, and that the strategically wise decision to buffer ourselves from this price volatility is to use less energy. Much less.

While fossil fuel depletion is the cause of our economic woes, we need to realize it's only a proximal cause, a cause one layer beneath the surface. Our limited resources are best put to use dealing with the ultimate cause of our malaise: our worldview.

About 10,000 years ago groups of humans began relying on agriculture as a means of subsistence. Agricultural methods of the time increased the amount of storable calories they could derive from an acre of land, but at a cost: soil degradation and erosion. Millions of tons of topsoil are lost due to erosion every year because of our agricultural practices, whether conventional or organic, and we're rapidly depleting soil carbon and mineral stores. Thousands of years ago our ancestors used agriculture to turn the Fertile Crescent into a desert, and we're replicating this on a grand scale.

The worldview of many in the developed world and an increasing number in the developing world includes the willingness to exhaust and degrade vital resources to create short-term abundance at the cost of long-term resilience. This aspect of our worldview drives modern affluence, and it also drives the emergence of the economic instability.

We decided at the beginning of the fossil fuel era that we were going to get rich quick on Earth's vast stores of ancient sunlight, and we didn't invest a dime figuring out what to do when the cheap energy that delivered that affluence became scarce. This tendency shows itself in our strategies for meeting our need for food through agriculture, our strategies for meeting a variety of needs using finite stocks of fossil fuels, in our willingness to meet various needs at the cost of air, water and soil pollution, and even our willingness to sacrifice community in favor of commodifying relationships as 'services' to be bought and sold.

In some traditional societies, children, often in their early teen years, go through a rite of passage that marks their transition to adulthood. During these rites the child's worldview - which focuses on demanding that their immediate wants and needs are met with little care about the consequences - effectively dies and the child is reborn as an adult with the more mature worldview needed to serve vital roles in their community. In most developed countries children never have an opportunity to do this anymore.

If we accept that emerging scarcities - of energy, soil, clean air, fresh water, healthy food - are here to trigger a reevaluation of our worldview analogous to a rite of passage, then perhaps we can find value in a deeper exploration of these stages. To prepare we need to take stock of the resources we have at our disposal, which may translate to tabulating financial, land-based and community resources.

We must articulate our current energy and economic worldviews and open ourselves up to leaving them behind, putting everything on the table. It's time to ask ourselves hard questions about what's practical and what's not, what delivers resilience and what doesn't, which lifestyle choices can help us regenerate our world and which can't, and what path forward is worth committing to.

Here are some questions we must answer along our rite of passage:

How must our values and goals change so that falling per capita energy consumption and falling personal income don't equate to falling quality of life?

What does it mean for citizens of a developed country to live within their means in the 21st century?

What will it take for these questions and others like them to become part of our national discourse? doclink

Karen Gaia says: and cheap energy also allowed the Green Revolution to flourish, which allowed more people to live, producing a 'people' bubble, which will burst when fertilizers are depleted, water bubbles are burst, and farmland is lost to soil depletion and urbanization.

Have You Had Enough? a Plan for a Sustainable Economy

January 18, 2013,   By: Suzanne York,

Suzanne York, of describes a new book, Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, which constructs a realistic and actionable plan that should guide all of us as we confront increasingly dire and critical issues facing the planet. The book describes how we can transition from a global economic system dependent upon unsustainable and endless growth to a steady-state, prosperous, yet non-growing economy, where there are "stable or mildly fluctuating levels in population and consumption of energy and material."

Solutions include: establishing more worker-owned companies, prohibiting banks from issuing money as debt, local currencies, and work-time reduction.

Proposed policies include: limit the use of materials and energy to sustainable levels; stabilize population through compassionate and non-coercive means; achieve a fair distribution of income and wealth; reform monetary and financial systems for stability; change the way we measure progress.

The authors recognize that "hidden in population numbers are real people." Unless compassionate, non-coercive policies are devised, any population policy will ultimately not work. Successful policies include actions such as educating girls, empowering women, and providing family planning services.

As for admitting foreign workers with specific skills to fill jobs, the authors suggest that "Instead of recruiting educated and entrepreneurial people from abroad, wealthy nations should cultivate talent at home and encourage nations abroad to retain their most capable workers." doclink

Karen Gaia says: I am interested to hear your comments on this book. Send to

Humanity is Still on the Way to Destroying Itself

December 7, 2012, Spiegel Online International   By: Dennis Meadows

In 1972, environmental guru Dennis Meadows in his "The Limits to Growth" predicted that the world was heading toward an economic collapse. The core message of the book remains valid today: Humanity is ruthlessly exploiting global resources and is on the way to destroying itself.

We have developed industries and policies that were at one time appropriate but now start to reduce human welfare. The political and financial power of the oil and car industry, for example, is so great and they can and likely will, prevent proactive change. Instead we are going to have to evolve through crisis.

While the predictions of exponential growth of the world's population, and widespread environmental destruction have come true, the prediction of economic growth ultimately ceasing and collapsing hasn't occurred so far; but that doesn't mean it won't take place in the future. We have the choice of seeing the necessity of change ahead of time and making the change, or of not making the change until we are finally forced to do it anyway.

It doesn't look like private companies are reacting to dwindling resources with innovation in an effort to maintain profitability. Our history with fishing shows that we are destroying the oceans' ecosystems, for example. And we're using our atmosphere as a free industrial waste dump. Nobody has an incentive to protect them.

There are universal problems, and there are global problems. Universal problems can be solved by small groups of people because they don't have to wait for others. You can clean up the air in Hanover without having to wait for Beijing or Mexico City to do the same. Global problems, however, cannot be solved in a single place. There's no way Hanover can solve climate change or stop the spread of nuclear weapons. On the global problems, we will make no progress.

While environmentalist Paul Gilding argues in his book "The Great Disruption" that humanity will mobilize to fight a crisis that they see coming as they would during times of war, we may get stalled out by long delays, such as in climate change. Even if we were to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero today, warming would still continue for centuries. The same is true for soil, which we are destroying globally. Recovery can take centuries.

While technological innovation has served to reduce the impact of some long-term problems - for example, modern medicine has increased life expectancy and reduced infant mortality rates and new technologies have dramatically increased harvests and computers and the Internet have brought the world closer together and improved access to education - these achievements were the results of decades of hard work, and someone has to pay for these programs. Big sources of money such as the military and corporations, are not motivated to solve global problems,. Drug companies in the U.S. spend more money on hair-loss prevention than on preventing HIV infections since the former makes greater profits.

Even if we discovered a major new energy source, it would take decades for it to make an impact.

While there seems to be plenty of oil available, the oil reserves we are talking about are scarce and very expensive to exploit. And they, too, will be depleted one day.

Collapse will look different in different places. Some countries are already collapsing, and some people won't even notice. There are almost a billion people who are starving to death these days, and people here basically aren't noticing.

The difference between a decline and a collapse is speed. The rich can buy their way out of a lot of things. The end of fossil energy, for example, will be gradual. But climate change will come to the industrial countries no matter what. And the geological record clearly shows that the global temperature doesn't increase in a linear way. It jumps. If that happens, a collapse will occur.

Societies rise and fall. They have been doing so for 300,000 years. doclink

The End of Growth

December 3, 2012, Huffington Post   By: Robert Walker

Summarized from an article by Robert Walker, Population Institute

Most Americans don't seem to pay much attention when environmentalists warn about what we are doing to the Earth, but when Jeremy Grantham -- chief investment strategist of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo (GMO) and one of the world's most respected financial analysts -- says that climate change and resource scarcity are imperiling economic growth, maybe it's time to wake up.

Grantham's latest quarterly letter, "On the Road to Zero Growth," has been described by business analysts as "the most depressing forecast you will ever see."

Grantham tells us, "The U.S. GDP growth rate that we have become accustomed to for over a hundred years, in excess of 3 percent a year, .... is gone forever." He says we are on a slippery slope, forecasting a growth of "0.9% a year through 2030, decreasing to 0.4 percent from 2030 to 2050." And that's "... presuming no unexpected disasters."

The long-range trends that went into his gloomy forecast include a continued decline in the relative size of the manufacturing sector, reduced capital spending, a shrinking workforce, environmental impacts and the impact of rising commodity prices for metals, minerals, and fuels.

Grantham does not suggest that we boost immigration rates to expand the labor force. He points to Japan as an example of an "aging" economy that has managed to maintain low unemployment rates. Grantham does acknowledge that the fracking of oil and natural gas in the U.S. is boosting economic growth, but he suggests that it is temporary.

Grantham's forecasting record is the envy of the investment world and his firm manages close to $100 billion in assets. Grantham does not focus on the short-term disruptions; he is always looking ahead. Instead of being taken in by financial bubbles or stock market euphoria, he looks at the mean to which everything reverts. The trick, of course, is determining what the "mean" is, how long trends can deviate from the mean, and when the mean is actually changing.

Climate change and resource scarcity are changing the financial and economic trend lines for the U.S. and the world, Grantham says. Record droughts and recent crop failures are preludes to far worse, and scarcity and higher extraction costs will, in the long term, push commodity prices ever higher, he says. While speculation has played a role in commodity price boom, cost is the primary driver: oil, metals, fertilizer, water and fuel costs -- and therefore crop production --, for example, are cost driven.

Grantham sees even greater hardship for developing countries that are dependent on foreign imports for their survival. The braking effect on their economies from the rising costs and shortages of raw materials and, in many cases, the growing effects of climate damage on food, health, and flooding, will be felt much more severely by developing countries. Their share of consumption going to food and energy can often be a dangerous 25-40%, compared to 10-12% in developed countries. doclink

Developing nations: The Challenge of Attaining the Demographic Dividend

December 6, 2012, Population Reference Bureau blog   By: James Gribble and Jason Bremner

The demographic dividend is often thought to be imminent and within grasp. However, even though child survival has greatly improved in developing countries, birth rates are still high in many of them. These countries will find it difficult to reach their full economic potential unless they act today to increase their commitment and investment in voluntary family planning.

A demographic dividend works if there are fewer births each year, so that a country's young dependent population grows smaller in relation to the working-age population. With fewer people to support, a country has a window of opportunity for rapid economic growth if the right social and economic policies developed and investments made.

In the world's least developed countries, more than 40% of the population is under age 15 and depends on financial support from working-age adults. Another 90 million people between ages 15 and 19 are on their way to becoming financially independent as they enter adulthood. Large numbers of young people can represent great economic potential, but only if families and governments can adequately invest in their health and education and stimulate new economic opportunities for them.

However, if the number of children per woman is high, children and adolescents greatly outnumber working-age adults, and families and governments will not have the resources needed to invest adequately in each child.

25% of women in developing countries want to avoid becoming pregnant or delay or space their births but are not using a modern family planning method, accounting for almost 80% of unintended pregnancies. As a result, the populations of these countries are growing very quickly -- as much as 3% or more per year. Such a high growth rate could double the number of people in these countries in just 23 years.

When women can choose when and how often to become pregnant, they are more likely to have fewer children and are better able to achieve their desired family size.

Population growth can also be slowed by delaying the age at first birth. In countries with the highest fertility rates and lowest average age at marriage (mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia), growth can be slowed by 15-20% by delaying marriage and childbearing by five years.

Even though some countries with high fertility and low development exhibit relatively high levels of economic growth, the growth has not improved the living standards of most people, due to disparity of wealth. Until these countries have more substantial reductions in fertility and complete a demographic transition, the opportunity for a demographic dividend will be delayed for decades. doclink

Ignorance by Consensus

November 13, 2012   By: David Korowicz

The headline read: "OECD Economic Outlook 2007 ... GNP growth will average around 3.75% per annum between 2008-2015." How could such acknowledged experts, well resourced, consulted by governments, get things so wrong? Especially when the risk at issue, the popping of a credit bubble, was about as vanilla as an economist could get.

Quite a few people saw the risk of the bubble bursting, but they tended to operate on the fringes of established consensus, and by extension, a social periphery. Thus their views could be dismissed precisely because they represented a fringe view.

We are trying to comprehend our world within the world-views and economic orthodoxies developed over an extra-ordinary, two-hundred year period of compound economic growth. This growth was coincident with increasing wealth, complexity and globalized integration. Part of our dominant consensus is that this trend will continue. Much of what is important to us, how we live, our expectations, what we value and hold dear, was shaped by this process. And we, the global 10%, have done well by it.

The fringe view is that this growth is over - we are at the limits to growth, now. We are moving into a deepening global deflationary depression, interspersed with dangerous and possibly irreversible shocks to the systems that support our basic welfare. We will lose much of what we take for granted and things we have come to call our own. We are entering an era of real danger and unpredictability.

We have reached the limit in the credit backing of our financial, monetary and banking system. We are at the same time hitting profoundly destabilizing ecological limits; we are almost certainly at the peak of global oil and food production. We are also at the limits of the system of trust and solvency that underpins the trade upon which we depend. We are at the limits of the least substitutable energy source that is necessary for economic maintenance and growth. We are at the limits of our most fundamental human sustenance.

Also the changing nature of the globalized economy - increasing integration, complexity, speed and inter-dependence - has made us very much more vulnerable to this convergence. Further, such complexity makes it very difficult, or even dangerous to try and 'fix' its parts.

If we were to acknowledge this fringe view we would be urgently preparing for profound change - when change is forced upon us we may have much less room for maneuver. We would be embracing austerity because of its inevitability, and in doing so, transform it. We would be working on our food security, the resilience of critical services such as sanitation, monetary systems, governance, and re-working work. We would have begun the personal and collective psychological processes that might allow us avoid some of our species most destructive passions that can emerge in a time of crisis, and instead use it as a source of creative and positive change.

Why worry, it's a fringe view... why with shale gas, technology, markets, stopping austerity, green growth, changing the monetary system .... so many options! Anyway haven't people been saying such stuff since the time of Malthus, and they're still wrong! Aren't the experts in control?! doclink

Karen Gaia says: we could also be working on making family planning available - and the accurate information needed to use it effectively - to women and couples who think they would benefit from it.

Underminers is a New Book by Keith Farnish

What Can We Do? Take Control of Our Own Destiny. Reject the Principles of Industrialization, the Belief That Economic Growth is a Good Thing.
November 22, 2012, You Tube

Underminers is a new book by Keith Farnish. What can we do? Take control of our own destiny. Reject the principles of industrialization, the belief that economic growth is a good thing. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I have not read the book, but the video seems to be headed in the right direction.

Environmental Risks Threaten Government Debt Markets, UNEP Says

November 19, 2012, Bloomberg Business Week   By: Louise Downing

As early as the next five years revenues of various governments could be reduced by depleting natural resources such as water and forests, adding to the risk of investments in sovereign bonds, the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) said in a report drawn up with the Global Footprint Network.

As more countries depend on goods from other countries, competition for resources such as metals and minerals is increasing. Government finances will start to feel the strain as these resources decline.

"The issue of ecosystems, of natural resources that keep the planet functioning, have until now been almost invisible in accounts of profit and loss of nations," said Nick Nuttall, a spokesman from UNEP.

The E-RISC, or Environmental Risk in Sovereign Credit Analysis tool can be used to incorporate natural resource risks into sovereign credit risk assessments. Investors want to better understand emerging risks in the bond market, the report said, because concerns that debt levels in Europe and the U.S. have shaken the perception government bonds are risk free.

Five countries - Brazil, France, India, Japan and Turkey - were analyzed. A 10% fluctuation in commodity prices can shift a country's trade balance equivalent to 0.2%, or 0.5% of a nation's gross domestic product, the report found.

A 10% reduction in resources, assuming other things remain the same, may cause a reduction in trade balance equal to 1% and more than 4% of a country's GDP. Sovereign debt at the end of 2010 was $41 trillion. doclink

Exit Ramp to Sustainability: the Plenitude Path

March 20, 2012, Clivatge No. 1 Journal of Social Conflict Observatory   By: Juliet B. Schor

Juliet Schor, economist and professor of sociology, and author of Plenitude: the New Economics of True Wealth, shows the interconnection among a threatening ecological collapse, global poverty and economic crises. While economists in wealthy societies keep treating the environment as a luxury good, scientific evidence tells us that humanity does not have the luxury of waiting for some people to feel rich again before taking effective action.

We must find new ways to reduce our eco-footprints and green house gas emissions while solving the economic problems of the global north and raising the standard of living of poor people in the global south. We need an economic vision of the transition towards a sustainable planetary economy based on the resistance of an emerging and expanding movement of people who are forging a path to a new plenitude.

The world faces an unprecedented biodiversity collapse, with what biologists have identified as the sixth mass extinction well under way. Ecological footprint calculations show that we are using 150% of the earth's bio-capacity and operating in the zone ecologists call overshoot. GHG concentrations are now at 390 ppm, above the level scientists have identified at which we can prevent catastrophic climate dynamics. We had already exceeded safe operating space on biodiversity, climate, and the nitrogen cycle: three of 9 critical planetary boundaries beyond which humanity could not go without jeopardizing the biosphere and human reproduction. Other boundaries are approaching.

Roughly 2 billion people more people will be consuming energy, food, and manufactured goods at higher rates than their national counterparts currently are. However, since over a billion people today are getting inadequate nutrition and more than half of the global population live at $2.50 per day poverty or less, we need considerable increases in the ecological space afforded to low income populations of the global south.

The current economic collapse and likely protracted stagnation besetting many economies of the global North will impede progress on a climate agreement. Historically, environmental legislation has been viewed as a "luxury" good. But we do not have the luxury of waiting for people to feel rich again. So we need a trifecta which dramatically reduce eco-footprints and greenhouse gas emissions while solving the economic problems of the global north and raising the standard of living of poor people in the global south.

Unemployment and poverty are typically addressed by raising the aggregate rate of growth of the economy. But growth is at the core of what is causing ecological degradation {WOA! comments: and resource depletion}

In my recent book Plenitude, I have put forward an alternative path for the global North which will reduce unemployment and ecological footprint without raising the rate of aggregate growth. It will also enhance well-being, the quality of daily life, and the health of communities. I argue for a new way of living that is rich in those elements that yield true well-being, namely time affluence, higher levels of self-providing and self-reliance, social capital, and what I call "true materialism."

The conversation about planetary boundaries, or to use an earlier terminology, limits, is not new. The problem of the earth's carrying capacity was famously put forward by ecologist Paul Ehrlich, whose Population Bomb argued that humans were risking collapse by overbreeding. Similarly, Garrett Hardin argued, in his classic "Tragedy of the Commons" article that humans couldn't avoid over-using the biosphere, because it is in our nature to over-consume common resources. As it happens, both of these accounts were deeply flawed. Ehrlich's racist alarm {Note: see comments below} was later shown to have been sounded at the peak population growth rate, and rates of population growth have declined precipitously since then.

Harding's model has been powerfully de-bunked by the work of Elinor Ostrom, who has analyzed the conditions under which people do manage commons successfully. The third major intervention from this period was the Limits to Growth by Donella (Dana) Meadows, Dennis Meadows and their collaborators. Their model focused not just on population (which does play a role), but on industrial growth and the pollution associated with it. The LTG analysis indicated that if we continued with along the trajectory then being followed (or what the climate change literature calls BAU) in the first decade of the 21st century there would be the beginnings of a significant collapse. Their model was wrong in a number of ways, as economists rather arrogantly pointed out, but the early 21st century did bring evidence of rampant ecosystem degradation as well as an economic collapse.

De-materialization, de-carbonization and the delinking of ecological degradation from growth in GDP have been most successful in Western Europe where these ideas are most influential. However, once we account for trade flows and outsourcing of carbon use, even the European record is modest. In North America, materials use rose rapidly since the 1980s, by nearly 70%, on account of expanding fossil fuel consumption and large rises in construction materials. Globally, emissions are accelerating, materials use continues to growth, and de-linking remains mostly an aspiration.

In recent years a third "new economy" paradigm has emerged, which is both cognizant of the enormity or ecological threats and hopeful that motivated humans can confront them. In the United States, the new economy movement is made up of sustainability activists, political or "conscious" consumers, low-income inner city residents whose communities have been de-linking from the formal economy for decades, newly unemployed or under-employed from the 2008 downturn, and young people increasingly involved in consumption sharing and philosophical commitment to commons philosophy. It includes groups such as Bioneers (biological pioneers), transition towns, local currency efforts, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, much of the alternative food movement, the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) community, economic justice groups, and people involved in small-scale manufacturing technologies using fabrication labs.

It also includes a segment of the information technology world, mainly advocates of peer production, and open source software. A related group, which merges sustainability and open source, is the open-source hardware community, which is involved in permaculture, construction, energy generation and small-scale manufacturing.

There is also local neighborhood tool sharing, toys, clothing, appliance and other consumer good swapping, sharing and selling, car and ride sharing, couch surfing, supper/soup collectives, community gardens, CSAs and so on. There is tremendous social innovation around concepts of sharing, commons, barter, informal exchange, neighborhood exchange, reuse and re-sale are changing huge swaths of the consumer economy. The internet has facilitated it. The sustainability movement motivated it. And the downturn mainstreamed it because of the changing economics of daily life-people have moved toward more cash scarcity and time abundance.

The first principle of plenitude is the withdrawal of labor from the formal economy, and a resulting decline in average annual hours of work per employee.

Rising hours propel the growth of GDP, climate emissions and ecological degradation. Overwork creates stress, impairs family life, undermines community, and reduces political and civic engagement.

Many "Plenitude practitioners" have marginal attachment to the formal economy. They may be downshifters, homesteaders, small business people, voluntary simplifiers, early retirees, or late entrants. The key point is that they are altering patterns of time use to reduce dependence on formal jobs. (Unfortunately, we do not have more than anecdotal data on these trends yet, however, surveying from before the downturn found increasing prevalence of downshifting, i.e., voluntary labor market choices that trade income for time.)

Only by hours' reductions can we solve the unemployment problem. There are now 4.8 seekers for every available position.

The standard solution to such a situation has been a trickle down approach, that is, to create jobs through an increase in the rate of growth of GDP. But that approach is not working, and recent political developments suggest that no significant government stimulus will be forthcoming. Using short-time schedules to avoid additional layoffs, hiring new workers on 80% schedules, instituting voluntary programs to trade income for time, job sharing, and earlier retirement are some of the types of changes that will yield shorter average hours per employee and per person.

Reducing hours of work also reduces the ecological impact of the economy, because time-rich households shift to lower impact forms of transport and consumption.

The second important consequence of shorter hours is that people can use the time freed up from formal jobs to meet needs through self-providing (or making and doing, or what is colloquially called DIY, Do-It-Yourself). This allows them to increase their consumption, reduce dependence on cash income, become more self-reliant, build skills and exercise creativity.

Being able to meet one's needs even in the event of market collapse and climate catastrophes is a smart strategy. Doing that on a community level is even smarter than on an individual level.

If self-providing meant going back to technologies and ways of doing things from the 19th century, mainstream economists would be right. But now, there are newly available technologies, knowledges, and web-based innovations that enhance the productivity of labor at a household or community level.

There's a vibrant peer production model that has developed high value products such as Wikipedia, Linux, Firefox and other open-source software programs and products through this informal, extra-market process. Self-production in music, video, ads, writing, etc. has exploded and people are learning new skills, enjoying the opportunity to be creative, and producing real value to be used and shared by others.

The self-providing path takes this model and extends it to the material world-to food, shelter, power, clothing and small manufactures.

Examples include the use of permaculture principles in food provisioning, living wall gardens, small scale energy generation, and fabrication laboratories. doclink

Karen Gaia says: This article has some good points, but to call Paul Ehrlch racist without any foundation is extreme. Ehrlich did not see the Green Revolution coming, which saved millions of lives, and the subject of Ehrlich's alarm is now coming true, with almost a billion people not getting enough to eat. What is racist about that? Concern for people starving can hardly be called racist. And, yes, population growth is slowing, but not fast enough in Sub-Saharan Africa, if one considers the problem of food enough for everyone. In India, where the population growth rate is only 1.4%, 40% of the children are malnourished. Africa's growth rate is much higher. Does Shor think that some benevolant dictator will come along and wrestle U.S. farmland from large corporations, and then, somehow, make that land useful to farmers in Africa? Where will these 'Do-it-Yourselfers' get enough land to grow their own food? From their small back yards and neighborhood parks? She must realize that the p

U.S.: Roughly 125,000 New Jobs Need to Be Created Each Month in the United States Just to Take Care of Population Growth.

October 4, 2012, Al Bartlett website   By: Al Bartlett

Politicians and business people seem to think it is a sign of progress the number of new jobs created in the US increases. Recently, the monthly number of new jobs has been in the range from 40,000 to 100,000.

The population of the US is a little over 300 million and the current population growth rate is a little under 1% per year which means that the population of the US is increasing by about 3 million people per year. About half of these people are workers and the other half are dependents so that is an increase of about 1.5 million workers per year in the US or 125,000 new jobs needed each month to accommodate population growth in the US. This agrees with figures sometimes pointed in U.S. media.

It's no wonder that the employment rate has not gone down even though lots of jobs have been created.

Mitt Romney promised in one of the presidential debates, "I will create-help create 12 million new jobs in this country with rising incomes." 12 million new jobs in 8 years amounts to 125,000 new jobs a month - just enough to keep up with population growth without any reduction of the number of people now unemployed.

The availability of resources, including water, needed to support these new people and new jobs is declining rapidly, causing prices to rise. This leads to hardships for all and it will lead to limits to growth.

How long do you suppose it will take before someone in the Congress or the Administration in Washington, DC connects the dots and concludes that it's urgent for us in the US to stop our country's population growth? doclink

U.S.: Have the Last 5 Years Been Worse Than the Great Depression?

September 21, 2012, Washington's Blog

There are many indicators which show that the last 5 years have been worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, including: 1) the housing slump; 2) the bank charge off rate; 3) the collapse in world trade; 4) the withdrawal of short-term credit; 5) the level of inequality between rich and poor (too much inequality destroys economies); 6) the interconnectedness of financial systems and economies worldwide (interconnectedness leads to financial instability; 7) runaway spending and greed.

Mark McHugh, in his blog Across the Street, reports:

Velocity of money is the frequency with which a unit of money is spent on new goods and services. It is a far better indicator of economic activity than GDP, consumer prices, the stock market, or sales of men's underwear. In a healthy economy, the same dollar is collected as payment and subsequently spent many times over. In a depression, the velocity of money goes catatonic. Velocity of money is calculated by simply dividing GDP by a given money supply. Click here for the chart which should end any discussion of what "this" is and whether or not anybody should be using the word "recovery" with a straight face.

In four years our money velocity has been slowed to depths never seen in the Great Depression.

There may be more Americans relying on government assistance to obtain basic food than during the Great Depression. We don't see "soup lines" like we did in the 30s is because of our massive food stamp program.

It is debatable that unemployment is better than during the 1930s, contrary to government claims. See

In fact, any economists agree that this could be worse than the Great Depression, including:

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who recently said: "A lot of things happened, a lot came together, created probably the worst financial crisis, certainly since the Great Depression and possibly even including the Great Depression."

Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said in February 2010 that the aftermath of a credit crunch that was "by far the greatest financial crisis, globally, ever" -- including the 1930s Great Depression.

For a much longer list of such economists, see the article by clicking on the headline.

We'll have "a never-ending depression unless we repudiate the debt, which never should have been extended in the first place."

Fraud was one of the main causes of the Depression, but nothing has been done to rein in fraud today. Indeed the government is helping to help cover up fraud

The economy cannot recover until the big, insolvent banks are broken up, but the government has just helped them to get bigger.

Excessive leverage helped cause the Great Depression and the current crisis, but the government has encouraged more leverage.

The Federal Reserve caused the Great Depression and the current crisis, and has done nothing but help the rich at the expense of the poor. And the government has given the Fed more power than ever.

Government policies have sent manufacturing jobs and dollars abroad.

Quantitative easing won't help ... it will only make things worse. doclink

Karen Gaia says: 1) Jobs have a way of seeking out the lowest bidder. 2) Resource depletion and environmental destruction caused by overpopulation eventually erodes economic health, which leads players in the economy to go into debt. Unsustainability has no way to end but collapse - it's postponement by current monetary policy will only result in a more sudden and catastrophic collapse.

We Can't Grow Ourselves Out of Debt, No Matter What the Federal Reserve Does

September 3, 2012, Mail and Guardian   By: Charles Eisenstein

U.S. Federal Reserve policies have drawn criticism from economists who question whether the Fed has the wherewithal to stimulate economic growth. The liberal economists say we need is more spending, while the conservative ones say we need less spending. But underneath these disagreements lies a common assumption that no mainstream economist or policy-maker ever questions: that the purpose of economic policy is to stimulate growth.

What does economic growth actually mean? It means more consumption of goods and services that are exchanged for money. That means that if people stop caring for their own children and instead pay for childcare, the economy grows. The same if people stop cooking for themselves and purchase prepared food instead.

One might argue that it is more efficient for one daycare center to handle many children than for each family to do it themselves. But does that make us richer, happier and less busy than we were a generation ago? It isn't true that the more we buy, the happier we are. Endless growth means endlessly increasing production and endlessly increasing consumption.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. But we are stuck in a trap where our present money system can only function in a growing economy. Today money is created as interest-bearing debt: it only comes into being when someone promises to pay back even more of it. There is always more debt than there is money.

In a growth economy new money is constantly lent into existence so that existing debt can be repaid. But when growth slows, good lending opportunities become scarce. Indebtedness rises faster than income, debt service becomes more difficult, bankruptcies and layoffs rise. To solve this problem central banks create money and inject it into the financial system. But why would the banks lend to maxed-out borrowers in the face of economic stagnation?

We seem unable to face the end of growth. Today's system is predicated on the progressive conversion of nature into products, people into consumers, cultures into markets and time into money. Fracking, deep-sea oil drilling, deforestation, land grabs from indigenous people and so on, could extend our current growth system, but only at a higher and higher cost to future generations. Sooner or later - hopefully sooner - we will have to transition towards a steady-state or degrowth economy.

Maybe that is not as scary as it sounds. While today degrowth means recession, with unemployment, inequality and desperation, we could translate unemployment into greater leisure for all, lower consumption into reclaiming life from money, reskilling, reconnecting, sharing.

Central banks could combine quantitative easing with debt forgiveness by purchasing student loans, mortgages or consumer debt and, by fiat, reduce interest rates on those loans to zero, or even reduce principal. That would liberate millions from the debt chase, while freeing up purchasing power for those who are truly underconsuming.

Central banks should be allowed to breach the "zero lower bound" that has rendered monetary policy impotent today. If investors are unwilling to lend even when risk-free return on investment is 0%, why not reduce that to -2%, even -5%? Implemented as a liquidity tax on bank reserves, it would allow credit to circulate in the absence of economic growth, forming the monetary foundation of a steady-state economy where leisure and ecological health grow instead of consumption. doclink

Karen Gaia says: personally I don't see interest rates going below 0%. Many people have tightened their belts and stopped borrowing and slowed spending. That sounds like the best policy.

U.S.: The Next President's Inaugural Speech (if Only...)

September 17, 2012, Center for Advancement of the Steady State Economy   By: Brent Blackwelder

Note: this is an excellent speech, well worth clicking on the link in the headline and reading the entire thing. Some excerpts:

The presidential campaign, including my campaign, dodged the most important issue of our era: coming to grips with the ecological reality confronting life on this planet. Today I pledge to make our nation once again the leader in solving economic, environmental, and social crises.

We have built a global economy that refuses to recognize ecological limits to growth. Repeated financial collapses, mushrooming corruption, and rampant speculation have characterized the last twenty years.

Our global population of over seven billion needs access to goods and services, but almost a billion are already struggling to obtain the bare necessities. Our civilization is using natural resources much faster than the earth can regenerate them.

We have futureless growth that destroys resources, such as water and farmland, that will be needed by our children and grandchildren.

Iceland has become the leader in empowerment of women; women hold the majority of jobs in university education and have nearly half the seats in parliament. Bhutan has become the leader in measuring progress; this small Himalayan nation has committed itself to maximizing gross national happiness rather than gross national product.

We can no longer stand still and watch other nations pass by on the way to a sustainable twenty-first-century economy.

We will adopt a four-day work week. There is no winner in a rat race. We will share the work, so that everyone can have a job, and we will trade the high productivity of our workers for a time dividend - meaning more time spent with our families and less time spent at the office.

We will take up the challenge of leadership so that we can once again pursue the noble vision of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. doclink

Debt Boils Over

June 19, 2012, Global Footprint Network

One of the hidden drivers behind Europe's financial turmoil is the dramatic increase in resource prices over the last 10 years. Historically, cheap resources have helped fuel economic growth, but the situation has now changed.

When costs increase, to maintain the same level of consumption, debt levels also increase. Now the ability of many countries to service this debt is being called into question.

Between 2001 and 2011, the price of commodities increased by nearly three times in nominal U.S. dollar terms, reversing more than two decades of stable or falling prices. The supply of ecosystem products (such as food and fibre) and more easily exploitable fossil fuel and hydro energy no longer matches the growing demand.

An increasing number of countries are running biocapacity deficits, consuming more resources and emitting more waste than their own ecosystems can regenerate or absorb. To make up their deficits, countries must either deplete their own stocks or become net-importers of ecological services.

While trade can help a country's cover its resource deficit, not all countries can become net importers of ecological services and resources. Instead, the growing global competition for limited resources, coupled with rising global demand, will likely tighten the market for both biological and fossil resources even further.

These burdens on performance are occurring at a time of global economic and financial turbulence and, indeed, may be a factor exacerbating the turmoil. In many countries, rising costs and sluggish economic performance might lead to heightened government deficits and growing sovereign debt.

Advanced assessment tools are needed to help establish whether investments are producing or eroding net present value. The consequences of natural resource deficits in terms of financial instability can be severe at a time when global financial markets are intolerant of imbalances in public finances. doclink

U.K.: "10 More Birminghams by 2033" Means the Equivalent of 27,000 More 2 MW Wind Turbines, and An Extra £ One Trillion on Borrowing - "Just to Stand Still"

June 12, 2012, Population Matters

Population growth over the next 22 years could cost UK taxpayers more than £1 trillion and increase CO2 emissions by 1 billion tonnes, a report by Population Matters has found.

It would require 27,000 more wind turbines by 2033 just to mitigate the increase in CO2. The figure of £1 trillion would also be used to maintain current standards rather than being invested in improvements.

The report, a Masters dissertation by Erasmia Anastasaki of the London School of Economics, does not speculate on economic growth or tax revenues for the period until 2033. What it does look at is the impact of new infrastructure and service provision for the estimated 10 million extra people in the UK by 2033 (to an estimated total population of 72 million).

While any future changes in policy, technology and consumer behavior will have an effect on these figures, the report refers to the Government's current approach as "predict and provide", an approach unlikely to result in the stabilizing and reduction of the UK population which the report favors.

Roger Martin, chair of Population Matters adds "We also know what our YouGov polls tell us, that 80% of UK adults are already concerned at the impact of our rising numbers, and would prefer a smaller population - which is hardly surprising given that England is now the most crowded country in Europe". doclink

America Then and Now (Jan 2009 - Dec 2011)

June 2, 2012, US Congress House Ways and Means Committee





Number of Unemployed1

12.0 Million

13.1 Million


Long-Term Unemployed2

2.7 Million

5.6 Million


Unemployment Rate3




"High Unemployment" States4




Misery Index5




Price of Gas6




"Typical" Monthly Family Food Cost7




Median Value of Single-Family Home8




Rate of Mortgage Delinquencies9




U.S. National Debt10

$10.6 Trillion

$15.2 Trillion


  1. Number of unemployed in January 2009 and December 2011.
  2. "Long-term unemployed" means for over 26 weeks; data for January 2009 and December 2011.
  3. Unemployment rates in January 2009 and December 2011.
  4. "High unemployment" means having a 3-month average unemployment rate of 6% or higher. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics' "Extended Benefits Trigger Notice" for January 18, 2009 and January 22, 2012. and
  5. The "Misery Index" equals unemployment plus inflation. For January 2009 and December 2012.
  6. Average retail price per gallon, January 2009 week 3 and January 2012 week 4.
  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture, values represent monthly "moderate" cost per family of four for January 2009 and November 2011.
  8. U.S. median sales price of existing single-family homes for metropolitan areas for 2008 and 2011 Q3.
  9. Residential mortgage delinquencies (real estate loans) for 2008 Q4 and 2011 Q3.
  10. Values for January 21, 2009 and January 23, 2012.

Karen Gaia says: I was shocked to see how this House Committee is being used to discredit the President. No thought that many of the contributors to the economic crisis occurred before President Obama took office: credit default swaps, shabby mortgage practices, control and misuse of the money supply by the Federal Reserve, slipping away from a balanced budget, shipping jobs out of the country, and ignoring resource depletion, with no effort to conserve, war mongering at huge expense, and so on. Too bad no one looks at resource depletion. Going into debt so we can grow, grow, grow, is the last thing we want to do.

Energy Efficiency: Overinvesting in Energy Efficiency, on Purpose

February 14, 2012, Grist

By David Roberts

Climate change means we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a lot, beginning immediately. We can increase low-carbon energy supply and/or decrease total energy consumption.

But ramping up clean energy supply can't be done fast enough to keep us within our carbon budget, so we've got to use less energy. We can either reduce the energy intensity of the global economy and/or reduce the growth of the global economy.

Substantially reducing global energy intensity turns out to be extremely difficult, thanks in part to the rebound effect. But if energy intensity can't be reduced quickly enough, then the only answer left is slowing GDP growth. Yikes.

Let's go back to reducing global energy intensity. How difficult would it be to increase global energy efficiency faster than global economic growth? Scholars Soham Baksi and Chris Green claim it would be almost impossible to drive the rate of decline in energy intensity (historically around 1%) much higher than, say, 1.25% through policy interventions.

On the other hand, Danny Harvey, University of Toronto professor - and author of a set of comprehensive textbooks on energy demand and clean energy supply - has done some detailed modeling and believes that "between now and 2050, we can average 3 or 4 % [decline in global energy intensity] a year," and thereby reducing total energy use. The efforts required would be heroic, but within the realm of possibility.

Harvey, when asked whether economic growth can continue as it has, was unequivocal: "Of course not. You can't have infinite growth on a finite planet. ... If we're serious about climatic change, we have to recognize sufficiency, not just efficiency."

A report from the Institute for Integrated Economic Research (EIR) concludes that "while it is possible for emerging economies to improve the well-being of their populations without growing greenhouse gas emissions, it won't be feasible to industrialize them in the 'green' way everybody hopes for." IER and many others say that, eventually, we'll end up with some kind of steady-state economy, either because we chose and crafted it or because it was forced on us by necessity.

Now for a look at the rebound effect, which is the boost in economic growth spurred by energy efficiency. If we want to "counter" the rebound effect, we have to suppress that growth. Often people discussing this effect recommend raising taxes on energy services that become more efficient, to prevent energy demand from rebounding back up after efficiency pushes it down. But energy taxes would be spent by the government on other things, thus driving economic activity and energy use. There's rebound even here.

The author suggests that, if we don't want to maximize economic growth, but just to get more energy efficiency without additional growth (that's what "avoiding rebound" means), we need to substantially overinvest in efficiency - spend 150% of what's economically optimal, or 200% - to the point that there are effectively no net savings (over the relevant investment horizon). Doing that would get us twice the efficiency with none of the rebound/growth, roughly speaking.

So if we invest our money in "too expensive" projects, we can skip the economic growth and gain enough energy. We can make leaps: not just more efficient furnaces, but passivhaus construction that makes buildings into net energy producers; not just electric cars, but dense, walkable, transit-serviced communities that recycle their water and waste; not just more efficient boilers, but distributed energy sources linked by smart grids into resilient electricity networks. We can spend what's necessary to help nations with limited access to water and power "leapfrog" over carbon-heavy infrastructure straight to the low-carbon kind.

This kind of hyper-efficiency would spur more growth eventually. But by overspending on efficiency in the near term, we would dampen the delayed boost in productivity, at least for a while, and in the meantime be shifting investment to economic sectors with lower energy intensity. Eventually, maybe, we could push global energy intensity down fast enough that when growth resumes, it no longer involves increasing GHG emissions. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Don't overlook peak fossil fuels. If we don't use our fossil fuels now to create the infrastructure for a clean energy supply in the future, we won't have enough energy to do it later, because we also have to use our fossil fuels for our food supply and if we continue to be careless, we will use up our fossil fuels for driving around in SUVs. flying around the world, and fighting wars.

The Future of the USA - 2012-2016 (part 3) - the Breakdown of the US Socio-Political Fabric

April 10, 2012, Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin

The breakdown of the United States' socio-economic and socio-political tissue began some forty years ago. In 1970s the US saw the end of the fixed link between the Dollar and gold, defeat in the Vietnam War, "impeachment" of President Nixon, the last period of great inventions / US scientific adventures (the conquest of space, Internet...), etc...

Having those less than forty years old in the US who are much less well educated and less socially integrated than their elders has consequences, on their "employability", their ability to act in a world where globalization is everywhere and requires varied knowledge (such as languages, history and geography, for example), their ability to talk of the country's re-industrialization, or the need to address the country's scientific and technological challenges, even the country's military capabilities.

Democratic life and political discourse also suffer because the citizen is less able to distinguish between lies and truth, between information and spin, between competence and demagoguery. The Republican primaries for the 2012 presidential election is a case study on the subject. The breakdown of the country's democratic and political fabric is well under way, particularly because of this generational "dumbing-down of education" started in the 1970s.

The degredation of education combined with the very unequal impact of the current depression which, like any crisis, affects the weakest the most rapidly, increases the fragmentation of the United States' population's identity.

On both sides of the US-Mexico border, killing, corruption, trafficking is growing, strengthening each other's identity reflexes, and pushing for the adoption of increasingly severe laws against illegal immigrants.

The break-up of the socio-political fabric is also due to the collapse in the quality of the country's infrastructure: bridges, roads, railways, airports, dikes, dams, nuclear power plants, pipelines... need more than USD 2 trillion just to be repaire. But funding is impossible to get from a locked-down Congress and from a high deficit budget.

Without repairs, bridges will soon be in poor condition, ready to collapse or leaking pipelines to eventually explode. People tend to get used to the poor state of things thinking, little by little, that it's their normal state... until the day they break completely. 2012-2016 is when LEAP/E2000 predicts such a development.

Inter-community tensions, breakdown of social cohesion, political demagoguery, massive "dumbing-down of education", lack of jobs, rapid rise in poverty,... it all leads to a very predictable development that marked the 2011 "Black Friday, which saw in 2011 the largest increase in firearm sales compared to 2010 (+32%), and 2013/2015 will be a period that is likely to see the constitutional order of the United States upset by events.

LEAP/E2020 believes that this is one more sign that the American public is preparing for the worst,. The fear of a development in the crisis towards violence is also fuelled by budget cuts in the police and the feeling that the increase in the number of poor will constitute a growing threat to the wealthy.

LEAP/E2020 goes on to forecast bank failures in 2012, uncontrolled violence in 2013, the US military withdrawal from continental Europe for 2017 (the country no longer has the political, fiscal, diplomatic, and soon military means, to engage in first-strike conflict). The current attempt by the Obama administration to trigger a mini Cold War with China will fail because it's the fact of a penniless country who "threatens his banker" (a banker who is better armed), which can't go very far. doclink

Karen Gaia says: part of the problem is the massive US debt incurred to hide our shortage of fuel and materials due to resource depletion where not everyone's needs can be met. Another part is that population dilutes democracy and we are therefore becoming victims of a facist state, with funds being redirected to benefit the corporation instead of the individual.

Spain's 'Lost Generation' Threatens Social Fabric

February 26, 2012, Associated Press

Roughly half of all Spaniards between 16 and 24 are jobless, the highest level among the 17 nations that use the euro. It's a devastating picture of blighted youth that threatens to distort Spain's social fabric for years to come, dooming dreams, straining family structures and eroding the well-being of a rapidly aging population.

Gayle Allard, a labor market specialist says: "The young people who are coming on the market now are the lost generation. They are losing the advantage of their youth and energy and that does not come back."

Jobless figures are at 39% for those ages 20-29, holding dire consequences for a country that grew accustomed to prosperity on the back of a property boom that collapsed in 2008.

These jobless young people will put off having children, slashing a birth rate that's already declining just as Spain's large baby boom generation begins to retire. That means fewer people to absorb the costs of caring for the swelling ranks of pensioners.

Last year thousands erected protest camps in Madrid and Barcelona. Spain's relatively new democracy, launched in 1978 after decades of dictatorship, may become threatened if an entire generation ends up convinced they will never attain the same lifestyle as their parents.

With low-paying jobs the norm, college graduates are increasingly moving abroad to do work below their qualifications, for example as bartenders or hotel workers in Germany or Britain. Last year more people left Spain than came to settle for the first time in a decade. doclink

Karen Gaia says: even developed countries are suffering, including the U.S. People are tightening their belts. So blaming consumption may become a moot point.

On the Use and Misuse of the Concept of Sustainability

March 3, 2012, Population Media Center

by Ed Barry and William Rees at the 8th International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability.

The current scale of human economic activity on Earth is already excessive; the human enterprise is in a state of unsustainable 'overshoot.' By this we mean that the consumption and dissipation of energy and material resources exceed the regenerative and assimilative capacity of supportive ecosystems.

Overshoot is seen in of the degradation of resource ecosystems such as marine fisheries and tropical rain forests and the depletion of non-renewable resources such as oil and minerals and in the gross pollution of major ecosystems and the global commons such as ocean anoxic zones and the accumulation of atmospheric green-house gases. Other ways of looking at overshoot involves 1. comparing GDP with evaluation of natural capital stocks and pollution damage costs or 2. ecological footprint analysis, which compares human demand for bio-capacity (ecosystem services) with sustainably available supply. The aggregate human eco-footprint is already approximately 50% larger than the available bio-capacity while demand is increasing and supply is in decline.

We must eliminate overshoot as a prerequisite to preserving social justice, creating intergenerational equity and securing a future for global civilization. All nations must integrate assessments of their renewable, replenishable and non-renewable 'resources' into their systems of national accounts for policy and management purposes. Resource Sustainability Evaluation and Reporting (SER) must be adopted by national governments and supported by international institutions. We must maintain sufficient supplies of natural capital per capita to ensure an adequate flow of 'natural income' (consumption) and life-support services indefinitely into the future.

If populations are increasing, either natural capital stocks must also increase or average quality of life will decline. All sustainability assessment and corrective policies must include population numbers and growth, our socially-constructed consumer life-styles, and gross social inequity. For example, empowering women and expanding access to family planning services, essential to preventing unwanted pregnancies and achieving sustainability, must be part of the global sustainable development dialogs and solution.

Technological optimism and techno-fixes do not provide viable solutions to the challenge of global resource overshoot. History has shown us that technological gains stimulate economic growth and enable further exploitation of resources rather than induce conservation. "Technology advancement" fools us into thinking humanity can deploy to continue economic growth, and thus improve overall global prosperity.

"Sustainable economic growth" is an oxymoron. Rising incomes have stimulated rising material consumption despite (or because of) technological advances, which only exacerbates the situation.

"Sustainable development" can be sustainable if development is not equated with growth. 'Development' means 'getting better' whereas growth means 'getting bigger'. You can have development without growth but not growth without development. Indicators of development include improving opportunities for personal development, falling unemployment rates, decreasing poverty, greater income security, a narrowing income gap (greater social equity), falling rates of alcohol and drug addiction, improving mental health indicators, etc. Looking at these indicators, the considerable GDP growth of the past few decades in the US, Canada and other rich countries has been offset by regressive de-development.

The term "Sustainable city;" is meaningless as currently employed. Even an ideal city -with minimal auto use, exemplary public transit, renewable energy supplies and simple life-styles - will eventually succumb to climate change, rising prices, resource scarcity, civil unrest and geopolitical instability.

Unsustainability is a collective problem demanding collective solutions and therefore an unprecedented level of international cooperation in the implementation of difficult policy choices for sustainability.

The mantra "Sustainable growth in businesses, jobs, and the economy;" ignores the reality that resource goods and services are required for all human societal and economic activity, and that the Earth's capacity to supply these resources is finite.

The human enterprise is a growing sub-system of a non-growing finite ecosphere. Any diversion of energy and material resources to maintain and grow more humans and their 'furniture' is irreversibly unavailable to non-human species (what we get, they don't).

"Shifting to a knowledge-based or service-based economy will reduce environmental impacts" is patently untrue. 'Knowledge-based economy' means an economy driven by high-end services such as engineering, information technology, financial services, etc. But high-end service jobs pay much higher incomes than employment in the low-end material economy, enabling participants to have bigger houses, cars, flat-screen TVs and generally consume more, with a much larger per capita ecological footprint than workers in the basic economy.

In addition, shifting to a knowledge/service-based economy is invariably accompanied by the migration of manufacturing to low-wage developing countries that generally have lower environmental standards and which will then sell much of their manufacturing output to wealthier consumer societies, increasing the total volume of consumption. doclink

Global Suicide 2020: We Can't Feed 10 Billion; Create a 'New Agriculture' or Capitalism Self-Destructs

February 14, 2012, Marketwatch

by Paul B. Farrell

Imagine you're now a member of a "skunk works" research team at a secret Pentagon think tank with unlimited funds.

Jeremy Grantham, a leading consultant, whose firm manages $100 billion, predicted the 2008 meltdown a couple years in advance. Now looking ahead to 2050, he warns of an "inevitable mismatch between finite resources and exponential population growth" with a "bubble-like explosion of prices for raw materials" and commodity shortages that will become a huge "threat to the long-term viability of our species when we reach a population level of 10 billion," making it impossible to feed them all. "As the population continues to grow, we will be stressed by recurrent shortages of hydrocarbons, metals, water, and, especially, fertilizer. Our global agriculture, though, will clearly bear the greatest stresses."

Agriculture is the world's biggest commodity problem. Agri-business has the "responsibility for feeding an extra two billion to three billion mouths, an increase of 30% to 40% in just 40 years. The availability of the highest quality land will almost certainly continue to shrink slowly and the quality of typical arable soil will continue to slowly decline globally due to erosion, despite increased efforts to prevent it. This puts a huge burden on increasing productivity."

Agriculture will decide the Earth's fate in 2050, not 'Peak Oil'

Grantham believes "humans have the brains and the means to reach real planetary sustainability. The problem is with us and our focus on short-term growth." Our "human ingenuity" can even solve the energy problem, even shortages of metals and fresh water.

But agriculture is facing a huge loss of non-renewable resources. That's why agriculture in the world's No. 1 time bomb.

Suppose we have a super "Innovation Saves the World" research team to solve this problem. Our restraints:

* We're running out completely of potassium (potash) and phosphorus (phosphates) and eroding our soils. Their total or nearly total depletion would make it impossible to feed the 10 billion people

* Potassium and phosphorus are necessary for all life; they cannot be manufactured and cannot be substituted for.

* Globally, soil is eroding at a rate that is several times that of the natural replacement rate.

*Poor countries found mostly in Africa and Asia will almost certainly suffer from increasing malnutrition and starvation. The possibility of foreign assistance on the scale required seems remote.

*Many stresses on agriculture will be exacerbated by increasing temperatures, increased weather instability, and frequent and severe droughts and floods.

Grantham says that Capitalism "cannot deal with the tragedy of the commons, e.g., overfishing, collective soil erosion, and air contamination." The "finiteness of natural resources is simply ignored, and pricing is based entirely on short-term supply and demand." So our "Innovation Saves the World" project will challenge a fundamental tenet of capitalism: That the public good is best served by the "invisible hand" of competing individuals, acting solely in their own separate special interests. No cooperation, no global solution, dead end for everyone.

For your "Innovation Saves the World" team, pick people to be on your team from :

1. Government policy makers, politicians, agency experts

2. Tough-minded business and investment professionals

3. Risk-taking entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators

4. Brilliant minds in science and advanced research

5. Billionaires, philanthropists, charitable organizations

Remember, this task is urgent. The clock's ticking.You must solve the No. 1 problem facing the world: "Feed 10 billion in 2050." And we cannot wait till 2050 to devise the solution. Waiting is suicidal. 2020 will be too late. It's already late. Start planning now. doclink

While the Pentagon did warn that by 2020, the planet's "carrying capacity" will be so drastically compromised that they are already preparing military defense systems for the coming "all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies," and Paul Farrell's proposal seems like a good plan to prepare for the future, it seems no one is actually doing anything about it, other than the NGOs who have been working on population stabilization - via voluntary family planning,reproductive health, and social media promoting gender equality, and delaying marriage - all along. The least we can do is provide these NGOs with more funding. Looking at the comments on this story, not many readers of Market Watch take it seriously, some even calling Farrell nuts. More education of the public is needed.

U.S.: ECRI Reaffirms Recession Call: Data Has Gotten "Worse, Not Better"

February 24, 2012, Financial Sense

The Economic Cycle Research Institute ( ECRI) is the "world's leading authority on business cycles" whose "state-of-the-art analytical framework is unmatched in its ability to forecast cycle turning points."¹ Furthermore, The Economist magazine has stated that they are perhaps "the only organization to give advance warning of each of the past three recessions; just as impressive, it has never issued a false alarm."

Five months ago, the ECRI said the recession will continue saying that "there's nothing that policy makers can do to head it off." Since then, the markets have rallied strongly leading many in the mainstream financial press to believe the U.S. has narrowly averted an impending recession and will begin to see growth. But Lakshman Achuthan, ECRI's chief economist and spokesman; said under no uncertain terms that "nothing has changed our view".

Again today, in what may be the most anticipated interview of the past three years, Lakshman spoke with Tom Keene of Bloomberg saying that the well-guarded and highly accurate data they use in forecasting has "gotten worse, not better, despite the consensus view that things have been improving."

He also appeared on CNBC with some charts and a bit more elaboration:


Obama Stimulus Turns Three: What Has it Achieved?

February 20, 2012, Investors Business Daily

It has been three years since President Obama signed into law the stimulus to U.S. economy which, it was claimed, would "create or save" up to 3.5 million jobs, unleash "a new wave of innovation, activity and construction cross America," ignite spending by businesses and consumers and bring "real and lasting change for generations to come."

Instead the unemployment rate has remained at 8.3%, unchanged from February 2009 to January 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Obama's economists had initially predicted that with the stimulus, unemployment would stay below 8%.

Instead the number of workers who have been unable to find a job in 27 months or more has shot up 83%, with their ranks now at 5.5 million.

The civilian labor force has shrunk by 126,000. In past recoveries, the labor force climbed an average of more than 3 million over comparable time periods.

The share of adults in the labor force - either looking or working - is at 63.7%, having dropped 3% - also highly unusual in a recovery. This is a low not seen since the middle of the very deep 1981-82 recession, when fewer women were in the work force. A lower participation rate makes the unemployment rate look better.

Obama's latest budget plan has called for still another round of stimulus spending, at $350 billion over the next four years, for what is labeled "short-term measures for jobs growth."

Median annual household income has fallen 7% below where it was in February 2009, according to the Sentier Research Household Income Index.

The national debt is up $4.5 trillion, or 41%, according to the U.S. Treasury, putting the national debt at $15.4 trillion, larger than the entire U.S. economy.

The deficit for fiscal year 2009 totaled $1.4 trillion. Obama's proposed deficit for 2012 is $1.3 trillion, which would mark the fourth year of deficits topping $1 trillion.

Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has climbed only 6% between beginning 2009 and ending 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. doclink

Karen Gaia says: maybe now is the time to realize that the old growth model no longer works and time to become prepared for a more austere future.

Ever-increasing Nonrenewable Natural Resource (NNR) Scarcity

February 6, 2012, Wake Up Amerika!

There will always be plenty of NNRs (Nonrenewable Natural Resources) in the ground, but there are not enough of them that are economically viable to perpetuate our industrialized lifestyle. That is to say: globally available, economically viable supplies associated with an ever-increasing number of the fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals that enable our industrial lifestyle paradigm are becoming increasingly prevalent globally.

The author previously conducted NNR scarcity analyses based primarily on US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. This new analysis is based on World Bank (WB) NNR pricing data-specifically, pricing data obtained from the WB Energy (fossil fuel) Price Index and the Metals and Minerals Price Index. These new findings confirm the findings from his previous analyses derived from USGS and EIA data - global NNR scarcity is becoming increasingly prevalent, and debilitating.

Energy prices have grown at an alarming increasing compound annual growth rate (CAGR) since from 1960 to the present:

* 2000 - 2008 (pre Recession) increased 13.5% CAGR, driven by global industrialism, which necessitated the exploitation of increasingly expensive, lower quality fossil fuel deposits, i.e., fewer, smaller, and/or less accessible fossil fuel deposits, typically of declining grade and/or purity.)

* 2009 to 2011 (post Great Recession) increased 18.9% CAGR, driven by unsuccessful worldwide attempts to reestablish pre-recession global economic growth trajectories.

Metals and minerals prices also grew tremendously:

* 1960 - 1999 prices declined at -1.5% CAGR - when globally available, economically viable metals and minerals supplies were generally sufficient or more than sufficient to completely address global requirements.

* 2000 - 2008 (pre Recession) increased 14.3% CAGR, driven by our newly emerging quest for global industrialism, which necessitated the exploitation of increasingly expensive, lower quality metals and minerals deposits, i.e., fewer, smaller, and/or less accessible metals/minerals deposits, typically of declining grade and/or purity.

* 2009 - 2011(post Great Recession) increased 20.1% CAGR, driven by unsuccessful worldwide attempts to reestablish pre-recession global economic growth trajectories.

Assertions and Projections

* During the 20th century "commodity boom/bust cycles", episodes of global NNR scarcity were temporary because additional economically viable NNR supplies were readily available to be brought online to completely address global requirements

* During the 21st century global NNR scarcities are permanent - globally available, economically viable supplies of an NNR will never again be sufficient to completely address global requirements.

* In mid 2008 and again in early 2011, global economic growth was throttled as unacceptably high NNR price levels curtailed both global NNR demand/utilization and global economic output (GDP). The underlying cause associated with both the Great Recession and the aborted post-recession economic recovery was ever-increasing NNR scarcity.

* Global NNR scarcity will intensify going forward, thereby precluding a permanent recovery from the Great Recession. Each attempt to reestablish pre-recession economic growth trajectories will increase NNR demand; which will force NNR suppliers to exploit increasingly expensive, lower quality NNR deposits; which will cause NNR prices to increase; which will curtail NNR demand and utilization; which will curtail economic output (GDP); which will abort the attempted economic recovery.

This Time Really IS Different.

*Newly industrializing nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are emerging, increasing meteorically global requirements for the earth's finite and non-replenishing NNRs.

*The population of the industrialized and industrializing nations has risen from 1.5 billion people in the late 20th century, to 5 billion, most of whom have yet to even remotely approach their full NNR utilization potential.

*Our ever-increasing global NNR requirements are manifesting themselves within the context of increasingly-constrained-i.e., increasingly expensive, lower quality-NNR supplies.

As global NNR scarcity becomes increasingly prevalent going forward, the economic output (GDP) levels associated with an increasing number of industrialized and industrializing nations will peak permanently and enter terminal decline, as will the societal well being levels-the population levels and material living standards-associated with these nations.

Our historical reality of "continuously more and more"-which we in the industrialized West have experienced since the inception of our industrial revolution and have come to take for granted - is giving way to our new reality of "continuously less and less". And judging by the ever-increasing incidence of global economic turmoil, political instability, and social unrest; we will not accept our new reality gracefully.

NNR scarcity is the most daunting challenge ever to confront humanity. If we Homo sapiens are truly an exceptional species, now is the time to prove it. doclink

Energy: Eventually Economic Reality Will Impact the U.S.

January 4, 2012, WOA website

By Bruce Parks, former nuclear plant senior engineer

Renewables like wind and solar just are not reliable enough to provide 24/7 power. - Technology for storage is just not getting there. Pumped storage sites are limited in number and capacity. Compressed gas is very inefficient and limited. Perhaps huge battery capacity which is very expensive. - "Smart grid" with long distance very high voltage DC will help alleviate regional storage requirements. - Electrical cars would have to be charged in the day, not at night, if the solar option is taken or a significant part of the mix.

With the environmental groups in opposition to nuclear, oil, coal and hydro the only* base load power option will become gas. But wait, the gas-in-the-feature scenario needs fracking. Environmentalists also oppose fracking. (*I do not have much hope for fusion electric power in the near or mid term - perhaps in 100 years?)

Our trade competition in Asia is going coal big time. Highly polluting coal at that. In terms of fuel, coal-fired plants account for 55% of India's installed electricity capacity, South Africa's 92%; China's 77%; and Australia's 76%. With "free trade" we will not be competitive on energy alone. Yes India and China are going towards renewable's, BUT are also expanding fossil capacity.

The going green model in Europe will eventually make them non-competitive with Asia and South America. China and India are already making serious inroads. Countries like Norway and Sweden are blessed with lots of hydro - solar is not a great option here. Denmark has great steady winds. But, the heavy industry countries like UK, Germany, France and Italy just will not remain industrial powers by rapidly going green.

My primary point is that going green for an industrial power is not an option in the near or mid term. To try to rapidly change will sap the very economic capacity to go green in the future.

The environmental people need to understand that one reason we have some grace on electrical power growth is the movement of industry, and jobs, OUT of the USA.

* The clothes they wear come from Central America and South Asia and are made with fossil fuel power - a lot of coal in Asia.

* The iPad they play with takes power from 77% coal power in China and nuclear in Korea (The chips are made in South Korea.)

* Many of the gadgets they buy at Wal Mart and the tools they buy at Home Depot are made with China's 77% coal electricity.

* The rare earth battery they have in their Prius was mined, purified and partially fabricated in China using petroleum products and electricity that is 77% coal.

The clear skies they see here are, in part, due to filthy skies in Asia.

All economists, whether Keynesian or Austrian school, all agree that this massive trade deficit cannot go on. We will be forced to bring the jobs, and some pollution home, or live like an old "colony". With a lower standard of living providing food and raw material to the manufacturing facilities in the "mother country." Which do they want? doclink

Karen Gaia says: Not to mention the U.S. food supply impacted by biofuels displacing croplands, soil erosion, soil overuse, excess nitrogen, insufficient water, high cost of fuel (we 'eat' 25% of our energy), salinization, flooding, heat spells, and urbanization.

Greenspan: 'True Revolution' to End Welfare State Impasse

January 5, 2012,

Former Federal Chairman Alan Greenspan says the U.S. welfare state has "run up against a brick wall" of economic reality and fiscal book-keeping and only a "true revolution" involving major entitlement overhaul will improve the economy.

The country's leaders have found it difficult to agree on policy due to the rise of the tea party among Republicans coupled with the shift to the left of many Democrats. Last year's debt-ceiling fiasco was an example.

Compromise must happen eventually, and that will likely include reform to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, programs that have expanded without funding to match.

"We face a true revolution, not so much in the streets but in the fundamental choices the American people will have to make to secure our fiscal future," Greenspan writes.

"Arithmetic demands it."

The government's net liabilities swelled by more than $1 trillion for 2011, according to a U.S. Treasury report. The government's liabilities exceeded assets by $14.785 trillion, up considerably from $13.473 trillion a year earlier,. doclink

Karen Gaia says: Demographics demand it. The U.S. dependancy ratio is now at 49% and will continue to go up as more and more baby boomers retire. And then there are the large numbers of unemployed. In other words, there are not enough people paying payroll taxes.

Understanding the Demographic Dividend

February 26, 2005

The demographic dividend occurs when a falling birth rate changes the age distribution, so that fewer investments are needed to meet the needs of the youngest age groups and resources are released for investment in development and family. It improves the ratio of productive workers to child dependents that makes for faster economic growth and fewer burdens on families. The demographic dividend does not last forever; there is a limited window of opportunity. In time, the age distribution changes again, as the adult population moves into the older, less-productive age brackets. The dependency ratio then rises again, with the need to care for the elderly. While demographic pressures are eased where fertility falls, some countries will act to capitalize upon the released resources and use them effectively, but others will not. Take the Republic of Korea for example: as its birth rate fell in the mid-1960s, elementary school enrolments declined and funds previously allocated for elementary education were used to improve the quality of education at higher levels. In Korea the bulk of the population is at the working ages whereas in Nigeria the young dependent ages stand out, with all the burdens that they represent in that poor country.
The demographic dividend is delivered when the generations of children born during high fertility become workers. Women have fewer children and take jobs outside of the home and tend to be better educated. Working-age adults tend to earn more and save more than the young favoring savings. The ability to save money is greater when individuals born during periods of high fertility move into their 40s. Personal savings serve as a partial resource for investments that fuel economic growth. Having fewer children enhances the health of women. Their participation in the labor force enhances their social status and personal independence. They have more energy to contribute to society. Family income can be focused on better food for infants. Incomes can go toward prolonged education. There are increased benefits from the demographic dividend, assuming that policies are constructed to build upon the dividend. Evidence suggests that better health facilitates improved economic production, as will focusing especially on low-income populations, with strong public sector programs. Poor health is an important cause of losses in household income. About one fourth of all births in the developing world outside China are unwanted or ill-timed. About 20 million unsafe abortions occur annually. Half of the world's 175 million pregnancies annually are unwanted or mistimed. There is room for improvement in contraceptive provision and education. Governments and the public sector must target resources to the poor while releasing the private sector to meet the needs of those who can afford to pay for family planning and health services. Reducing unwanted pregnancies benefits maternal health and family welfare and hastens the changes in age structure that advance development. Policies to generate capital are needed to fuel growth. In East Asia, personal savings helped greatly; other sources are government and business savings as well as foreign investments and assistance. All these are responsive to favorable government actions. Investments in education, health, and job creation are vital, as are policies that favor the fertility declines that have created and sustained the window. This article is well worth reading in full - just follow the link. doclink

Demographic Dividend

March 24, 2007

China's Economic Growth is Set to Slow - China's economic growth will slow in 2010 when the gap between the working population and those too young or old to work is cancelled out, in China it was at its lowest in 1968, allowing the country to spend less on dependent groups and more on economic development.

China's population structure has contributed to 27% of economic growth, but a country's demographic dividend usually lasts for 40 years until the aging problem looms.

China currently has 144 million people who are over 60 years old, 11% of the 1.3 billion population. But the number will reach 160 million in 2010, 200 million in 2015 and 400 million in 2044, which will result in pressures on the pension and healthcare systems.

China has to invest more in education and training to raise productivity. Otherwise, when the demographic dividend is over, everything will slow down.

From 1950 to 1980, China's population exploded from 500 million to 1 billion, prompting the country to start its family planning policy in the late 1970s. doclink

Is Economy Best Birth Control? US Births Dip Again

November 17, 2011, Associated Press

For the third year in a row, U.S. births have dropped. Teens and women in their early 20s had the most dramatic dip, to the lowest rates since record-keeping began in the 1940s.

"I don't think there's any doubt now that it was the recession. It could not be anything else," said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization.

In 2007, U.S. births reached an all-time high at more than 4.3 million. Now it is just over 4 million, according to the new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For teens, birth rates dropped 9% from 2009. For women in their early 20s, they fell 6%. For unmarried mothers, the drop was 4%.

It seems that women who are worried about money, particularly younger women, feel they can't afford to start a family or add to it.

While birth rates fell for younger women, for women 40 and older, they rose. Those who face a closing biological window for having children and may be more worried about that than the economy.

The total fertility rate, which tells how many children a woman can be expected to have if current birth rates continue fell from 2.1 to 1.9.

For Hispanic women total fertility rate rate fell from 3 children to 2.4 in just a few years. Haub suggested that some young women who immigrated to the United States for jobs or other opportunities may have left. doclink

Karen Gaia says: it would be interesting to know how much the drop in fertility rate for the total is due to the drop in fertility rate due to Hispanic women who have left.

U.S.: California Has 2 Million Kids in Poverty, Says Census Bureau

November 17, 2011, Sacramento Bee

Over 2 million children live in poverty in California - more than any other state, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report. The rate rose from 19.9% to 22% In the U.S., the number of children living in poverty rose from 14.7 million in 2009 to 15.7 million in 2010 with the rate rising from 20% to 21.6%

Mississippi had the highest child poverty rate among the states at 32.5%, with District of Columbia following with 30.4%. Puerto Rico had 56.3%.

Families using food stamps or supplemental nutrition programs rose from 10.3% to 11.9% from from 2009 to 2010. California is below average, going from from 6.2% to 7.4% .

California's huge foreign-born population, some 10.2 million, tends to have a higher-than-average proportion of those who arrived in the state prior to 2005. Other studies have shown that the rate of immigration into California, both legal and illegal, has dropped sharply in recent years due to the state's moribund economy.

86.7% of California's foreign-born came here prior to 2005. States who have experienced recent inflows to satisfy their growing economies and therefore their growing needs for labor, were lower, with North Dakota's 66.9% the lowest.

While California has the nation's largest number of residents over 89 years old, it also has one of the lower percentages of over 89. doclink

This Economic Collapse is a 'Crisis of Bigness'

September 25, 2011, Guardian (London)

The results of half a century of debt-fuelled "growth" are becoming impossible to convincingly deny, but even as economies and certainties crumble, our appointed leaders bravely hold the line. No one wants to be the first to say the dam is cracked beyond repair.

Banks grew so big that their collapse would have brought down the entire global economy. To prevent this, they were bailed out with huge tranches of public money, which in turn is precipitating social crises on the streets of western nations. The European Union has grown so big, and so unaccountable, that it threatens to collapse in on itself. Corporations have grown so big that they are overwhelming democracies and building a global plutocracy to serve their own interests. The human economy as a whole has grown so big that it has been able to change the atmospheric composition of the planet and precipitate a mass extinction event.

Leopold Kohr's message is "Wherever something is wrong," ... "something is too big."

Kohr, born in 1909, wrote The Breakdown of Nations, published In 1957. He said that small states, small nations and small economies are more peaceful, more prosperous and more creative than great powers or superstates. He claimed that society's problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but by their size. Socialism, anarchism, capitalism, democracy, monarchy - all could work well on what he called "the human scale": a scale at which people could play a part in the systems that governed their lives. But once scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression - as any number of revolutions have shown - because "the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself".

When people have too much power, under any system or none, they abuse it. The world should be broken up into small states, roughly equivalent in size and power, which would be able to limit the growth and thus domination of any one unit. Small states and small economies were more flexible, more able to weather economic storms, less capable of waging serious wars, and more accountable to their people. Not only that, but they were more creative.

Bigness, predicted Kohr, could only lead to more bigness, for "whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions". Beyond those limits it was forced to accumulate more power in order to manage the power it already had. Growth would become cancerous and unstoppable, until there was only one possible endpoint: collapse.

We have now reached the point that Kohr warned about over half a century ago: the point where "instead of growth serving life, life must now serve growth, perverting the very purpose of existence". doclink

How the U.S. is Becoming a 3rd World Country - Part 1

November 11, 2011, Financial Sense

The U.S. is experiencing high unemployment, lack of economic opportunity, low wages, widespread poverty, extreme concentration of wealth, unsustainable government debt, control of the government by international banks and multinational corporations, weak rule of law and counterproductive government policies -- all fundamental characteristics that define a 3rd world country.

While other factors such as public health, nutrition, and infrastructure rank the U.S. above 3rd world countries, they are below European standards, and will rapidly deteriorate in a declining economy.

The evidence suggests that, without fundamental reforms, the U.S. will become a post industrial neo-3rd-world country by 2032.

Offshoring of manufacturing, outsourcing of jobs and deindustrialization are aspects of globalization, shoving the U.S. labor market into a long-term downward trend. The U.S. workforce has declined by approximately 6.5% since its year 2000 peak to roughly 58.2% of working age adults and the U.S. now suffers chronic unemployment of 9.1%. Although the workforce grew in the 1980s and 1990s, as dual income families became the norm, the size of the workforce is shrinking due to a lack of economic opportunity.

Before the Clinton administration, unemployment measures included workers who are now no longer counted as part of the workforce. Thus, while the official long-term unemployment is 16.5%, using pre-Clinton measurements, unemployment exceeds 22%, only 3% below the worst point (24.9%) of the Great Depression, and not far from Armenia at 28.6%, Algeria at 27.3% and the West Bank and the Gaza Strip both at 25.7%. The highest unemployment for countries with over 2 million population is Macedonia with 33.8% unemployment.

Young Americans are being left behind in terms of economic opportunity. Student loans exceed $1 trillion while the labor force participation rate for those aged 16 to 29 who are working or looking for work fell to 48.8% in 2011, the lowest level ever recorded. The fact of millions of unemployed college graduates and lack of economic opportunity for other young Americans, is a political wildcard reminiscent of countries like Tunisia.

American workers cannot yet directly compete for jobs with workers in countries like China and India. In China, for example, gross pay, in terms of purchasing power parity, is equivalent to approximately $514 per month, 57% below the U.S. poverty line. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the U.S. trade deficit with China alone caused a loss of 2.8 million U.S. jobs since 2001.

The cost of living is rising faster than wages, leaving Americans who earn more dollars poorer in terms of purchasing power. If household income is adjusted for inflation, most American families have grown significantly poorer over the past ten years. While wages have risen slightly, when adjusted for inflation, the wages of most Americans have not kept up with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Also, according to economist John Williams of Shadow Government Statistics, CPI systematically understates inflation.

Prices rise when the money supply is increased faster than population or sustainable economic activity. Apparent economic growth created through credit expansion, i.e., by increasing the money supply, has a temporary stimulative effect but also causes prices to rise.

The decline in real household income has set Americans back to 1996 levels, despite many households now having two incomes rather than one. The poverty rate in the United States rose to 15.7% in 2011, having risen sharply since 2006 and continues to climb. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as "food stamps," now feeds 1 in 8 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children.

The household income and wealth of the wealthiest Americans has increased sharply, despite the overall deterioration of the U.S. economy.

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, warned that concentration of wealth undermines the consumer base of the economy, causing GDP to decline and resulting in unemployment, which reduces living standards.

Economic data from several sources, including the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), show that wealth and income in the United States have become increasingly concentrated with the wealthiest 1% of Americans owning 38.2% of stock market assets, e.g., shares of businesses. For the wealthiest 1% of Americans, household income tripled between 1979 and 2007 and has continued to increase while household wealth in the United States has fallen by $7.7 trillion.

The Gini Coefficient, a measurement of disparity in income distribution, the United States is now at parity with China and will soon overtake Mexico, a still developing country. Even though the U.S. remains a far wealthier country overall, if the current trend continues the U.S. will resemble a 3rd world country, in terms of the disparity in income distribution, in approximately two decades, i.e., by 2032. doclink

Karen Gaia says: we must take the money used for war and use it to prepare for hard times. Let's cut our waste, tighten our belts, become more efficient and build a more friendly social structure for our future.

U.S.: Gargantuan Large Investment in Infrastructure Needed, Experts Say

October 14, 2011, Washington Post

A nationwide transportation system built in the middle of the 20th century is falling apart, burdened with a system that has deteriorated after decades of deferred maintenance, according to a general consensus at a transportation conference that heard from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; House Transportation Committee Chairman John L. Mica (R-Fla.) and his predecessor as chairman, and others.

The U.S. population is forecast to grow by 100 million - a 30% increase - before the middle of the 21st century. There isn't enough money to arrest the transportation system decline, and the public is largely oblivious to the need.

To the average consumer the transportation system appears to be working reasonably well but the amount of money needed to restore and expand it is so enormous that few taxpayers can relate.

The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that an investment of $1.7 trillion (and the Urban Institute says $2 trillion) is needed between now and 2020 to rebuild roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems and dams that are reaching the ends of their planned life cycles.

Fail to invest now, and the cost will increase later. Already, the civil engineers said, infrastructure deficiencies add $97 billion a year to the cost of operating vehicles and result in travel delays that cost $32 billion.

In the meantime Congress grapples with taming a massive deficit, talking about $45 billion a year in the House and $54 billion in the Senate.

If the nation does not fix these infrastructure deficiencies it will not remain competitive with other countries. doclink

Disparity of Wealth

NASA-Funded Study: Industrial Civilisation Headed for Irreversible Collapse?

Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system
March 14, 2014, Guardian   By: Nafeez Ahmed

Unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution could contribute to a collapse in global industrial civilization, according to a new study, partly-sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Compelling historical data shows that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilizational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."

By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilizational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

The independent research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.

These factors can lead to collapse on the convergence of "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites and Commoners" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."

Arguments supporting technological fixes have been proposed, but "Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from "increased resource throughput," despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

In one scenario explored by the model, civilization appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."

In another scenario focusing on the role of continued resource exploitation, finds that, "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."

In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."

Motesharrei and his colleagues point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilization.

"Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion."

The study offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business - and consumers - to recognise that 'business as usual' cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.

A number of other more empirically-focused studies - by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance - have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. doclink

Why Bernie vs Hillary Matters More Than People Think

February 11, 2016, Huffington Post   By: Benjamin Studebaker

One major difference between Hillary and Bernie is that Bernie is a democratic socialist and Hillary is not. Bernie Sanders connects himself politically with Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, with the New Deal and the Great Society. He understands that inequality is the core structural factor in economic crisis and that growth in real wages and incomes is required for robust, sustainable economic growth.

Under Calvin Coolidge's right wing economic policy in the 1920s, economic inequality in the United States spiked: the left in the 1930s understood rising inequality as the core cause of the Great Depression. Because wealth was concentrating in the hands of the top 1%, the amount of investment steadily increased while the amount of consumption stagnated. Whenever there is too little consumption to support the level of investment in the economy, investors struggle to find profitable places to invest their money.

With consumption weak, businesses have little reason to increase their production, because no one will buy the additional goods and services provided. So businesses tend to reinvest money they receive rather than use it to grow. That investment circulates through the financial system and accumulates in speculative bubbles -- places like the stock market, housing market, commodities market, or various foreign markets.

One day the market recognizes that these assets have become massively overvalued and the bubble bursts. People relying on these assets to pay off other debts get into serious trouble, and a contagion can spread throughout the economy with horrifying consequences.

Between the 1930s and the 1970s, the United States drastically reduced economic inequality. It redistributed wealth from the top to the middle and the bottom, resulting in consistent wage increases and consequently consistent consumption increases. This allowed investment to be put to effective use -- because the bottom and the middle were rising, they were able to support the additional spending that business owners needed to successfully expand.

The series of policies that accomplished this -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, strong union rights, high minimum wages, high marginal tax rates on the wealthy (with a 90% top rate under Eisenhower), and strong enforcement of financial regulations and anti-trust laws -- would strike most Americans as socialist,

Democrats Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and even Republicans Eisenhower and Nixon are associated with this ideological tradition. Then, in 1976 things changed.

In the '70s there were two oil shocks, in which the price of oil went up very rapidly (the OPEC embargo in the early '70s and the Iranian Revolution at the end of the decade). Rising oil prices created stagflation, because they drastically increased the price of goods over a very short span of time. This reduced consumption, damaging economic growth, while simultaneously leading governments to increase wages in an attempt to prevent workers from rapidly losing purchasing power, creating inflation.

To solve this problem, governments could have stabilized oil prices or reduce dependency on foreign oil -- or they also could have allowed real wages to fall temporarily until that was accomplished (in tandem with a strong social safety net to protect those at the bottom of the wage scale). Instead, a new ideology arose, since the oil shocks cast doubt on the egalitarian ideology. Many felt that balancing investment with consumption was fundamentally mistaken, and the problem was that there was not enough investment and too much consumption.

This ideology is pretty much like that of Calvin Coolidge's in the 1920s. It was put into practice in 1976 when Jimmy Carter, an atypical Democrat (at that time), began deregulating the market. From there the right embarked on a political platform of reducing union power, reducing the real value of the minimum wage, cutting welfare spending, reducing taxes on the wealthy, and deregulating the financial sector.

The stagflation in the '70s created an opportunity for Reagan to convince Republicans and eventually the country as a whole to fully embrace a totally different ideology that was much closer to Coolidge's politics than it was Eisenhower's or Nixon's.

Inequality began rising rapidly and during the new millennium has frequently approached depression-era levels, having the same harmful effects on consumption that it had in the early 20th century and creating the same endemic risk of bubbles and financial crises.

In 1992 Bill Clinton ran on the promise to "end welfare as we know it," a total repudiation of the FDR/LBJ legacy. Clinton also signed important deregulatory bills into law, like the Commodities Futures Modernization Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Most economists blame one or both of these pieces of legislation with directly facilitating the housing crisis in 2008. Hillary Clinton supported these measures during the 1990s and has in some cases continued to voice support for them.

Bernie Sanders was against welfare reform and GLBA at the time (he voted for CFMA-it was snuck into an 11,000 page omnibus spending bill at the last minute).

In the 2008 primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, there never was a substantive difference in economics. The major economic legislation passed under Obama (Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act) did not address the structural inequality problem.

Wealth inequality, which decreased under FDR, Truman, JFK, and LBJ, increased under Carter, Clinton, and Obama.

Carter and Clinton took the party away from economic progressives. The Democratic Party, which was once the party that saw economic inequality and poverty as the core causes of economic instability, now sees inequality and poverty as largely irrelevant.

The contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is not a contest to see who will lead the democrats, it's a contest to see what kind of party the democrats are going to be in the coming decades, what ideology and what interests, causes, and issues the Democratic Party will prioritize. This makes it far more important than any other recent primary election. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I hope the socialist ideology works this time. Oil shocks disrupted it in the 1970s. Today we have resource depletion (oil) and climate change to deal with. However, it is becoming obvious that Calvin Coolidge's ideology isn't working either. Generating massive debt unbacked by money or resources is not going to make it better.

How China Now Threatens One of the World's Greatest Success Stories

February 1, 2016, Washington Post   By: Chico Harlan

China's 25 years of breakneck expansion brought hundreds of millions from farmland into cities. In 1990, 61% of Chinese lived on less than $1.25 per day, the global poverty line. Now only 4% of the country lives below the line. During this time about 1.1 billion people, three-fifths of them Chinese, were pulled out of poverty.

China needed materials for its building boom, and that meant scouring oil, iron ore and coal from across the globe to feed its appetites. China particularly invested in the materials of Africa, its investment in the continent growing more than 26-fold over 10 years. This helped Africa emerge into prosperity after a 1990s marked by famine and genocide.

However, the economy has taken a downturn and the prospect of weaker growth across the world is threatening to stall China's progress. The slowdown that has crippled some nations' currencies and wiped hundreds of billions from stock markets globally.

The job of fighting poverty is getting harder, particularly in Africa, a continent that is home to half the world's extreme poor and depends disproportionately on Chinese demand for raw materials.

"If the resource-rich African economies are hit hard, that poses a big challenge for the global poverty trajectory," said Laurence Chandy, a fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.

Sub-Saharan Africa just had its weakest year of growth this century, and credit ratings agencies have recently downgraded outlooks for several African nations.

China accounts for more than 40% of exports in more than a half-dozen African countries, including Zambia, Angola, and Sierra Leone.

"A lot of African countries that depend on trade with China . . . won't be able to provide essential services to the poor," said Andrew Dabalen, the lead economist in the World Bank's Poverty and Global Equity Practice.

India's fight against poverty, though massive in scale, appears to be going somewhat better: The nation managed to cut extreme poverty in half between 1990 and 2010 and has maintained its steady growth in recent years.

Sub-Saharan Africa is far more worrisome. Even during relatively strong economic times, it has struggled to curb poverty because of rapid population growth. Even though it reduced the proportion of those in the direst conditions by 15% between 1990 and 2010, the raw number living below $1.25 per day actually grew.

Sub-Saharan Africa is a patchwork of fragile states, and to achieve the United Nations' zero-poverty goal, nearly every one of those governments would need simultaneous periods of peace, competent governance, and growth.

In a 2013 paper, Chandy found that, under the best scenario, the extreme poverty rate by 2030 could reach 1.4%. Under the darkest scenario, poverty could remain at its current 15.2%.

Reduced Chinese demand could depress prices for raw materials for a sustained period - potentially for years. Oil has dropped more than 70% in the last 16 months. Copper has been slashed by 40%. Iron ore has been cut in half.

In copper-dependent Zambia, people are dealing with prolonged power outages, and its largest mining company said last year that it would lay off 4,000 workers.

In Angola, sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer, cuts to fuel subsidies have caused an increase in bus fares, and bungled garbage collection has left the capital, Luanda, in a layer of stench.

In Nigeria, 75% government revenue comes from oil; now foreign exchange reserves have dwindled, and its currency is worth about 25 cents less than it was two years ago. The government in Nigeria is also dealing with the militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Nigeria has more extreme poor people than any country in Africa, and its population is growing at 2.7% annually. Last year Nigeria's economy last year grew 3.0%, the IMF said. doclink

Karen Gaia said: the demand for oil has gone down, so perhaps the demand for Chinese goods has also gone down and China may have produced more than was needed. China depended on cheap loans which enticed them to over invest. One of the reasons that the price of oil and other commodities has gone down is because the American worker is not getting wage raises (or is unemployed) and has no discretionary income to spend on trips to the mall and other things that require these commodities. The cost of producing oil is going up, so when oil prices and energy prices go up, corporations take it out on the employees, who, in turn, stop buying stuff, which eventually pushes the prices of oil down.

Economics Might Be Very Wrong About Growth: Bloomberg View

January 29, 2016,   By: Mark Buchanan

We have probably reached a point where, despite technological innovations, mature economies won't grow as fast as before. Economist Larry Summers says that recent low growth rates might reflect a long-term stagnation that stems from accumulated household debts, rising inequality and other factors not related to the 2008 financial crisis. Economist Robert Gordon has reached much the same conclusion. And for nearly 20 years a group of mostly German economists have been rejecting the idea that an economy can keep expanding exponentially each year, no matter how big it gets. Exponential growth may occur in some young economies, but mature economies usually grow slowly, in a linear way, with the growth rate percentage declining.

A new study of the economic development of 18 mature economies confirms this view. Upon studying the economies of the U.S. and most major European nations from 1960 to 2013, it found that, with two possible exceptions, mature economies experienced linear growth in per-capita GDP (i.e., each year they had a lower percentage of economic gains per person). If correct, these findings suggest that economists need to factor this difference into their projections. But the idea of exponential growth rests at the core of modern growth theories that explain how capital, labor and technology combine to increase productivity. Governments rely on growth projections when they decide how much money they need in their social security funds or when summing up the costs and benefits of any proposed project. If growth isn't exponential, their calculations will systematically over-rate income and make their projections misleading.

But if the rapid growth of the last two centuries is giving way to a future of slower growth, there may be an up side. It will soon take nearly two planet Earths to sustain the world population at current consumption levels. We don't actually have two Earths, so growth should probably slow. If it's already doing so, that may offer some relief. doclink

Art says: The up-beat conclusion fails to mention that billions of people still live close to the edge. We will need to reverse population growth rates and distribute wealth more evenly if the poor of this world are to live better in any sustainable way.

Karen Gaia says: Our declining resources have brought us to a point where employers costs have gone up and they have had to stop giving raises to employees, lay off people, or hire cheaper labor. This has driven the wealth and income of the average worker way down, to the point where he/she can not longer afford discretionary spending. This has lowered the demand for fuel and other commodities and companies have had to stockpile inventories and resort to debt beyond any collateral that they or the banks might have. Lowered interest rates have made debt cheap, enticing corportations into pie-in-the-sky investments. See for a paper on the economy.

The World Economic Order is Collapsing and This Time There Seems No Way Out

The refugee crisis is paralleled by the savage fallout from a global financial system running out of control
October 10, 2015, Mail and Guardian   By: Will Hutton

Over the last 70 years there has been nothing like the millions of refugees fleeing from Middle Eastern conflict, voting with their feet, despairing of their futures. The catalyst: failing states and the grip of Islamic fundamentalism, shows no sign of disappearing.

In the economic order there is another collapse that is less conspicuous: the hundreds of billions of dollars fleeing emerging economies such as Brazil and China. Banks have lent trillions that will never be repaid. Capital flight and bank fragility are profound dysfunctions that will surface as real-world economic dislocation.

The IMF warned last week of excess credit globally and weakening global economic growth. An international co-ordinated response is needed, but the anti-state philosophies of the dominant Anglo-Saxon political right in the US and UK makes such intervention unlikely.

The world financial system that has gone rogue. Global banks make profits from doing business with each other, creating money out of nothing. Creating credit depends on the truth that not all depositors will want their money back simultaneously.

In the past, lending was carefully regulated by national central banks, but with a global banking system, central banks are less able to monitor and control what is going on. Cash generated out of nothing can be lent in countries where the economic prospects look superficially good. Property prices rise. Companies and households grow overconfident about their prospects and borrow freely. Economies surge well above their trend growth rates and all seems well until something - a collapse in property or commodity prices - unravels the whole process. Bust banks and governments are left picking up the pieces.

The Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane delineates the crisis into three parts. The first took place in Britain and the US during 2007-08. Throughout the previous decade high inflows of globally generated credit had created false booms, after which overconfident banks found that they had lent too much. Collateral behind derivatives was worthless. Britain's banking system lost money and was going bust, to rescued by £1 trillion of liquidity and special injections of public capital.

The second part took place in in Europe during 2011-12. Lending had been made on the incorrect assumption that all eurozone countries were equal, and when it became obvious that they were not, money flooded out and the only thing holding the line was extraordinary printing of money by the European Central Bank and tough belt-tightening measures in overborrowed countries such as Portugal, Greece and Ireland.

In the third part, emerging market economies (EMEs), countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, China, all rode high on sky-high commodity prices and wild lending. China manufactured more cement from 2010-13 than the US had produced over the entire 20th century. Only a few of the many loans the China banks made can ever be repaid. China's real growth is now below that of the Mao years: the economic crisis will spawn a crisis of legitimacy for the deeply corrupt communist party. Commodity prices have plunged. The EMEs do not have a Federal Reserve or European Central Bank to rescue them.

Yet these nations now account for more than half of global GDP.

Needed is a bigger, reinvigorated IMF that can rescue the EMEs and properly supervision of global finance. It needs western governments to launch massive economic stimuli, centred on infrastructure spending. It needs new smart monetary policies that allow negative interest rates.

None of that is in prospect, vetoed by an ideological right and not properly championed by the left. If there is no will to deal, collectively, with the refugee crisis, there is even less to reorder the global economy. We may muddle through, but don't bet on it. doclink

Karen Gaia says: What hope do we have of a benevolent IMF? Our own Federal Reserve has given to the rich and left 90% of our population struggling. The IMF does not, and cannot be counted on to, take into account resource depletion and the vast inequities of resources that led to conflict in the first place. Resource depletion is the primary reason conflict is increasing and world economy is crashing in the first place. Debt and lending were only a incorrectly perceived way to put off the limitations of a finite planet. The entire exercise only succeeded in leaving the rich richer and the poor poorer. Now the rich will squander the remainder of world's resources in a war to wrestle resources from each other.

A Fools Take

March 1, 2015, Motley Fool investors e-newsletter   By: Morgan Housel

One of the most important money lessons is that wealth is relative. Someone with millions in the bank can feel broke, while someone with a modest stash can feel like they're on top of the world, so rich that they can retire 15 years after puberty.

Think about this. The group belonging to the "1%" richest Americans has become a symbol of the rich elite. But if you earn more than $34,000 in America, you are part of the richest 1% of the globe, even adjusted for differences in purchasing power, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic.

We always think about wealth as a number. But it's really just a feeling, a product of your own expectations. This is so important to understand because a lot of people talk about how to get rich. It involves making a lot of money. But to stay rich, you have to do something else. You have to ensure that your expectations don't grow faster than your wealth. doclink

Karen Gaia says: to save the Earth and its inhabitants, we must learn to live well with less.

Population Decline and the Great Economic Reversal

February 17, 2015, Stratfor Global Intelligence   By: George Friedman

In George Friedman's book The Next 100 Years, he says that there is no question but that the populations of most European countries will decline in the next generation, and in the cases of Germany and Russia, the decline will be dramatic.

The population explosion is ending. In virtually all societies the birthrate among women has been declining. The world is urbanizing and, as it does, the economic value of children declines and people have fewer children For most people, a family of eight children would be a financial catastrophe. Therefore, women have two children or fewer, on average.

The contraction of the population, particularly during the transitional period before the older generations die off, will leave a relatively small number of workers supporting a very large group of retirees, particularly as life expectancy in advanced industrial countries increases. In addition, the debts incurred by the older generation would be left to the smaller, younger generation to pay off.

Given this, the expectation is major economic dislocation.

The most obvious solution to this problem is immigration. The problem is that there are cultural problems with integrating immigrants. In addition some of the historical sources of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexico, are exporting fewer immigrants. As Mexico moves up the economic scale, emigration to the United States will decline.

But does a declining population really matter?

If the downward curve in gross domestic product matched the downward curve in population, per capita GDP would be unchanged. But there is no reason to think that GDP would fall along with population. The capital base of society, its productive plant as broadly understood, will not dissolve as population declines.

One of the key variables mitigating the problem of decreasing population would be continuing advances in technology to increase productivity. Growths in individual working productivity have been occurring in all productive environments from the beginning of industrialization, and the rate of growth has been intensifying.

Throughout the history of modern industrialism and capitalism, there has always been a surplus of labor. Now, for the first time in 500 years, this situation is reversing itself. Since fewer humans are being born, the labor force will contract and the price of all sorts of labor will increase. In the past, the scarce essential element has been capital. But now capital, understood in its precise meaning as the means of production, will be in surplus, while labor will be at a premium.

This would raise per capita GDP and the actual distribution of wealth would shift.

In the recent period of time the accumulation of wealth has shifted dramatically into fewer hands, and the gap between the upper-middle class and the middle class has also widened. If the cost of money declined and the price of labor increased, the wide disparities would shift, and the historical logic of industrial capitalism would be, if not turned on its head, certainly reformulated.

The decline in the value of housing will put the net worth of the middle and upper classes at risk, while adjusting to a world where interest rates are perpetually lower than they were in the first era of capitalism would run counter to expectations and therefore lead financial markets down dark alleys. Since the decline in population is transparent and highly predictable, there is time for homeowners, investors and everyone else to adjust their expectations.

Population decline will significantly transform the functioning of economies, but will not represent a catastrophe. In the past 500 years bankers and financiers have held the upper hand; now in a labor-scarce society, having pools of labor to broker will be the key. doclink

Richest 1% Percent to Have More Than Rest of Humanity Combined

January 19, 2015, Common Dreams   By: Jon Queally

In less than two years, if current trends continued unchecked, the richest 1% percent of people on the planet will own at least half of the world's wealth, according to Oxfam International. The rate of global inequality is not only morally obscene, but an existential threat to the economies of the world and the very survival of the planet. Alongside climate change, spiraling disparity between the super-rich and everyone else, is brewing disaster for humanity as a whole, Oxfam said.

"Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined?" asked Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

The world's wealthiest, reads the report, "have generated and sustained their vast riches through their interests and activities in a few important economic sectors, including finance and insurance and pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further. The most prolific lobbying activities in the US are on budget and tax issues; public resources that should be directed to benefit the whole population, rather than reflect the interests of powerful lobbyists."

Oxfam suggests the following policies:

* Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals

* Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education

* Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards capital and wealth

* Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers

* Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal

* Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee

* Agree to a global goal to tackle inequality. doclink

Costs of Economic Growth Have 'Outweighed Benefits'

Despite rising GDP, a measure of global wellbeing has dropped since 1978
July 19, 2013, SciDevNet

Pockets of affluence do not suggest national well-being, so a nation's GDP sheds little light on the quality of life for most people. World GDP has increased more than three-fold since 1950, which shows that some people now have more money. However, general economic well-being, as estimated by five other indicators, has been decreasing since 1978.

The study, covering 17 nations with 53% of the world's population, compared GDP estimates from 1950 to 2003 with the GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator), the HDI (Human Development Index), the Gini co-efficient (for distribution of wealth), and measures of Life Satisfaction, Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity. Despite variations between the different nations, the study showed several major trends. Global per-capita GPI peaked in 1978, about the same time that the global ecological footprint exceeded global bio-capacity. In almost all of these countries life satisfaction did not improve significantly since 1975. Globally, per-capita GPI does not increase much after per-capita GDP reaches $7,000 ($28,000 for a family of four).

If incomes were distributed more equitably, the current world GDP ($67 trillion/yr.) could support 9.6 billion people at $7000. GPI is not the perfect economic welfare indicator, but it is better than GDP. Development policies need to shift to better account for real welfare and not merely GDP growth. Development policies should urgently shift from trying to maximize production and consumption towards attempts to improve real welfare - but getting that proposal through today's U.S. Congress would be close to a miracle. doclink

Karen Gaia says: The above GPI distribution ($7000) is based on today's GDP, which is inflated, having borrowed heavily from earth's reserves. To be sustainable, we would have adjust that $7000 downward. We have a footprint of 1.5 earths, so we need to get down to 2/3 of that, with a distribution of only $4670 for each of 9.6 billion people.

Of course, it's hard to see how we are going to wrestle all that concentration of wealth from the rich and middle class people.

Egypt's Perilous Drift

June 15, 2013, New York Times

People are mad at bakers in Cairo because they makes only so many subsidized pita loaves and sell the rest of their government-subsidized flour on the black market to private bakers who charge five times the official price.

Egypt is running out of hard currency and can't buy enough gasoline and diesel for power stations. Long lines are forming at gas stations, electricity cuts are common, and sewers are backing up. To make things worse, climate, water, food and population pressures are now interweaving with the political and economic ones in ways that would challenge even the best of leaders, and Egypt today has far from the best. In the last month, Cairo has seen temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees above the daily average high.

With Ethiopia's construction of the biggest hydroelectric dam in Africa, the water supply to Egypt is likely to be reduced, and since Egypt's 85 million people get 97% of their fresh water from the Nile, this has become a huge issue, with sabre-rattling already occurring.

Among non-Islamists voted for Morsi - it was the only way he got elected - there is a widespread feeling that the Brotherhood tricked them and the poor into voting for its members and now they have failed to either fix the country or share power, but are busy trying to impose religious norms. 10 million signatures have gathered so far calling on Morsi to resign and to call new elections.

Egypt needs a revolution, but the truth is that any faction here - the youth, the army, the Muslim Brotherhood -- that thinks it can rule Egypt alone and make the others disappear is fooling itself. (Egyptians today desperately need a "peace process" -- not with Israel, but with one another.

Everyone has to take responsibility for the commons, rather than just grabbing their own. Egypt's commons - its bridges, roads, parks, coral reefs - are crumbling.

On the Red Sea overbuilding, overfishing and rising water temperatures have led to the bleaching of some of the Red Sea's spectacular coral reefs. Hotel owners, to expand their land or gain some beach, simply put landfill over the coral reefs on their shores. Marine activities were unregulated, stressing dolphins in their own resting areas, where they try to sleep safe from the sharks. Fishermen overfished - especially for sharks, which they sold for meat and for fins - and they used dynamite and mesh nets that killed the multicolored reef fish, along with the grouper they were trying to catch. As a result, the whole reef ecosystem became less resilient to global warming.

In 2012, when water temperatures in the Red Sea rose by about two degrees Celsius above their average, the coral died, especially in the most tourist-filled and fished areas. Healthy coral are critical for fish spawning.

Coral requires a healthy ecosystem, starting with the apex predator - the sharks. If too many sharks are killed, too many of the midlevel predators survive and they then eat too many of the smaller plant-eating fish that keep coral healthy by eating the algae off substrates to clear space for coral to colonize. A reef rich in herbivores will be more resilient.

But for a long time the local government and fishermen were not interested and certainly could not grasp global warming's impact on the region. So Hepca, a Red Sea conservation group, estimated that every shark in the Red Sea was worth about $150,000 a year in business from tourists (who fly in to see or swim with the sharks) and lived for 30 years, while a shark killed for meat and fins for soup brought in about $150 one time. So if everyone worked together, if the government passed new zoning laws where people could fish, and dive-tour operators respected them and Hepca was empowered to enforce the regulation with its own speedboats -- the Egyptian coast guard has no boats -- everyone would be better off. It sounds simple, but it was a revolution here.

It would be hard to bring this kind of "shared commons" thinking to the national level here, but the absence of it is what ails almost every one of these Arab Awakenings today, where one group or another thinks it can have it all and too few people are thinking about the common good and how it has the potential make them all better off. Syria is the most extreme version of this disease, but Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen are all struggling with the same issue.

However, Egypt is bursting with talented young people who understand that Egypt needs an inclusive, long-term, sustainable plan for national renewal. And what they also understand is that those who say that the Arabs have tried everything - Nasserism, socialism, Communism, Baathism, liberalism and Islamism - but that nothing has worked, are wrong. There is one ism they haven't tried: environmentalism. doclink

Karen Gaia says: if there is hope for environmentalism, there is hope for family planning. Not having so many children is another way to take care of the commons.

U.S.: Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged

March 10, 2013, USA Against Greed

1. Only 3.6% of taxpayers in the top 0.1% were classified as entrepreneurs based on 2004 tax returns. 90% of the assets owned by millionaires are held in bonds and cash, personal business accounts, the stock market, and/or real estate, according to both Marketwatch and economist Edward Wolff. The great majority of entrepreneurs come from middle-class backgrounds, with less than 1% of all entrepreneurs coming from very rich or very poor backgrounds, according to a 2009 Kauffman Foundation study.

2. The U.S. has greater wealth inequality than every measured country in the world except for Namibia, Zimbabwe, Denmark, and Switzerland.

3. 50% of the GDP - $8 to $12 trillion - is held untaxed overseas by rich Americans, according to a Tax Justice Network estimate. Based on a historical stock market return of 6%, up to $750 billion of income is lost to the U.S. every year, resulting in a tax loss of about $260 billion.

4. Corporations paid an average of 22.5% from 1987 to 2008, and an annual rate of 10% since. This represents a sudden $250 billion annual loss in taxes. U.S. corporations have shown a pattern of tax reluctance for more than 50 years, despite building their businesses with American research and infrastructure. They've passed the responsibility on to their workers. For every dollar of workers' payroll tax paid in the 1950s, corporations paid three dollars. Now it's 22 cents.

5. Ten Americans made a total of $50 billion in one year - enough, according to 2008 estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN's World Food Program, to feed the 870 million people in the world who are lacking sufficient food.

6. Tax deductions for the rich could pay off 100% of the deficit. Research by the Tax Policy Center, deferrals and deductions and other forms of tax expenditures which largely benefit the rich are worth about 7.4% of the GDP, or about $1.1 trillion.

7. The average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 in net worth, says the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. That's much less than 1% of the median wealth for single white women. Also, for every dollar of non-home wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.

8. Elderly and disabled food stamp recipients get $4.30 per day for food from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and food stamp programs.

9. Young adults have lost 68% of their net worth since 1984 - now less than $4,000, which has to pay for student loans that average $27,200. Or, if you're still in school, for $12,700 in credit card debt. 16- to 24-year-olds have an unemployment rate of almost 50%,and 40% of recent college graduates are living with their parents. Apple, which makes a profit of $420,000 per employee, pays about $12 per hour.

10. The American public paid about $4 trillion to bail out the banks (the same amount of money made by America's richest 10% in one year). The super-rich in the U.S. get $200 trillion from the derivatives market which have netted zero sales tax revenue for the U.S. doclink

Karen Gaia says: what are the chances of getting just $8 billion of those trillions of dollars freed up for international family planning and domestic contraception programs?

Growth is the Problem

September 10, 2012, Truthdig   By: Chris Hedges

The ceaseless expansion of economic exploitation has come to an end. Experts squander resources in attempting to re-create an expanding economic system that is moribund. The steady depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, along with the accelerated pace of climate change, will combine with crippling levels of personal and national debt to thrust us into a global depression that will dwarf any in the history of capitalism.

To achieve growth now means mounting debt, more pollution, an accelerated loss of biodiversity and the continued destabilization of the climate. If there is no growth existing debt levels become unsustainable. The elites are trying to fix the economic crisis, but it cannot be prevented. "We can only decide whether we will adapt to it or not."

Richard Heinberg, the author of "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality," and a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, argues that we cannot grasp the real state of the global economy by the usual metrics -- GDP, unemployment, and so on -- although even these measures point to severe and chronic problems. Consumer debt cannot continue to grow as house prices decline to realistic levels. Toxic assets litter the portfolios of the major banks. The Earth's natural resources are being exhausted. Climate change is beginning to exact a heavy economic toll on countries, including the United States, through the destruction brought about by droughts, floods, wildfires and loss of crop yields.

"The highly dysfunctional U.S. political system," paralyzed and hostage to corporate power, is unable to respond rationally to the crisis, he says. Government policy decisions arise from unaccountable government agencies and private interest groups.

"It could implode in a few weeks, in a few months or maybe in a few years," Heinberg said, "unless radical steps are taken to restructure the economy" .. "And when it does the financial system will seize up far more dramatically than in 2008. You will go to the bank or the ATM and there will be no money. Food will be scarce and expensive."

"The collapse will also inevitably trigger the kind of instability and unrest, including riots, that we have seen in countries such as Greece. The elites, who understand and deeply fear the possibility of an unraveling, have been pillaging state resources to save their corrupt, insolvent banks, militarize their police forces and rewrite legal codes to criminalize dissent."

It remains possible in the industrialized world to provide the basics -- food, water, housing, medical care, employment, education and public safety. This would require a radical reversal of the structures of power, a massive cancellation of debt, and the slashing of bloated militaries, heavy regulation and restraints placed on the financial sector and high taxes imposed on oligarchic elites and corporations in order to reduce unsustainable levels of inequality. These measures would not mitigate the effects of climate change and the depletion of natural resources but would create the social stability needed to cope with a new post-growth regime.

Communities will have to create collectives to grow their own food and provide for their security, education, financial systems and self-governance. It will be the time to get to "know your neighbors," setting up food banks and farmers' markets, and establishing a local currency, carpooling, creating clothing exchanges, establishing cooperative housing, growing gardens, raising chickens and buying local. It will a time for "learning practical skills, becoming more self-sufficient, and forming bonds of trust with our neighbors to realize the quality of our lives and the lives of our children.

But such efforts may "be discouraged and perhaps criminalized by those in authority." The reconfiguration will arise not through ideologies, but through the necessities of survival forced on the poor and former members of the working and middle class who have joined the poor. doclink

Karen Gaia says: the author does not mention family planning: does he think it is too late? Perhaps he takes contraception for granted, thinking that is will always be available.

U.S.: Food Prices + Hunger Index = Riots, Civil Wars and Revolutions

September 17, 2012, Financial Sense   By: Russ Winter

Even in the U.S. the 48 million Americans qualifying for food stamps are affected. A 35% rise in prices for people already paying 30% of their income on food has the effect of triggering civil unrest.

Egypt is the world's largest wheat importer, with 60% of what it consumes from varied global sources, is highly vulnerable to rationing and steep prices.

Wheat prices might go up with the Fed's open-opended QE announcement. It aggravates the effect of the drought and encourages speculators to pile into commodities that are already facing rationing. The Bank of Japan reported that some of the big players are substituting foodstuffs and other commodities for near-zero-percent returns at the bank, the heightened interest in these commodities goes far beyond normal economic demand which will result in a massive misallocation of capital, resulting in global hunger and social-political instability. Indeed, this is Ben Bernanke's ultimate gesture to global food consumers. doclink

Dire Poverty Falls Despite Global Slump, Report Finds

March 6, 2012, New York Times

A World Bank report indicates that the global recession, contrary to economists' expectations, did not increase poverty in the developing world.

The report shows that the proportion of people living in extreme poverty-- living on less than $1.25 a day -- fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008.

This has allowed the world has met the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half five years before its 2015 deadline.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute and the United Nations' special adviser on the Millennium Development Goals said "There has been broad-based progress in fighting poverty, and accelerating progress. There's a lot to be happy about."

Strong growth in countries like Brazil, India and especially China has helped buoy economies in Africa and South America. High commodity prices also aided exporting nations.

In addition, shortly after the recession, with growth stagnating in countries like the United States and in western Europe, the world's investors plowed money into emerging markets. And, according to Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, said: "this time ... we did not see developing countries follow the United States and Europe into long recessions and slow recoveries." and "growth in developing countries has helped developed countries as well," he added.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty fell below 50% for the first time. Through the 1990s the proportion of people living in extreme poverty actually increased, before declining in the 2000s. Extreme poverty there fell to 47.5% in 2008 from 55.7% in 2002.

China moved nearly 700 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2008, with 84% of the population in extreme poverty falling to 13% during that period. The country's annual pace of economic growth never dipped below 9%.

Extreme poverty in the Middle East and North Africa fell to just 2.7% in 2008 from 4.2% in 2002.

"Long-term changes are really starting to take hold," said Mr. Sachs, citing favorable market conditions, policies to tackle public health problems and technological change bringing tools like cellphones and Internet connections to even the most remote and rural areas.

Mr. Sachs said that climate change and its attending droughts and floods, the threat of armed conflict and a persistently high birth rate among the very poor threatened to reverse the decline in poverty. But he said he most likely saw them getting better. "Looking at the balance of data, this is a very promising time for fighting poverty," Mr. Sachs said.


Note: "The Chinese economy grew at an annual pace of 8.9% in the fourth quarter, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday, marking a slowdown from a 9.1% growth rate in the prior quarter." "China's economic engine has also begun to lose momentum, as the country's exporters are being hit by weaker demand amid slowing world economic growth."

Tragedy of the Commons

January 21, 2012, Durango Herald

By Richard Grossman - First published in the Durango Herald

"In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation...." Great Law of the Iroquois

"They know that they shouldn't fish closer than 500 meters from the coast, but I've seen these boats with their nets out just 200 or 300 meters offshore. The officials don't enforce the laws."

We were visiting the Greek island of Mykonos while on tour with the Durango Choral Society. We walked along the harbor with our guide, David, admiring the many small fishing boats. He explained facets of the failing Greek economy as well as the ancient and modern sites on this beautiful island. The Aegean Sea around Mykonos was so overfished, David said, that there were few fish left to catch.

We found proof that David was correct when we sat down to eat. Restaurants, even those overlooking the beautiful blue Aegean, had menus that listed few seafood dishes. Any seafood was prohibitively expensive since it had been caught in distant seas.

The situation that we encountered in Greece is a good illustration of the "tragedy of the commons". That tragedy can occur when a limited resource is open to uncontrolled use by many people. Any one user may think he can benefit from taking as much of the resource as possible. This behavior is rational only in the narrow sense of self-interest. Regrettably, unbridled use of a resource is likely to lead to its depletion.

The term "commons" referred to pastureland that was available for everyone to graze his sheep in old England. Now it includes many different vital resources such as the air we breathe, the water we drink and the fish in the Aegean.

Most of us learned to share in kindergarten. Unfortunately, some adults never mastered that lesson or have forgotten it. When there are many people using the same resource, any person who takes more than his share may deprive others of their fair share. Even worse, selfish people can deplete the resource, so eventually no one benefits from it.

In the case of fishing off Mykonos, there had been plenty of seafood for centuries. In the past the boats and fishing techniques only allowed small, sustainable catches, so the small proportion of sea life that ended up in nets was quickly replaced. Now, with more fishermen and more effective fishing techniques and many more mouths to feed, the fish supply has been exhausted. The Greek government has tried to prevent depletion by having a "no fish" zone, with poor results. People don't seem to pay attention to the law, or the reason that it is needed.

Human population growth is one factor leading to the tragedy of the commons: more people using the same resource means less for all.

Ironically, some of the pollutants we have unintentionally added to drinking water may serve as a feedback mechanism to slow human population growth. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that have unintended hormonal effects. They are found in much of our country's drinking water. Some come from insecticides and other agricultural chemicals. Many plastics contain BPA, which has undesirable effects. Another source is the waste of women taking hormones. These chemicals have been shown to produce fish and other animals with sexual aberrations. It is possible that endocrine disruptors will lead to decreased human fertility.

The amount of fresh water on the planet is limited and, in some cases, is very slow to be replenished. The Ogallala aquifer is an example of a resource that is being used in an unsustainable manner. Much of the food grown in our country's midwestern breadbasket depends on water from this aquifer. Tragically, there are some places in eastern Colorado (and in other states) that rely on the Ogallala where the water table has dropped 40 feet in just 15 years!

As our human population has grown, the apparent size of the commons has shrunk. Although the first few wells in the Ogallala made little difference to the water table, now we seem to be sucking it dry. Dumping waste into a river or the atmosphere made little difference with few people and fewer factories, but these resources have become toxic in our populous, industrialized nation. We are learning the problems that can be caused by abusing the commons. The people who will suffer the most may be those who come after us, the "seventh generation" in the Iroquois law. Unless we think and plan ahead, our progeny will not have the use of many of the resources that we have enjoyed. doclink

How the U.S. is Becoming a 3rd World Country - Part 2

November 29, 2011, Financial Sense

The United States is quickly coming to resemble a post industrial neo-3rd-world country, likely by 2032.

High unemployment, lack of economic opportunity, low wages, widespread poverty, extreme concentration of wealth, unsustainable government debt, control of the government by international banks and multinational corporations, weak rule of law and counterproductive policies are defining characteristics of 3rd world countries. Other factors include poor public health, nutrition and education, as well as lack of infrastructure-factors that deteriorate rapidly in a failing economy.

In response to the economic downturn that began in 2007 and the start of the financial crisis in 2008, the U.S. federal government and the Federal Reserve resorted to a radically inflationary policy intended to save banks and to shepherd the U.S. economy through a recession. Instead, radically inflationary policies greatly increased the concentration of wealth.

Under ordinary circumstances, monetary inflation has the effect of redistributing wealth in favor of those recipients who receive newly created money first because they can spend it before it loses value. In a declining economy, however, the wealth redistribution effects of inflation are magnified.

When the Federal Reserve or the federal government supports banks and financial markets through liquidity injections, bailouts, asset purchases, quantitative easing, etc., the lion's share of financial support, i.e., newly created money, is captured by the largest financial institutions and by the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Money printing skews the distribution of money over the economy while the value of money, i.e., the purchasing power of wages and savings, is reduced.

U.S. government debt and deficit spending have markedly accelerated over the past decade. For example, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created and the U.S. military grew to 3 million active duty and reserve personnel, not including contractors. Since 2001, the U.S. spent approximately $1 trillion on military expansion while the total cost of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been estimated to exceed $3.7 trillion.

As of 2012, the majority of new federal government debt will stem from interest on existing debt. Treasury bond issues totaled $2.55 trillion in 2010, roughly 2x the federal budget deficit of $1.3 trillion.

The U.S. federal government's fast growing debt is $14.94 trillion, approximately 100% of GDP. Additionally, future liabilities total $66.6 trillion, including Medicare at $24.8 trillion, Social Security at $21.4 trillion, and Federal debt at $10.2 trillion.

The eventual insolvency of the U.S. federal government cannot be averted through any combination of taxes, budget cuts or realistic GDP growth. Increasing deficit spending by the federal government and debt monetization by the Federal Reserve, would devalue the U.S. dollar and potentially trigger a hyperinflationary collapse of the currency. To stave off the inevitable, interim measures might include tax increases, exchange controls, nationalization of pension funds or other measures similar to those taken in 3rd world countries.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), explained that the finance industry had effectively captured the U.S. government, a state of affairs typical of 3rd world countries.

Corruption, cronyism and weak rule of law are typical of 3rd world countries. The United States exhibits a clear corporate influence over elections and legislation and, arguably, relatively little law enforcement action where large, legally well-equipped corporations are concerned.

Critics have alleged that, underlying the sub-prime mortgage meltdown that triggered the financial crisis in 2008 was rampant fraud. Despite an avalanche of alleged crimes under existing federal law, no firm or individual of any significance in the financial crisis has yet been prosecuted.

More than any other aspect of America's progression towards 3rd world status, the federal government's low level of law enforcement action where "too big to fail" banks are concerned is perhaps the most insidious because it raises questions of legitimacy and of the social contract. A financial and legal system of moral hazard implies that victims face double jeopardy while they are deprived of legal recourse, i.e., those allegedly defrauded might face inflation and tax burdens stemming from preferential treatment of favored corporations or from further bailouts.

According to the Tax Policy center at the Urban Institute, Brookings Institution, 46% of American households will pay no federal income tax in 2011. The reasons include income tax exemptions for subsistence level income, dependents and nontaxable tax expenditures for senior citizens and low-income working families with children.

Assuming that big banks, multinational corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Americans remain off limits in terms of tax policy, the range of income taxed is likely to fall on what remains of the once much larger middle class: professionals, small business owners and dual income families in urban areas, etc. These are the households that have managed to stay ahead of inflation, declining real wages and falling household incomes.

Among other things, U.S. tax policies will erode capital formation within the remnants of the middle class, which is the engine of small business creation and the source of most American jobs. The eventual result will be a three-tier socioeconomic structure consisting of a super rich wealthy class, a much poorer working class and a massive, politically and financially disenfranchised underclass, similar to that of a 3rd world country. doclink

Adjusting the Economy to the New Energy Realities of the Second Half of the Age of Oil

October 7, 2011, Murphy, D.J., Hall, C.A.S

There are numerous theories that try to explain historical business cycles, in order to understand the causes of and solutions to recessions. so that we can accelerate a return to rapid growth during slow or non-growth times. They include ideas based on: Keynesian Theory, the Monetarist Model, the Rational Expectations Model, Real Business Cycle Models, Neo-Keynesian models, and so on. All assume there will be a return to a growing economy. GDP, incomes, and most other measures of economic growth have in fact grown steadily over the past century.

But with peak oil we may be asked to grow the economy while simultaneously decreasing oil consumption. Historically, spikes in the price of oil have been the primary cause of most recessions. Expansionary periods tend to be associated with prolonged periods of relatively low oil prices that increase aggregate demand and lower marginal production costs, all leading to, or at least associated with, economic growth.

For the economy to sustain real growth over time there must be an increase in the flow of net energy (and materi- als) through the economy. Economic production requires energy.

To produce goods and services, energy must be used, and to grow the economy, we must either increase the energy supply or increase the efficiency with which we use our source energy. This is called the energy-based theory of economic growth, which was advanced significantly by the work of Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen, amongst many others .

Research of the data shows that the consumption of every major energy source has increased with GDP since the mid-1800s at nearly the rate that the economy has expanded. Throughout this growth period, however, there have been numerous oscillations between periods of growth and recessions. A common mechanism underlies each recession: oil consumption increases and oil prices are lower during periods of economic expansion while oil consumption decreases and oil prices are higher during recessions.

Statistical analysis supported the hypothesis that energy consumption causes economic growth, and found that about 50% of the changes in economic growth over the past 40 years are explained, at least in the statistical sense, by the changes in oil consumption.

Yet changes in oil consumption are rarely used by neoclassical economists as a means of explaining economic growth. For example, Knoop (2010) describes the 1973 recession in terms of high oil prices, high unemployment and inflation, yet omits mentioning that oil consumption declined 4% during the first year and 2% during the second year.

Economic growth requires lower oil prices and simultaneously an increasing oil supply. The inflation-adjusted price of oil averaged across all expansionary years from 1970 to 2008 was $37 per barrel compared to $58 per barrel averaged across recessionary years, whereas oil consumption grew by 2% on average per year during expansionary years compared to decreasing by 3% per year during recessionary years

When energy prices increase, expenditures are re-allocated from areas that had previously added to GDP, mainly discretionary consumption, diverting money from the economy towards energy only. The data show that recessions occur when petroleum expenditures as a percent of GDP climb above a threshold of roughly 5.5%..

Each time the U.S. economy emerged from a recession over the past 40 years, there was always an increase in the use of oil while a low oil price was maintained. However oil is a finite resource.

The energy return on (energy) invested (EROI) of global oil production has been decreasing. Global oil extraction declined from about 36:1 in the 1990s to18:1 in 2006. Increasingly supplies of oil are originating from sources that are inherently more energy-intensive to produce simply because cheaper resources were extracted before expensive ones. In the early 1990s fewer than 10% of oil discoveries were located in deep water areas. By 2005 the number jumped to greater than 50%. Also, enhanced oil recovery techniques are being used more frequently in the world's largest conventional oil fields. Nitrogen injection was initiated in the once super-giant Cantarell field in Mexico in 2000, which boosted production for four years, but since 2004 production from the field has declined precipitously. Enhanced oil recovery techniques require significantly larger energy inputs to production, offsetting much of the energy gain for society.

In theory, if the price of oil is below the cost of production, then most producers will cease operation. In the areas in which we are currently discovering oil, we can calculate a theoretical floor price below which an increase in oil supply is unlikely.

About 60% of the oil discoveries in 2005 were in deepwater locations. The cost of developing that oil is between $60 and $85 per barrel. Oil prices therefore, at a minimum, must exceed roughly $60 per barrel to support the development of even the best deep water resources. But the average price of oil during recessionary periods has been $57/bbl, so it seems that increasing oil production in the future will require oil prices that are associated with recessionary periods. In other words, growing the economy will require oil prices that will discourage that very growth. Indeed, it may be difficult to produce the remaining oil resources at prices the economy can afford, and, as a consequence, the economic growth witnessed by the U.S. and globe over the past 40 years may be a thing of the past.

Conclusions: (1) Over the past 40 years, economic growth has required increasing oil consumption. (2) The supply of high EROI oil cannot increase much beyond current levels for a prolonged period of time. (3) The average global EROI of oil production will almost certainly continue to decline as we search for new sources of oil in the only places we have left: deep water, arctic and other hostile environments. (4) Increasing oil supply in the future will require a higher oil price because mostly only low EROI, high cost resources remain to be discovered or exploited, but these higher costs are likely to cause economic contraction. (5) Using oil-based economic growth as a solution to recessions is untenable in the long-term, as both the gross and net supplies of oil has or will begin, at some point, an irreversible decline.

Economic feedback system for post-peak oil: (1) economic growth increases oil demand, (2) higher oil demand increases oil production from lower EROI resources, (3) increasing extraction costs leads to higher oil prices, (4) higher oil prices stall economic growth or cause economic contractions, (5) economic contraction leads to lower oil demand, and (6) lower oil demand leads to lower oil prices which spur another short bout of economic growth until this cycle repeats itself. This system of insidious feedbacks is aptly described as a growth paradox: maintaining business as usual economic growth will require the production of new sources of oil, yet the only sources of oil remaining require high oil prices, thus hampering economic growth.

This growth paradox leads to a highly volatile economy that oscillates frequently between expansion and contraction periods, and as a result, there may be numerous peaks in oil production. Campbell (2009) has referred to this as an undulating plateau. In terms of business cycles, the main difference between the pre- and peak era models is that business cycles appear as oscillations around an increasing trend in the pre-peak model while during the peak-era model they appear as oscillations around a flat trend.

What if economic growth was no longer the goal? What if society began to emphasize energy conservation over energy consumption? Unlike oil supply, oil demand is not governed by depletion, and incentivizing populations to make incremental changes that decrease oil consumption can completely alter the relation between oil and the economy that was described in the aforementioned model. Decreasing oil consumption in the U.S. by even 10% would release millions of barrels of oil onto the global oil markets each day. doclink

A 20-Rule Manifesto for New No-Growth Economics

August 30, 2011, Market Watch

By Paul B. Farrell Classical economics is a fraud which sabotages investors and will destroy America.The cards are stacked in favor of the banks and their co-conspirators, political lobbyists, corporate CEOs and the Super Rich.

All classical economic ideas derive from one central idea, an unproven hypothesis - from Ben Bernanke's Fed staff, economists in the World Bank, IMF, CBO and White House economic advisers, to economists at Wall Street banks, think tank and academic economists - is the unquestioned acceptance of the dogma of "Eternal Growth," the unscientific assumption that the global economy will continue growing indefinitely ... that the world's economies will be able support global population growth indefinitely ... and that all necessary commodities and essential natural resources will be available indefinitely to sustain the world's relentless economic and demographic growth.

That's impossible, absurd, irrational, proving the need for a New No-Growth Economics. After the 2008 meltdown it became painfully obvious that America's 15,000 economists were clueless (as were more than 50,000 portfolio managers and all government leaders in both parties). Less than 0.01% of America's best and brightest economic leaders and economists predicted the 2008 meltdown that essentially bankrupted America. Since 2008 leaders and economists have done nothing to protect us against a new crash. Quite the opposite: The same banks and their economists are working feverishly with lobbyists, politicians and the Super Rich to kill all reforms.

Even with another market meltdown, taxpayers may still get duped into bailing out the banks again. Eventually, however, they will wise up.

New No-Growth Economics are essential to our survival. Here's how the 20 rules will work:

1. Basic supply/demand equation flawed. We're "eating our young." Earth's resources can support about five billion people. We already have 7 billion. And maybe 10 billion by 2050. Demand (population growth) is rapidly outstripping supply (commodity/resources). This leads to disastrous world wars, starvation, poverty, pandemics, and more.

2. Worst-case scenario: Population explodes to 10 billion if we do nothing. We continue using and wasting commodities and nonrenewable resources at a rate equivalent to six Earths. Multiple catastrophic events, kill economics, trigger a global wake-up call

3. Next worst-case scenario: Population not reduced back to 5 billion. Earth has too many people. Like having huge debt. Disasters will soon end denial.

4. Population control is an economic necessity, the last taboo falls. Soon, this massive "conspiracy of denial" will be shocked awake by economic, political and military catastrophes that threaten the planet and human existence.

5. Mass denial ends in aftermath of global catastrophes. We don't know what will shock the world, finally bankrupt America and wake us up. But we do know that it's dead ahead.

6. Revolution topples dominance of Super Rich capitalists. There is a widening income gap between the Super Rich and the other 99% of Americans. This is undermining America's future and will erupt in increasing class warfare similar to the Arab Spring revolutions fueled by unemployed youth angered by their inequality.

7. Once powerful banks are forced to balance public welfare ahead of shareholders.

8. Commodities and natural-resources pricing will be set by negotiators and international agreements.

9. New regulations reign in quants and hi-risk derivatives traders; This casino gambling no longer serves the common good and will gradually disappear.

10. Fed monetary policy no longer dominated by Wall Street banks and will balance more Main Street and global needs.

11. Behavioral economics and behavioral finance get new careers

12. Oil and carbon-based energy epiphany, invest in alternatives

13. Self-destructive no-compromise political gridlock ends; cooperation is essential to global survival.

14. GOP returns to principles of Lincoln, tea party disappears; no rigid minority can hijack the public good.

15. Inequality gap drops when the Super Rich wises up to the reality that their blind addiction to money is causing the destruction of the planet.

16. Lobbyists will no longer run Washington as a private anarchy

17. American imperialism ends; Half our tax dollars go to wars: Unnecessary in the post-catastrophe economy.

18. The rise of a powerful, new democratic United Nations; international cooperation will be more essential than ever.

19. End of climate-deniers, after the ticking time-bomb explodes

20. Beginning of New Global Era ... the New No-Growth Economy

The long-term survival of all nations and peoples on Earth depends on interaction across the globe; therefore we must cooperate and live in peace. doclink

Karen Gaia says: 1) Note that the author did not say what flavor of population 'control' he was talking about. WOA does not advocate 'population control', but rather providing the means for couples to choose the size of their families, recognizing the they usually have smaller families when able, and that there is a great unmet need for family planning and reproductive health (which is a conveyance for family planning, but not necessarily abortion. Family planning prevents abortion). 2) I don't see these as rules, but as an order of progression. There are other sources that offer more guidance on No Growth Economy. 3) I would like to see something that addresses the average American. If we stop buying goods that are not needed, as well as tighten our belts, which we may do in a recession/depression anyway, we may force a no-growth economy.

U.S.: The Cost of Raising a Child Has Risen 40% Over the Past Decade

September 21, 2011, CNN Money

Providing a child with the basics has become more than most parents can afford.

The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averaged $226,920 last year (not including college), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was only $60,000 10 years ago. Just one year of spending on a child can cost up to $13,830. From buying groceries to paying for gas, every major expense associated with raising a child has climbed significantly.

Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute says "Many parents are working longer hours, or another job, and they are giving up time at home. It's a complete catch-22."

Food prices, in particular, have weighed on parents' budgets as rising demand for commodities like corn and wheat, along with other factors such as rising oil prices, drought and floods, have made even a box of cereal pricey.

Another increase has been in gas prices. Between 2000 and 2010, consumers paid an average of 85% more per gallon at the pump, according to AAA.

Employers have scaled back or even did away with medical coverage in recent years, while at the same time, costs for doctors visits, medications and other health services also climbed - for families with children rising 58% over the decade, said Mark Lino, a senior economist at the USDA.

Incomes are shrinking and unemployment is near an all-time high. Over the past decade, median household income has fallen 7%, according to a recent report from the Census Bureau.

In addition a large part of the paycheck must go for child care. In 2010, the cost of putting two children in child care exceeded the median annual rent payments in every single state, according to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA.

Also see: The anti-baby boom: Why the U.S. birth rate keeps falling - Go to this link to see a great chart of birth rates from 1910 to present, linked to various economic downturns. doclink

Karen Gaia says: According to the US Census Bureau: while the percentage of young people (under 17 years old) in the U.S. population went down slightly between 2000 and 2010, the number of young people actually went up by 1.9 million. The only age group that showed a 2010 decrease in numbers was the 25-44 year old group at minus 2.9 million.

  • So this could be another reason we see lower birth rates which are defined as births per 1000 and the 1000 includes the baby boomers. In other words, the people who can have children are still having children and we don't have to worry about going extinct.
  • People are influenced by their ability to raise children, however, and should be allowed to tailor their family size to their circumstances.
  • After all, the U.S. is still growing and this is straining our natural resources.
  • Unfortunately the cost of contraception relative to income also goes up to a point where many women can no longer afford it, while lawmakers ar

  • Demographics Putting a Squeeze on the Debt Dilemma

    August 2, 2011, The Globe and Mail

    Editor's note: the first part of this article gives a valid reason for the 'Debt Dilemma'. But the second half is seriously flawed

    The West is getting old. There has begun a generational war and a democratic squeeze which will likely worsen in coming decades.

    As life expectancy increases and fertility declines, the population pyramid is being inverted - and in some countries that is causing the entire economy to topple. In Greece and Spain state pension commitments have become so heavy they are suffocating the economy and depriving the seniors' grandchildren of any chance of a job. In the United States programs for the elderly constitute about $1.6-trillion (U.S.) of the $3.3-trillion total non-interest government spending in 2010. That figure will swell as baby boomers retire.

    Political economist Nicholas Eberstadt says:, "costs associated with population aging are estimated to account for about half the public-debt runup of the OECD economies over the past 20 years."

    The threat of sovereign default of the international debt is a big danger, especially since "old folks may be less willing to repay sovereign debt," says Ali Alichi, an economist at the International Monetary Fund .. "As the number of older voters relative to younger ones increases around the globe, the creditworthiness of borrowing countries could decline - resulting in less external lending and more sovereign debt defaults."

    Not long ago, the conventional wisdom was neo-Malthusian: For individuals, for families and for societies, one of the keys to prosperity was to have fewer children. That thinking has been turned upside down. India, whose fertility was once seen as its national curse, is touted as a rising investment prospect thanks to its "demographic dividend."

    One solution to the demographic dilemma is immigration. But absorbing immigrants can be tough on a country, and it's a zero-sum game that can't work for everyone forever. As the world's poor countries get richer, their citizens have less reason to emigrate and they begin to suffer their own demographic squeeze.

    The other answer is to persuade families to have more children. So far, that's something no developed country has really figured out. As women get richer, better educated and more autonomous, they have fewer babies. That decline in fertility is driven by harsher economic forces, too: Most middle-class families in the West need a mother's wage to survive, and women in industrial and postindustrial societies can't take their babies to work in the way their peasant great-grandmothers could.

    Yet there is one political movement that has long campaigned for societies to find a better way for women to be both workers and mothers: feminism. Until now, we have framed those efforts as being about expanding personal choice - and government and business have paid them lip service, but not much more.

    We think the most pressing issues in the rich West are budget deficits and job creation. To fix our economies in the long term, what we should probably be talking about is parental leave and workplace day care. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the author has no idea of limited resources. Or that people have better life styles and live longer lives because they had fewer children. And what about the large amount of immigration the U.S. has already seen? Has that made our current economic situation any better, or could it be that adding additional people has stretched U.S. resources to the limit (oil for example), resulting in a poorer economy. Could it be that sending U.S. jobs and manufacturing overseas could be a big part of the U.S. problem? Perhaps it is time for that Malthusian adjustment that may have to happen when there are too many people alive at the same time and exceeding their Carrying Capacity.

    Human and Economic Toll of Iraq War on 8th Anniversary

    March 19, 2011,

    Eight years after US invasion of Iraq, the the US human toll includes more than 4400 deaths to servicemen and women, over 70,000 wounded, and more than half a million US troops who have returned suffering a variety of ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

    In Iraq, there are at least 100,000 direct casualties and hundreds of thousands more deaths from lack of medical care, due to illnesses, shortages of medicines and medical treatments. About half the doctors in Iraq left and never returned. 4 million Iraqis were displaced - about half inside Iraq and the other half becoming refugees outside of the country. Nearly 2 million Iraqi refugees live outside of Iraq.

    The financial cost for the US was estimated to be $3 trillion in 2008, including medical care and disability compensation for war veterans, military equipment, the economic cost of lives lost and disrupted, and an estimate of the impact on the economy from rising oil prices. Last September the final cost was estimate to be $4-$6 trillion, but veterans costs, military costs, cost of contractors, fuel costs, and war-related indirect costs have risen at least 50% more than projected. Also the war played a role in precipitating events that led to the US financial crisis and contributed directly to the rising US debt.

    The war also proved to be a major distraction from the conflict in Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to strengthen and regroup in the absence of US presence.

    Was it worth it? The benefits are hard to discern, and may appear different over time. The costs, however, are clear. In Iraq the country is happily rid of Saddam Hussein but the nation suffers near-daily bombings and widespread shortages of electricity, drinking water and sanitation. In the US; there is no question that our economy would have been much better off today if we had invested those trillions in education, infrastructure and technology that would have created jobs and laid a foundation for the future. doclink

    We could have spent the money on preparing for peak oil by beefing up public transportation and renewable energy, removing oil subsidies, and investing more in domestic and foreign family planning and reproductive health.

    Income Inequality Pushes U.S. Down in Well-Being Ranking

    November 4, 2010, Market Place, Public Radio

    The United Nations latest Human Development Index shows the gross domestic product isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all measurement of economic health. In addition to income, the Index looks at measures of health and education. In 1980, the U.S. was number one in the income ranking.

    Today, the U.S. is number 4 for well-being behind Norway, Australia, and New Zealand. What has changed is that, for the first time, the rankings were also filtered for inequality, gaps between rich and poor. Consequently the overall Human Development Index fell by about 11%, which is quite significant, dropping the U.S. from 4th to 13th in the world. , Tamara Draut, who tracks U.S. income inequality and says "The middle class has lost ground and lower income households have just been clobbered. That is the story of the last couple of decades."

    America's record on education, on the other hand, has helped its ranking on the Index. doclink

    Which Countries Match the GDP and Population of America's States?

    January 13, 2011, Economist

    We Americans like to think we live in a rich country, but looking at it state by state, you will be surprised. This map of the United States shows an equivalent country in terms of GDP. California's GPD is nearly the same of Italy, and Idaho's is nearly the same as Sudan, for example.

    A second comparison is done with population, but it would have been useful to do a map with per capita GDP equivalencies. doclink

    Science Magazine Explores the Tragedy of the Commons

    December 21, 2003, Science magazine

    Picture a pasture open to all. Each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible. This may work satisfactorily while tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of man and beast below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally social stability becomes a reality and the herdsman concludes he should add more animals to his herd together with all the other herdsmen. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit in a world that is limited and this brings ruin to all. Cattlemen on the western ranges are asking to increase the head count to the point where overgrazing produces erosion and weed-dominance. Maritime nations bring species after species of fish and whales closer to extinction. As the human population has increased, we abandoned the commons in food gathering, enclosing farm land and restricting pastures and hunting and fishing areas.

    The rational man finds his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges is less than the cost of purifying them. So we are locked into a system of fouling our nest. But the air and waters cannot be fenced, and so the cesspool must be prevented by laws or taxing that make it cheaper to treat pollutants than to discharge them untreated.

    The pollution problem is a consequence of population. It did not matter how a frontiersman disposed of his waste. But as population became denser, the natural recycling processes became overloaded. A hundred and fifty years ago a plainsman could kill a bison, cut out the tongue for dinner and discard the remainder. Today, with only a few thousand bison left, we would be appalled. It is impossible to spell out the conditions under which it is safe to burn trash or run an automobile without smog-control, so by law we delegate the details to bureaus. Bureau administrators are liable to corruption, producing a government by men, not laws.

    Restrictions on the disposal of sewage are accepted in the Western world, but we are still struggling to eliminate the pollution by automobiles, factories, insecticide sprayers, fertilizing operations, and atomic energy installations.

    In a finite world the per capita share of the world's goods must steadily decrease and it is clear that this will increase human misery. Any organism must have a source of energy and for man, maintenance of life requires about 1600 kilocalories a day. Anything he does above staying alive will be supported by work calories. If our goal is to maximize population we must make work calories approach as close to zero as possible. No gourmet meals, no vacations, no sports, no music, no literature, no art. The acquisition of energy becomes a problem with large populations.

    Population growth must eventually equal zero. Most people who anguish over the population problem are trying to avoid overpopulation without giving up any of their privileges. They feel that any decision about family size must rest with the family. A taboo inhibits criticism of the UN; however if we love truth we must deny the validity of their Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that any choice and decision with regard to the size of the family must irrevocably rest with the family itself; we must get Planned Parenthood-World Population to see the error of its ways in embracing the same ideal. A positive growth rate might indicate that a population is below its optimum. However, the most rapidly growing populations on earth are the most miserable.

    In a world governed by the principle of "dog eat dog" how many children a family had would not be a matter of public concern. Parents who bred too exuberantly would leave fewer descendants because they would be unable to care for their children. If each family were dependent on its own resources there would be no interest in controlling breeding. Confronted with appeals to limit breeding, some people will respond more than others. Those who have more children will produce a larger fraction of the next generation than those with more consciences. "If you don't do as we ask, we will condemn you for not acting like a responsible citizen" but "If you do behave as we ask, we will secretly condemn you for a simpleton who can be shamed into standing aside while the rest of us exploit the resources. Freely available resources (commons) are justifiable only under conditions of low-population density. No technical solution can rescue us from the misery of overpopulation. The only way we can preserve and nurture other freedoms is by relinquishing the freedom to breed, and that very soon. doclink

    WOA!! does not agree with the part about denying voluntary family planning. Voluntary family planning does work - check out the birth rates of Europeans after the industrial revolution.

    U.S.: Secular Sign Posts: the View From 30,000 Feet

    November 12, 2008, Financial Sense

    The core demographic for consumption is the age group entering their prime in terms of income. The distribution of consumer spending reflects a bell-shaped curve in which the middle-aged demographic represents the largest income brackets. As a rise in the rate of change in consumer spending increases with the higher earning income's relative population, so too does the stock market which reflects a rise in GDP. Japan's post WWII baby boom crested in 1990, and Japan's Nikkei 225 index peaked. Since the baby boom in 1990, Japan has suffered from a rising retiree population and a deceleration of consumption spending as the higher income earners retired and the lower income earners grew in relative numbers. The bottom of the Nikkei 225 also coincided with the trough in the relative population ratio of the 35-49 year old to 20-34 year old groups.

    This ratio between the higher wage earner and spender (35-49) relative to the lower wage earner and spender (20-34) relating to aggregate consumption and stock prices has also played out in the U.S. . Peaks in the relative population demographic coinciding with peaks in real stock prices (S&P 500). Rising real stock prices are associated with rising relative population ratios of the higher wage earner relative to the lower wage earner.

    While there is a positive relationship between productivity and relative population demographics, there is a negative relationship between productivity and inflation. We can infer that there is a negative relationship between inflation trends and relative demographic trends with productivity trends providing the associating link. We can look at what the future may hold. The relative demographic ratio peaked in 2000 and was coincident with the real S&P 500 peak, and does not bottom until 2015. The conclusion is that the secular bear market we entered back in 2000 will not likely end until roughly 2015, and the secular inflationary trend that began in 2003 will be in place until 2015 as well. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Unfortunately this time we have peak oil and depletion of resources to deal with. After the initial tightening of belts by consumers, population numbers will again catch up and resource depletion will continue. It is foolish to think that there is no end to resources and that throwing money at the problem will help.

    India: From Wheat to Web: Children of the Revolution

    October 22, 2007, Nature News

    As the father of India's Green Revolution, Swaminathan holds a revered spot in the nation. He introduced high-yield wheat to India during the 1960s and 1970s. With about 60% of India's population employed in agriculture, it is difficult to overstate his contribution to his country. Swaminathan uses his position to further rural development. Over the past decade he has become the driving force behind a national movement to bring Internet and telecommunications to India's rural villages.

    Swaminathan's belief is that information and communications technologies will help bridge India's growing urban -- rural divide and forge better links between researchers and rural poor people. Swaminathan wants to bring Internet technology to villages in India.

    India, with more than 1.1 billion people, remains the country with the largest number of poor people, 70% of whom live in rural areas. How will ICT help? A significant barrier to rural development is that, although the government has launched multiple development schemes, they are spread across so many different departments. Rural progress is hindered by a disconnect between farmers and researchers. Extension workers are supposed to go into the field and seek out the needs of farmers. But the moment they become government workers, their job is guaranteed; they aren't motivated. The same is true of government employees whose job it is to provide rural health care, education and basic municipal services. The hope is that ICT will provide a fresh approach putting the information directly in the farmer's hands.

    In the mid-1960s, eager to turn India's grain crisis around, Swaminathan bypassed the orthodox procedure and headed straight for the farmers' fields and convinced them to become collaborators. But India's past experience with rural ICT schemes has been rife with disappointments and dozens of ICT projects across the country are a series of ongoing experiments, some of which have worked, but most haven't.

    The root of the problem is that there aren't enough services to create viable market demand. Most franchises close because they don't get adequate return on their investment. One group has had some success with a distance-education programme in 70 villages over the past 2 years. The programme more than doubled the number of rural children who passed the exams they take at 15 years old. In 2004, Swaminathan created a National Alliance, a coalition of more than 400 organizations, including state governments and various business, academic and non-governmental organizations, with the collective aim of providing ICT access to every villager in India.

    The alliance has been successful in getting government support for ICT infrastructure. In addition to US$420 million that central and state governments are pledging for 100,000 telecom kiosks by 2008, roughly $850 million is being invested to bring broadband connectivity to administrative groups of villages. As part of their approach, the MSSRF established the National Virtual Academy (NVA) as a distance-learning program for training villagers to become advocates for the ICT needs of their community. Now, everyone in the village knows about them. Farmers regularly come to get information on livestock management and crop diseases or pests. And the centre has helped more than 50 village cooperatives to apply for microfinancing loans.

    Government funding for the telecom centres runs out in 4 years, so to continue operating, the kiosks must secure private investment to ensure that each kiosk will be a self-sustaining public private outlet. Tata's Innovation Labs in Mumbai, have developed mobile-phone applications that give farmers a local 7-day weather forecast, pesticide and fertilizer advice and crop prices at nearby markets, in their local language.

    Unless the disparity between the rural poor and urban riche is remedied, India's economic success will be short-lived. The growing influence of the Naxalite-communist groups, and recent terrorist attacks, are examples of responses to social inequity: It will lead to social strife and political backlash. doclink

    High Economic Growth but Inequality, Poverty High in Sri Lanka

    November 24, 2007, Sunday Times

    UNDP's latest assessment of MDGs puts Sri Lanka among Asian countries with the highest inequality. Poverty and environmental degradation has increased in Sri Lanka.

    This is the mid-point assessment of how far countries have gone in meeting the 8 goals.

    Sri Lanka is on track to meet most of the MDG goals but the findings show that economic growth has not reached the poor. Sri Lanka ranks 4th among Asian countries showing high inequality. In Asia inequality has grown rapidly. China is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

    The worse offenders are Nepal, China, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The number of people in Sri Lanka living on US$ 1 per day increased from 3.8% in 1990, to 5.6% by 2002. The share of national income available to the poor reduced while the rich got richer. The share of the poorest 20% shrank from 9% in 1990 to 7% in 2002.

    Nearly 30% of Sri Lankan children from 3 months to 5 years were underweight, ccording to 2000 data. Data from 2001 to 2003 show that on average, 22% of the population was undernourished.

    Sri Lanka's environment is getting poorer with the area covered by forest reduced from 36% in 1990 to 29% by 2005. Carbon dioxide emissions increased from 0.2 to 0.6 metric tons per capita from 1990 to 2004.

    The UN says focussing only on economic growth will not reduce poverty.

    For economic growth to benefit more people, countries are advised to facilitate redistribution of wealth by expanding infrastructure, services and jobs for the poor.

    Inequality went down from 0.49 to 0.46 in 2005 and was 0.43 in 2006.

    The government says it has started a number of programmes to reduce regional disparities. These programmes are expected to reduce poverty. Around 5% live in extreme poverty on US $1 per day and 40% live on less than US$ 2 per day. The government plans to lift everyone out of extreme poverty and halve the population on US $ 2 per day, to 20%, by 2015.

    The government is addressing environmental problems and more people have access to safe drinking water and housing.

    The main environment challenges include rapid decline of forest cover, diminishing biological diversity, carbon dioxide emissions and the prevalence of unhygienic, underserved settlements - particularly in the City of Colombo. The government is looking at vehicle emission controls, improving urban facilities and relocation of slum communities to contain further environmental degradation. doclink

    Australia: It's Hard Being Green and Lean

    November 20, 2007, Sydney Morning Herald

    Saving the planet is not cheap. It's easy to spend thousands of dollars minimising your carbon footprint giving you the warm feeling that you are doing the right thing.

    The average household won't have trouble insulating their homes, and switching to renewable energy sources. But people on low incomes can't take advantage of government grants, because the capital expenditure is still beyond their capacity.

    Upgrading to more energy-efficient appliances presents the same problem. Low-income households can't afford to change to more energy-efficient vehicles. Access to public transport is also a problem.

    In the outer suburbs of Melbourne, 90% of the population is not within walking distance of public transport after 7 on any night of the week. Australian cities are organised so the poorest live in the outer suburbs, where public transport is also the poorest.

    Wealthier people could afford to live in the inner suburbs which were close to work and serviced by good public transport.

    Modelling showed that if carbon is priced at $50 a tonne, then that will cost poor households an extra $1316 a year to carry out the same level of spending. In contrast, the expenditure of high-income households will only increase by 0.7% by paying an extra $2891 a year.

    Low-income households have smaller carbon footprints than high income households, but carbon prices will cost poorer people proportionately more and increase the pool of disadvantaged people.

    15% of Australian families are living under the poverty line, (of about $512 a week income for 2 adults and 2 children). It was argued that a national fund is required to assist low-income and other disadvantaged people to manage climate change and policy responses to it.

    Community service providers were trained to identify people who use more energy and water, due to a lack of awareness, then shown simple ways to help reduce their energy and water bills.

    The Phoenix Fridges project involves collecting inefficient fridges, repairing them to improve energy efficiency, then reselling them at affordable prices to people on low incomes.

    Many of the rebate schemes aren't available to people who rent. We need to find ways to support this group. doclink

    UAE Development - Skyscrapers Built on Sand

    March 11, 2008, Ethical Corporation Magazine

    Gulf leaders should wake up to the environmental costs of their rush to attract wealthy visitors. News about urban developments in the UAE has been greeted with a mixture of awe and uncertainty across the world. Growth rates of 16% in the resource-poor emirate of Dubai reinforce optimism, the question remains: who is taking ownership of the sustainability agenda in the UAE?

    Demand for new developments is ever increasing. In Dubai, hotel occupancy levels are at over 80% and rates are at record highs. Dubai's population is a measly 1.4 million people. And the entire UAE is home to 4.1 million, 80% of whom are foreigners.

    Are Dubai's plans for 15 million visitors to contribute 20% of GDP are realistic? The strategy of Dubai authorities is "build it and they will come". But with neighbouring emirates also planning expansion, what happens if demand wanes?

    What is most troubling is the damage they are causing the environment. Palm Islands has clouded Gulf waters with silt. Construction has buried coral reefs, oyster beds and subterranean sea grass, while the disruption of natural currents is leading to the erosion of beaches. doclink

    Philippines: Poverty Reduction: What We Know and Don't Know

    February 16, 2008, Philippine Daily Inquirer

    Poverty is the most important policy challenge facing the Philippines. Its reduction is so slow that the country has become the basket case in the region.

    The bulk of the income poor is likely to be also deprived of educational achievement and good health.

    Our estimates of poverty reveal that, in 2006, 32% of our population were poor - 27 million, or one of every three Filipinos.

    As a proportion of the population, poverty decreased, although it tended to rise in recent years. The number of poor people rose to its highest level in 2006.

    Poverty increased between 2003 and 2006 despite the respectable economic performance, as reflected in GDP during this period. It thus appears that the economic growth in recent years has bypassed the poor!

    Poverty reduction in the Philippines has lagged behind those of its neighbors, particularly Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China. Both Malaysia and Thailand also had virtually eliminated absolute poverty in just 20 years. Much of what the public sees in media on the state of social development in the Philippines is the poverty in Metro Manila's slums. Yet, they account for only 4% of the country's total poor population. The four regions with the highest incidence are Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Western Mindanao, Bicol and Eastern Visayas. These poorest regions account for about one-third of the country's total number of the poor.

    In recent years, some regions have done well in attaining high per capita income growth and reducing poverty, but others have experienced declines in per capita income and increases in poverty. Such disparities could breed regional unrest, undermining the sustained economic growth.

    As in most of Asia's developing countries poverty in the Philippines is largely a rural phenomenon.

    Two of every three poor persons are in rural areas and dependent on agricultural employment. Poverty incidence among agricultural households is three times that in the rest of the population. The sector continues to account for about 60% of total poverty.

    Economic growth is an essential condition for investments in health, education, infrastructure and good governance. The country's economic growth has barely exceeded the population growth, which has continued to expand at 2.3% percent a year for most of the past two decades. Students of Philippine development contend that shifting the economy to a higher growth path and keeping it there for the long term should be first on the agenda.

    Key to achieving pro-poor growth, is expansion in access to economic opportunities, social services and productive assets. The underlying weakness of the Philippine economy lies in its inability to create productive employment opportunities for its fast-growing labor force.

    Productivity is low compared with the country's neighbors. Furthermore, access to available, productive employment opportunities favors the skilled.

    Fostering productivity growth in agriculture is the key to lifting rural inhabitants out of poverty. Rural income diversification and migration to productive nonfarm sectors, including overseas migration, offer important pathways out of poverty.

    In recent years, economic growth has favored the skilled and educated. Even in agriculture, growth is increasingly anchored on higher levels of human capabilities.

    The government has to prioritize spending on infrastructure and the social sector, especially in basic education, health and family planning services.

    The data indicate that the poorest groups have the least access to health, education and family planning services. Public spending must be improved so that poorer individuals would receive proportionately more opportunities for publicly funded social services and infrastructure.

    Contrary to fears expressed in various circles, globalization has been beneficial to the poor.

    The big challenge for the Philippines, is to pursue a pro-poor development agenda in a regime in which institutions are initially weak and governance is fragile. It cannot be overemphasized that the quality of our institutions has to be upgraded so that they become more responsive to those in the lowest rung of the social ladder.

    Researchers and policy reform advocates need to identify win-win solutions to the inequity problem. doclink

    Central America Free Trade Agreement Dividing Costa Rican Society

    September 25, 2007, San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center

    After more than 13 years of environmental degradation and increasing gaps between the rich and poor, the Bush Administration continues to push NAFTA.

    The mistakes of NAFTA have been codified in the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which was negotiated starting in 2003 between the United States, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua--the Dominican Republic signed in 2005.

    The agreement requires that 80% of all tariffs on U.S. goods entering CAFTA-DR nations be eliminated and the remaining tariffs phased out over the next ten years.

    Opposition groups in Costa Rica demonstrated against the agreement, and have forced the government to acknowledge the voice of the people.

    For the first time a voting population will have the opportunity to vote on a free trade agreement in a referendum. Submitting the CAFTA to a referendum in Costa Rica is perhaps the most democratic approach to a free trade agreement that the world has yet seen. This is in contrast to the manner in which DR-CAFTA was negotiated, behind closed doors under President Bush's now-expired Fast Track Authority.

    CAFTA-DR would change thousands of laws that are presently in place in Costa Rica, as it has done in other countries that are party to the agreement. One of the most critical changes required are the elimination or transformation of laws protecting natural resources from foreign purchase or control.

    These provisions would inhibit the power of local communities to legally prevent multinational corporations from environment pillage. This represents placing the destinies of these communities out of their hands permanently.

    Among other provisions in CAFTA-DR, parties to the agreement would be compelled to consider nuclear waste as a tradable good in the eyes of the law. This could potentially mean that if a private corporation were contracted by the U.S. government to dispose of its nuclear waste in another country, the company could sue for the right to dump these radioactive 'tradable goods' in Costa Rica even if existing laws prohibit it.

    CAFTA bestows the right upon companies to sue local, regional, and national governments for not allowing such dumping of toxins and other public hazards and to also collect financial compensation should the arbitration panels side in favor of the corporations.

    In the context of Costa Rica, this presents the possibility of environmental racism since Costa Rica's indigenous communities and their lands were excluded from DR-CAFTA's indigenous communities' exemption clauses.

    Subsidized U.S. agriculture gains duty-free access despite the fact that these subsidies keep prices of U.S. goods at artificially low levels. CAFTA-DR markets protect U.S. textiles & apparel under the 'Yarn Forward' Rule; that requries that apparel using yarns and fabric from the United States and CAFTA-DR countries qualify for duty-free benefits. doclink

    Africa: Neglecting Agriculture

    October 25, 2007, Africa News Service

    A study says that agriculture has been neglected by both governments and the donor community, including the World Bank. The Bank's declining support has not been used strategically to meet the diverse needs that requires coordinated intervention. For the poorest people, GDP growth in agriculture is about four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth outside the sector.

    The report is available on the World Bank website at

    Agricultural development in Africa is a complex technical, economic, social, and political challenge that has to be overcome if the region is to reduce extreme poverty and hunger to meet the first Millennium Development Goal.

    Given the diverse constraints to agricultural development in Africa, the development needs to be multifaceted, with coordinated interventions. The Bank has had limited success in helping agricultural development in Africa. doclink

    Fiscal Gains Under Threat From Population Growth

    September 11, 2007, Africa News Service

    The rate at which the Kenyan population is growing remains an impediment to steady economic growth.

    Population control is a key factor in building long-term economic growth. Kenya's economy has picked up in the last four years, but is yet to reach 8% required for at 15 years before the country can claim an industrial nation status. The economy has picked up from minus 0.4% in 2002 to 2.8% in 2003 and 4.3% in 2004. In 2005 a 5.7% growth, 6.1% last year and 6.5% this year.

    That growth has reduced poverty levels from 56% in 2002 to 46% in 2006, but this cannot be sustained if the population growth takes an upward trend.

    Experts project that Kenya's population will stand at 40 million in 2 years up from the current 33 million, causing strains on families and individuals.

    The higher population will also check government policies such as free education up to secondary level and free medical care at government hospitals for selected ailments.

    The pressure of such a population explosion would limit employment opportunities, result in rising costs for education, health services, and food imports and an inability to generate resources to build housing in both urban and rural areas. Kenya's population pressure comes from more than half are under 30 years and looking for gainful employment. The accelerating population growth should be slowed down as it cannot match the economic expansion.

    Kenya relies largely on voluntary family planning methods that distort the structure of the population in favour of the poor who tend to bring forth more children. The poor will feel the pinch of the population growth and the most important issue is to improve the quality of life for the poor. The causes of the country's growth in population were falls in mortality rates and the traditional preference for large families.

    Kenya's population policy tends to frame family planning around overuse of land and scarcity of jobs.

    The policy aims at demystifying contraceptive methods and assuring of their safety, especially in rural areas, where suspicion is common. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I believe that a growing economy, as measured by an increased GDP, is either not sustainable, or a reflection of inflation, especially for developed countries, but possibly not possible in the long run for developing countries. All because there is a limited supply of many of the earth's resources.

    New Study Forecasts to the Year 2027, Asks - Are Globalization and Sustainable Development on a Collision Course?

    June 6, 2007, CSwire

    A report says there will be new rules for business success over the next twenty years. The authors are the leading consultancy to the world's major multinationals. It exposes the interplay of sustainable development and globalization.

    The study depicts four scenarios for the year 2027 and various combinations of environmental and societal wins and losses.

    It is about the choices we face, and what they mean for us all. Innovation, entrepreneurship, and using ideas and talent from emerging economies, to managing the threats to global stability. The freer movement of goods, services, ideas, and people around the world has accelerated with 20% of the world GDP now being contributed by global trade. This has been driven by the opening up of new markets, the evolution of technology and global connectivity, the developing countries, and the surge in multinational businesses.

    Urbanization reflects the way people earn a living; disparities between the rich and poor; challenges to diversity in its biological, ecological, human, and social forms; climate and environmental insecurity; and the proliferation of networks dedicated to restoring the environment and fostering social justice.

    China and India are powerfully influencing commodity markets and global trade. Brazil and South Africa are playing ever important regional and global roles. As their economic influence grows, developing countries are also trying to shift the rules of globalization in their favor. The economic growth has major sustainability consequences. China, India, Brazil, and Russia are responsible for 30% of global CO2 emissions.

    Divisions based on demographics, wealth, gender, nutrition, health, environmental resources, education, information, security, and governance will persist and in many cases worsen.

    Six possibilities for the future.

    Economic growth will need to be contained within a 'one planet' agenda.

    There will be an acceleration in the scale and speed of decision-making from business cycles to environmental impacts.

    The sustainable development agenda such as climate change and human rights will continue in market and political systems.

    The agenda will encounter an array of social, cultural, ecological, and even psychological barriers.

    The importance of leadership will likely emerge from unexpected directions. Equity will re-emerge as a fundamental principle.

    Seven recommendations: Plan for the unexpected. Focus sustainability efforts and investments on regions and cities where the population is booming and development needs are highest.

    Don't expect nice companies to come first. Even the best corporate citizens can be damaged by scandals, controversies, and economic discontinuities. Reframe social and environmental issues as sizeable market opportunities.

    Business and other leaders will need to find new models, technologies, and partners. Get involved and take stands. The time has come for us all to raise our eyes, our ambitions, our game. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Call me a pessimist. While the rich get richer, they will be blind to the plight of the poor, who will get poorer.

    In Its Match With China, India Penalizes Its Own Team

    April 24, 2007, Los Angeles Times (US)

    India has a chance of becoming the most important nation on earth. But in rural Bihar state in northern India, there's no economic miracle, and it's difficult to see how India can emerge on top unless it takes advantage of its rural population.

    The village of Khawaspur has no electricity, a school with 600 students, teachers show up only rarely. On a typical day there will be just one or two teachers in the whole school. You have to bribe your way to be a teacher. No child had ever been vaccinated and the local government hospital exists only in theory.

    The government pays for schools, clinics or vaccinations, but someone pockets the money.

    In one village all the children were out of school because the teachers had taken a vacation.

    India has one of the highest rates of malnutrition, 30% to 47%. Those children suffer losses in I.Q. and cognition, and are easy prey for diseases. Malnutrition lowers economic growth in affected countries.

    China has many similar problems, but rural Chinese schools provide a basic education, including solid math and science skills.

    India's overall growth rate puts India right at China's heels. Its middle class is expanding, governance is improving. But Indians refer to the "Bimaru" states which means "sick" in Hindi. The Bimaru states are Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa.

    In the Bimaru states, there is nothing. Electricity is unreliable, crime is growing, corruption is endless, the agricultural sector is in crisis, supplies are difficult to get, and criminal gangs and politics are so interwoven that it is difficult to foresee improvements. A visit to rural India is a bitter disappointment. India's economy is like a car having one motorized tire, and the others are cart wheels.

    Until India's economic boom becomes much more broadly based, and Indian schools teach their students, this country will continue to waste its precious brainpower. doclink

    The UN and the Principle of Sharing

    February 13, 2007,

    In 1948, the world's nations agreed that every human being in the world had the right to adequate food, water, housing, healthcare, education, political participation and employment. A global economic system based on competition and profit has failed to provide these essentials. 800 million people are still starving and the gap between the rich minority and the poor majority continues to increase.

    The only way the UN can address gross poverty and inequality is by sharing the world's resources.

    The UN was set up with the objective of maintaining peace and security in the world. Since the 1960s the UN has held a series of conferences on the environment, population, food, women, human settlements, employment, water and desertification. It is impossible to enforce agreements because member states are not accountable. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was originally set up to lend money to governments in order to stabilize the international monetary system. But it led to un-payable indebtedness between nations.

    By 1971, the IMF had granted itself permission to interfere in almost any aspect of a country's governance. This was the opposite of its original mandate and the un-payable indebtedness of the poorest countries was apparent.

    Instead of facilitating investment on behalf of the local poor economies, the World Bank financed more and more projects that would benefit major corporations.

    The World Bank began to force recipient states to adopt reforms. Conditions for the majority of the third world worsened.

    Debt relief comes with conditions which undermine the sovereignty of the people of the countries affected.

    In 1995 the WTO was formed with the aims to lower barriers to increase international trade. However, the majority of the world's poor countries are not permitted to influence the WTO's agendas.

    This has resulted in global trade rules which favour the economically dominant countries. The trade agreements have stripped away trade barriers to protect fragile home-grown industries, while the rich countries pay out subsidies to protect their industries.

    The UN needs to become more democratic, and above all, more powerful. Sharing the world's resources will create a fairer economy and foster peaceful relations between nations.

    Here are outlined the major changes that need to be implemented. 1. Dissolve the Security Council that is a relic of the Second World War and should not hold the powerful position within the UN that it does today. The General Assembly must take its place as a democratic world council, without veto powers. 2. Implement Global Taxation to fund the UN. Global taxes would produce more reliable revenue and result in a properly funded UN and would be freed from the constraints of its members. It would be in a position to enforce international legislation and to overhaul global economic structures making them subservient to its needs. International taxation would rid the poorer countries of the burden of payment and would prevent any one country from having undue influence on UN policies.

    3. Adopt the Principle of Sharing

    A new economic system based on sharing essential resources, such as land, food, water and medicine, must be implemented. It would replace existing aid and exist alongside an overhauled market-based economy that can continue to supply non essential goods.

    4. Restore the UN's democratic control over the Global Economy. In order for the UN to create a democratic and fair global economy, it needs to be freed from the constraints imposed on it by the World Bank, IMF and WTO. Through global cooperation and sharing resources for development purposes, the World Bank would be rendered redundant and any remaining development funding could be administered through the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

    Under a system of sharing, a significant proportion of commercial goods would be cooperatively owned and distributed by the global public under the auspices of the United Nations. All remaining trade could be regulated through the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The remaining trading system should utilise an inherently balanced mechanism such as an International Clearing Union.

    All multilateral debt must also be completely forgiven. Balanced trading between nations and the removal of debt burdens would mean less chance of countries experiencing major balance of payment deficits. The IMF too could then be progressively dismantled. A new UN based Finance Organisation could lend money in a pro-development manner without corporate influence.

    The neo-liberal, US-based global economic system must come to an end. Corporations must be made subservient to social needs and human rights.

    The UN must stop currency speculation and end the waste of money on the production of arms. International legislation, regarding arms limitation, must be respected.

    Land is the world's most important resource; it is the provider and sustainer of life. Each and every one of us has an equal birth-right to the earth. The distribution of land worldwide has deteriorated as a result of land and property speculation, resulting in a tiny minority controlling most of the world's land and the majority pay exorbitant rents or interest on mortgages.

    According to the World Health Organization, 1.1 billion people have no access to clean drinking water, while 2.4 billion lack proper sanitary provision. Yet in recent years the concept of the right to water has been eroded by water privatization. With the backing of the World Bank the water corporations were able to overcome all objections to the removal of the universal right to water, reclassifying it as an economic good. Every member of the world should be provided with free health care. But third world debt payments and structural adjustments, imposed by the World Bank, have caused a breakdown of these already meagre public health measures.

    Economic upheaval, armed conflict, structural adjustment programs and third world debt have caused the the collapse of primary health services in the third world.

    1.8 million people, 90% of under five, die every year from diarrhoeal diseases, mostly in the third world. These children could be saved by the provision of health education for their parents together with affordable clean drinking water and adequate sanitation facilities.

    It is the entrenched global economic system which prevents humanity from moving forward. Our minds are conditioned, and it is only through our complacency that politicians have been allowed to construct an economy which is based on competition and ruthless self interest.

    We must participate in the creation of a just world, which benefits the majority. The UN has the potential to assist in establishing a true global democracy.

    The aims and activities of the UN and its agencies should be taught in schools around the world in an effort to raise awareness of its vital role for humanity. Lasting international peace and security are only possible if the economic and social well-being of people everywhere is assured. The only way is through a new economic system, based on the principle of sharing.

    The measures set out above can eliminate poverty and accelerate international development efforts far beyond their current potential. A system of sharing essential resources should replace all existing aid and development efforts, as they are simply too slow and ineffective.

    In order to initiate reform, a new agency should be created, such as a UN Council for Resource Sharing (UNCRS). The first activity it should undertake is to initiate an UN emergency redistribution program (UNERP) to re-distribute food and other essential resources to those living in extreme poverty.

    Sharing the world's resources is the most efficient way to eliminate poverty and create social and economic justice. It has the potential for uniting nations through cooperative action and establishing peaceful international relations. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: nothing is said about how unsustainable it is to live with a growing population. More poor people living on the brink of starvation. More rich people wanting more and more of the world's resources. More middle class people wanting a good life. It all takes resources. Some adjustments must be made, but who will keep the U.N. from grabbing power just like the World Bank did? Who will keep the people in power from any country from selling their countries' natural resources to the rich? .... Ralph says: Personally I do not want the UN to make decisions regarding my country. They have not shown themselves to be very effective in so many things. Competition and our "for profit" system may not be perfect but time has shown it to be the only system that works. I lived for a few weeks in the old Soviet Union and that was not the sort of life I could accept.

    Capitalism and the Consequences of Biofuels

    March 30, 2007, Revolution Newspaper - East Bay

    Biofuel refers to fuels derived from recently living organisms, today mostly in the form of ethanol from plants such as sugar cane, soybeans, and oil palm. Biofuels often use more energy to produce than they contribute. Scientists hope that biofuels can replace much gasoline used today. Because the carbon in biofuels comes from CO2 that is taken out of the atmosphere by the living plants, some scientists argue that biofuels could contribute less to global warming than fossil fuels. And, biofuels could be grown year after year.

    Others are saying that they require the use of fertilizers, which increase CO2, replace other plant life, deplete the soil, and are water intensive.

    The use of biofuels has led to horrific consequences for the people of the world and the environment.

    89% of the world's resources are absorbed by the advanced countries. Imperialism has produced a wasteful and destructive pattern of economic activity and industrial development.

    This will continue to mean that the growing of crops for fuel, mostly for export to Europe, Japan and the US, is being done on large-scale plantations in the third world. Ancient forests are being cut down, threatening extinction for many species. Reduction of greenhouse gases is lost when carbon-capturing forests are cut down. In Malaysia, the production of palm oil for biodiesel is a major industry. The development of oil-palm plantations was responsible for an estimated 87% of deforestation. In Sumatra and Borneo, 4 million hectares of forest have been converted to palm farms. Now a further 6 million hectares are scheduled for clearance in Malaysia, and 16.5 million in Indonesia.

    Thousands of indigenous people have been evicted from their lands, and some 500 Indonesians have been tortured when they tried to resist. The forest fires which every so often smother the region in smog are mostly started by the palm growers.

    Hundreds of thousands of small-scale peasant farmers are being displaced by soybeans expansion. Many more stand to lose their land under the biofuels stampede. The expanding cropland planted to yellow corn for ethanol has reduced the supply of white corn for tortillas in Mexico, sending prices up 400%. For investors in alternatives to oil and gas, the driving force has been the belief that whoever develops the next great energy sources will enjoy the spoils that will make the gains from creating the next or Google seem puny.

    In the development of biofuels this means that they do not pay attention to long-term effects. The economy is broken up into competing units of capitalist control and ownership over the means of production. And each unit is fundamentally concerned with itself and its expansion and its profit. The economy, the constructed and natural environment, and society cannot be dealt with as a social whole under capitalism. doclink

    Ralph says: From practical experience in several countries including the old Soviet Union, I can assure our readers that socialism does not work either. Perhaps a benevolent universal dictatorsip is the only solution. In WW2 when food became scarce, rationing was willingly accepted. But will the citizens of the more advanced countries accept ethanol rationing so that more food can be sent to the poorer countries with continuing population growth??

    Sustainability and Distribution

    December 13, 2006, The Oldline Blog

    Sustainable economy must achieve a steady state, limiting population growth and industrial output. An independent audit of the World Bank's policies show, however, that growth is not a panacea for poverty and research suggests most of China's anti-poverty progress occurred in the early 1980s, before the rapid growth. International development policies have ignored inequality and sold it on the promise that growth would lead to less poverty which has has turned out to be a lie. In a world where renewables are becoming competitive with fossil fuels, we need to address the poverty of individuals, not just the poverty of nations. Ecological economics is to be distinguished from environmental economics, which addresses environmental problems but stays within the neoclassical paradigm, which ecological economics sees as inadequate. doclink

    Africa Has Achievers and Laggers as it Tries to Cut Poverty

    November 6, 2006, International Herald Tribune

    Africa is trying to halve poverty by 2015. Zimbabwe recorded a negative growth rate of 2.4% in 2004, compared to Equatorial Guinea, which had a 20.9% growth thanks to its booming oil production. Primary school enrollment rates have risen and HIV/AIDS prevalence and child mortality rates have started to fall.

    But despite tangible progress, Africa remains the one region in the world where the number of poor continues to rise.

    Conflicts in Africa have declined, economic performance has improved and some high performers are beginning to emerge.

    Many low income countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda, have lifted many of their citizens above the poverty line.

    A lot more has to be done, to make economic growth more sustainable, less exposed and more resilient to shocks.

    The burden imposed by HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, as well as corruption, low foreign aid, rising tariffs and dwindling foreign direct investments pose a threat to gains in poverty reduction.

    A sharpened focus on growth is required to help African countries bridge the divide between urban and rural populations and achieve the MDGs. Investments must target the poor and help them connect to the economy and the region's wealth.

    Diversity in Africa is increasing in economic performance, but in human development terms there is much more convergence with other parts of the world.

    Sixteen African countries have annual GDP in excess of 4.5% since the mid-1990s; inflation is down to historic lows; currency exchange rate distortions have been eliminated and fiscal deficits are dropping.

    One major international development objective is for African countries to increase their growth rates to the 7% a year needed to reduce poverty. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: this article is unrealistic: Equatorial Guinea had oil to boost its economy. What resources do other African countries have? That is, what resources that other countries are not already exploiting? And where there are resources, does the general population profit, or is it only the rich who profit?

    Jakarta Says to Sue If Freeport Snubs Complaints

    March 24, 2006, Forbes

    Indonesia will sue U.S. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold if it fails to follow recommendations to stop pollution from its Papua operations. Critics say the mine creates environmental damage by polluting streams and killing wildlife. The report said tailings, had flowed through the nearby Ajkwa river and recommended the firm better manage its tailings, for example by using them for building construction. The firm might have up to three years to follow the recommendations. Freeport said it had implemented some of the recommendations and would follow through on the rest. The Grasberg mine is believed to hold the world's third-largest copper reserves and one of the biggest gold deposits. Indonesia needs foreign investment to speed up the recovery of an economy that verged on collapse in late 1990s. "If they look at it in a reasonable way they will know that it is for the long run," said a key member of President Yudhoyono's campaign team. He also said that haze from Indonesian forest fires could cloud skies again this year. That is bad news for neighbours Malaysia and Singapore where the smoke has caused health problems and shut down airports, close schools, and businesses. The haze, much of it caused by slash-and-burn at palm oil plantations, tends to be an annual problem but its intensity varies with the severity of the dry season. The problem has persisted and interest in resolving the issue tends to fade when rain comes. The government has been trying to litigate against plantation firms, many owned by Malaysians, whose practices cause haze, but could do nothing if courts fail to severely punish them. The government plans to open palm oil plantations near the Indonesian border on Borneo island. They will start by making use of the areas ready for planting and strongly oppose cutting down forest for the replanting of palm oil plantations. doclink

    Poverty Or Prosperity? It's a Demographic Question

    March 16, 2006, InterPress Service

    Many Asian countries are on the cusp of a huge demographic bonus - places like India and the Philippines come to mind. But those looking for great things from Asia point to the region's fast-growing populations, which are relatively young. More than half of India's 1.1 billion people are below 25. That gives India an advantage over an aging China. This raises the the question: What good is population growth if economies do not create enough good jobs to take advantage of it? It is easy to forget that 1.9 billion people, or 60% of Asia's population, live on less than $2 a day. The key is to create hundreds of millions of jobs to reduce poverty and transform Asians into the affluent consumers. At least 500 million of Asia's labor force are either unemployed or underemployed. Hundreds of millions will be added to an already struggling labor force in the years ahead. A shift in the breakdown of urban and rural dwellers will have huge economic implications. About 60% of Asians live in rural areas, while 40% are urban. In the next few years, the breakdown would be 50/50 and by 2015, it could be 40% rural, 60% urban. The region needs to increase the number of good jobs and education to prepare for fast-growing populations in cities. If not, Asia may run into rising poverty and worsening economic prospects. It would strain state finances, leading many nations to issue more debt. Some leaders understand these risks. China plans to raise agricultural spending by 14% that will shift resources to rural areas, home to two-thirds of the nation's people. When the press reports on China, the focus is almost always on thriving cities and less attention is paid to the impoverished countryside. Indian officials also are stepping up efforts to bolster rural economies. But not enough is being done to prepare for a dynamic that will alter Asia's economies as rarely before. doclink

    U.N. Reports Lack of Data on Women in Poverty

    January 23, 2006, New York Times*

    Many poor countries do not collect the facts about births, marriages and deaths by sex and age, or the employment status and wages of men and women. This makes it difficult to pinpoint where girls are being married off while still children, or where female fetuses are being aborted, or girls are dying because they get less food and medical care than boys. Africa, the world's poorest region, has the weakest systems for data collection. Four in 10 Africans live in countries that did not conduct a census in the past decade, and 8 in 10 live in countries with inadequate vital statistics. India and China, have weak systems for registering births and deaths. The myriad reports published about poverty often include caveats about flaws in the data, but such warnings are often over shadowed by sweeping conclusions. "The World's Women, 2005: Progress in Statistics," is the first to analyze which countries collect official statistics by sex and which do not. Many developing countries did not collect data about hours worked, benefits provided or sex gaps in wages. Statistics about the diseases that cause deaths in African adults are inadequate. When parents die, families often splinter and no one is home when a surveyor knocks. A lot has been written about the missing women of South Asia and China. Attention has also been paid to worsening life expectancies for men in Eastern Europe and Russia. But better data are needed to address many such problems. doclink

    What makes me think that the more people there are, the more difficult it is going to be to look after the poor? How tragic!

    China Pays Huge Price for Its Peaceful Rising

    January 15, 2006, China Post

    China's peaceful rise is phenomenal and the envy of many in the world. The country's economy in 2005 could become the fourth largest in the world. But the achievement is costly, in social and environmental terms. The gap between rich and poor is widening and the deterioration of the environment is threatening the country's economic development. China's measurement of a country's income inequality has doubled in the past 20 years. Mainland China's increased GDP in 2005 will make the inequality worse. The mainland's city vs countryside income ratio could be as high as 6:1. Mainland China ranks 90th in the UNDP's 131-nation human-development index and leads the world in creating one of the most unequal societies in history. The cost to the environment is even greater. Public accidents have caused more than one million casualties each year, and economic losses of 650 billion yuan (US$80 billion). In 2004, these accidents killed 210,000 people and injured another 1.75 million. In the mining sector, mainland China has the world's worst record. In the past month, accidents claimed more than 300 lives. From 2001 to 2004, accidents in China's coal mines claimed 6,282 lives a year. Chemical spills and toxic emissions keep contaminating the water and air. Last month a metal factory near Hong Kong leaked cancer-causing cadmium into the Bei River. This month, a fertilizer plant in Sichuan dumped 600 tons of sulfuric acid into the Qijiang River. These problems, plus income inequalities, could trigger social unrest. doclink

    Yemen: World Bank Cuts Support by a Third Citing Slow Progress

    IRIN News (UN)

    The government doesn't expect to face setbacks following a decision by the World Bank to reduce aid to Yemen by 34%. The World Bank country manager in Yemen attributed the decision to the government's failure to carry out projects for which the loan had originally been allocated. These included a failure to meet minimum standards of fiscal transparency and efficiency and a lack of improvement to the national investment environment. Not enough had been done to root out official corruption. National economic indicators remained unsatisfactory, based on a World Bank assessments. However, one Yemeni official opined that the reduction is expected to have a considerable impact on the national economy. The money that was cut could have been used in several areas and the image of the country as not working in line with international standards of transparency might encourage other donors to follow suit. Yemen is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 148th out of 175 countries on the 2003 UNDP Human Development Index. According to the World Bank, it has a per capita GDP of US $460, while approximately 42% of the population lives in poverty. doclink

    U.K.: Infant Mortality Gap Between the Rich and Poor Worsens

    December 11, 2005, The Independent on Sunday

    Despite Tony Blair's pledge to slash it, new figures reveal the number of babies who died before their first birthday is now 19% higher among working-class families. Life expectancy in the poorest fifth continues to lag behind better-off areas, especially among women. It was revealed that the Government is failing to deliver one of its key targets and with less than five years to go, no one expects it to meet its aim of reducing the infant mortality gap between rich and poor by 10%. The last three years of data show the class gap widen from 13% to 19%. Downing Street is to announce extra cash next week and admitted much more needed to be done. Health inequality is not about access to healthcare or variations in its quality but about a host of cultural and lifestyle factors. doclink

    Much Work Ahead for Asia-pacific to Attain MDGs

    August 5, 2005, Xinhua General News Service

    Five years have passed since world leaders launched the MDGs to be achieved by 2015. The Asia-Pacific region is now facing a daunting task to get rid of extreme poverty. There 14 least developed countries (LDCs) in the region, including some with an average per capita income of 513 US dollars. Nearly half of the combined population of 260 million live below poverty lines. By contrast, Asia and the Pacific is the most dynamic region in terms of trade, development and investment. The MDGs can never be achieved in the LDCs without support from wealthier neighbors. There is optimism about attainment of the MDGs given that countries in the region have been making efforts to strengthen cooperation and solidarity among themselves. The LDCs need to boost growth to at least 7% from the current 5%. A regional meeting on MDGs issued several recommendations to help the LDCs and urged duty and quota-free market access, by introducing preferential schemes for the LDCs; simplified WTO accession, and support for trade-related infrastructure and human resources development. They also recommended that developed countries expand debt relief to severely-indebted countries and triple official assistance from less than 4 billion US dollars to more than 12 billion by 2006. While the G-8 has announced debt cancellation for 18 countries, no Asia-Pacific country was included. The UN has called on rich countries to share 0.7% of their GNP for aid but only a few have announced a timetable to do so. The US was critized for spending 0.16% of GNP, or about 19 billion dollars, while military spending accounts for 5%. The MDGs include reducing by a half the people suffering from poverty, achieving universal primary education, eliminating gender disparity, reducing child and maternal mortality, reversing the incidence of major diseases, and reducing the proportion of people without safe drinking water. The Asia-Pacific region has made good progress on targets of school enrollment, reduced infant mortality and increased access to safe water. But progress is lagging in poverty reduction, malnutrition, literacy and maternal mortality. doclink

    U.N. Report Says 20 Percent of World's Population Controls 80 Percent of Global Wealth

    August 25, 2005, Associated Press

    20% of the world's population controls 80% of global wealth. Unless all people enjoy better living conditions and social justice, they remain vulnerable to social, political and economic upheaval. Kofi Annan said the UN focus on growing inequalities makes it imperative that world leaders take action to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Focusing on economic growth and ignoring the inequality is perilous, the report said. Unemployment is a growing problem in Latin America, the Caribbean, and other developing countries where young people are two or three times more likely to be jobless, accounting for up to 47% of the 186 million people out of work around the world. At the same time, nearly a quarter of the world's workers don't earn enough to lift themselves above the US$1 per-day threshold. About 60% percent of informal workers are women. Informal employment is higher in developing countries, particularly the poorest where it includes almost four out of five workers, but has been increasing in a large number of countries. The inequality in income rose in 48 countries since the 1980s, remained constant in 16, and improved only in 9. China and India have seen considerable economic growth, but the gap between rich and poor remains wide, in developed countries the income gap has been especially pronounced. The violence associated with acts of terrorism should be viewed in the context of social inequality. doclink

    U.S.: Court Clears Way for Suit on Energy Projects Abroad

    August 25, 2005, Sacramento Bee

    A federal judge has given a green light to a lawsuit filed by cities and environmental groups that contend the U.S. government's quest for oil abroad will promote climate change across the globe. The suit, filed by the California cities of Oakland, Santa Monica and Arcata, as well as Boulder, Colo., and the environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, seeks to halt energy projects being developed on five continents until assessments are conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act. Named as defendants are officers of the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank of the US that provide insurance and loan guarantees. The suit contends they have approved more than $32 billion in foreign fossil fuel projects in the past decade to assure supplies for the US. Judge Jeffrey White denied the government's request for summary judgment. White said those suing had provided evidence of a threat to their interests that might be averted if the studies were performed. A lawyer for the US said no decision had been made regarding an appeal. The suit was based on declarations concerning greenhouse gas emissions and quoted a declaration by consultant Richard Heede, who said projects like these have been responsible for 1,911 million tons of carbon dioxide and methane emissions a year. He said 162 such projects were funded in the past 20 years such as in Mexico, China and India. Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown said the government's conduct "injures the citizens of Oakland and every person in this country." doclink

    Zambia: Decent Perks Key to Stop Brain Drain

    July 7, 2005, The Post (Zambia)

    Decent salaries are key to combating brain drain and creating a motivated workforce, UNPF representative said, also that donor reliance in Zambia was too high. She said the only way to stop brain drain was to provide motivating salaries. There is also a tendency to spend too much time talking and not enough on implementation. She was impressed with the high level of cooperation between the government, donors and NGOs. She bemoaned the lack of optimisation of national resources and the high level of dependency on donor funding. Zambia has a small population, plenty of land, sunlight and water, but the resources are not optimised. She also said Zambia had huge agricultural potential and needed to get its economy going. There were about 38 million condoms in Zambia and if distributed would reduce the prevalence rate of HIV. doclink

    Africans Wonder Whether Live 8 Concerts Will Change Their Lives

    June 10, 2005, Associated Press

    In African cities and villages, they'll be questioning whether Western extravaganzas like the Live 8 concerts, however well intentioned, can help. An aid worker said that the Live 8 concerts in five Western cities will force leaders of the world's richest countries to double aid to Africa, cancel its debts and help its people trade their way out of poverty. Over half of Africa's 870 millions people live on less than a dollar a day. 12 million children are orphaned by HIV/AIDS. About 30% of African children are not in school. Debt cancellation and more aid would mean more funds for basic social services and services for children. The concerts were organized by Gedolf who has urged hundreds of thousands of people to travel to Scotland, to press world leaders to endorse the Commission for Africa programs at the G8 summit. He joined the commission President in an appeal to EU leaders to throw their political weight behind a plan to double the EU's $57 billion annual development aid for African and other poor nations. Africa and its problems offer a chance for Europe to re-describe themselves and their value system. The Live 8 concerts have had minimum publicity in most of Africa, including in South Africa, whose President Thabo Mbeki will attend the G8 summit. doclink

    Group of Eight Wipes Debt Slate Clean for 18 Poorest Nations

    June 12, 2005, Agence France-Presse

    The world's wealthiest countries have agreed to cancel $40 billion of debt owed by the world's poorest countries, most of them in Africa.

    Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US have agreed to take over the cost of the debt owed to the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and the Africa Development Bank. Debt relief is one component of the "Marshall Plan for Africa" which includes more aid and ending trade barriers and farm subsidies in rich countries to enable poor African nations to compete in the marketplace.

    In addtion to the original 18 countries being helped in this round, another nine countries will become eligible for 100% debt relief over the next year. What matters now, aid officials say, is that the savings on debt servicing be spent wisely and not squandered by corrupt regimes. doclink

    Much of Africa is headed into a downward spiral with population growth, lack of water, poor education, and not enough health care, and little money for infrastructure. If the money goes for education and health care rather than having to pay off the debt, there is a chance for economic growth and a slowing of population growth.

    UN Official Criticizes Philippines for Failing to Reduce Poverty

    May 21, 2005, Xinhua General News Service

    The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) criticized the Philippines for failing to reduce poverty. There is not enough "political will" among MDG countries to achieve the goals for the year 2015. Most countries in Southeast Asia are doing better economically than counterparts in other regions, but the Phillipines is an exception. The Philippines have 20 million people in poverty. An earlier report showed the country's poverty stood at 35.6% and it rose to 45.4% with 6.9 million families three years later. The MDGs of the country include eradicating poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health. One of the grave concerns is the continuing disparity among the wealthy and the poor, and the large gap between rich countries and impoverished nations. doclink

    Development: Growing Cities Can Bring Better Solutions

    May 17, 2005, InterPress Service

    The population of cities is growing at 180,000 a day. By 2030 there will be two billion new city dwellers, many in slums. One in ten city dwellers lives in slums; in Africa seven out of ten in total 900 million people, according to the U.N. Human Settlement Programme (UNHABITAT). Chaotic urbanisation needs to be tackled after the HIV/AIDS pandemic - the rapid growth of cities presents challenges of providing enough water, education and housing. Though 80% of poor live in the countryside, they often move to big cities for better education, income and employment. As farmers become more efficient, less people are needed for food production and more move into jobs in industrial production and commodity. Cities have the big advantage of providing services covering a small distance. Food supply is normally better in cities. By 2015 there will be 27 cities with a population of more than 10 million, most in Asia. With an influx of half a million every year, a city of 14 million is facing problems of overpopulation. Private markets do not provide finance for social housing to improve slums. Access to finance for development of cities is restricted. Many cities suffer from weak national policies and a fear of decentralisation of authority. Cities account for about 60% of the world's economic growth. The Millennium Development Goals include a need to ensure environmental sustainability includes improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020. doclink

    Kenya: Level of Poverty Rises to 60 Per Cent

    May 3, 2005, East African Standard (Kenya)

    Poverty in Kenya has risen by 4% since 1997, and by the end of last year, 60% of the population lived below the poverty line (less than $1 a day). The number of the poor increased from 3.7 million in 1972 to 11.5 million in 1994. By end of last year, this number was 18 million in a population of 30 million. The situation is worse as 3.8 million out of the labour force of 14 million are unemployed or under-employed. Poverty was rampant among the landless, pastoralists, subsistence farmers, casual labourers, retrenched employees, female-headed households, people with disabilities, AIDS orphans and street families. The high rate of inflation and sluggish rate of economic growth have undermined improvement. The country was hit by a drought that left more than three million hungry. Last year the International Monetary Fund (IMF) funded Sh26 billion but expressed displeasure at the way the money was being spent. It demanded the Government redirects expenditure to core poverty. Uncertain donor support is also threatening poverty reduction programme and the attainment of the MDG. The Government must intervene to cushion the poor from the effects of rising inflation and high cost of living. It is believed that macro-economic stability is the foundation upon which Kenya can build a healthy economy and reduce poverty. doclink

    Needed: a Medical Peace Corps

    May 10, 2005, Boston Globe

    Little attention is paid to Africa's routine health services. Most African nations are too poor to afford more than basic medical care. An American medical peace corps would go a long way to alleviate Africa's training and skills shortage and funding the delivery of medicines and antimalarial bed nets. What the donor nations are doing to diminish the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and parasitical diseases is laudable. But they must do more and understand the enormity of Africa's health deficit. In 2002, the US spent $5,274 on each American's healthcare, Canada $2,222, and France $2,348; but throughout Africa, less than $50 is spent on each individual. In Canada and Britain, each physician attends to 500 to 600 people, in the US, 182. In Africa, 14,000 people. In the US, Canada, and Britain there are about four hospital beds for every 1,000; in Africa 1. Life expectancy in the developed world averages over 60; into the 70s in the US and the 80s in Japan. In Africa, into the 30s. Infant mortality levels rise from a low in Finland and Denmark of 3 infants per 1,000 to Africa where more than 95 babies per 1,000 are dying. Donors should assist Africa to eradicate disease, improve water and sanitation, and undertake research leading to new cures. But we should also provide funds to build and maintain clinics and hospitals, train more local physicians and expand a corps of physician assistants or nurse practitioners. The Peace Corps should encompass health professionals willing to do voluntary service abroad. doclink

    Poverty Rate Down to 30.4 Percent in Philippines

    May 10, 2005, Agence France-Presse

    The poverty rate in the Philippines fell 2.5% over three years to 30.4% of the population in 2003. The Anti-Poverty Commission sets the poverty threshold at 31.37 pesos (58 cents) a day, barely more than the 25-peso (46.3 cent) cost of a hamburger at the country's largest restaurant chain. Some 13.8% of the population earn less than 21.11 pesos (39.1 cents) a day, the minimum amount needed to acquire the most basic of food items, down from 15.8% in 2000. The World Bank says 43.2% of the population, or some 35.7 million, earned two dollars a day or less last year. doclink

    Wolfowitz Sets Africa Poverty Aim

    April 1, 2005, World Bank

    Paul Wolfowitz, the new head of the World Bank, said his main goal will be to cut poverty, particularly in Africa. Wolfowitz said he wanted to reduce poverty especially in Africa. Wolfowitz will take over the World Bank from 1 June 2005, and denied he would use his position to push broader US foreign policy such as spreading democracy and free markets. "Poverty reduction is a unifying goal and it is one that I believe in deeply." He said. Wolfowitz has reassured his detractors that the World Bank would continue its humanitarian efforts and said he would focus on key subjects such as international trade, subsidies and private sector investment. He also said that he had a new appreciation for the urgent need for debt relief and integrating regional economies. Wolfowitz has promised to seek a multinational management team, but would not give Europe an unequivocal promise on the deputy's post. doclink

    It is Time to Free the World Bank

    Financial Times (London)

    The World Bank must move beyond backroom politics. The bank is choosing a president and this process is unsatisfactory as the US can choose the president without competition and no questions. In spite being a multilateral institution of 184 member governments, its presidency is assumed to be owned by the White House and Europe seems happy to play along. The developing countries are relegated to the back benches. The US has only 16% of the bank's votes and other countries play an ever-larger role. The US has been the brake on increasing the finance for poor countries, and has pushed for debt relief that would weaken bank finances. The world has rallied behind the UN Millennium Development Goals for cutting poverty, disease and hunger. The US has signed the documents but has refused to champion the goals. The mantra in Washington is that the US supports the Monterrey consensus rather than increased development assistance. The Monterrey signatories, including the US, agreed to urge developed countries that have not done so "to make efforts towards the target of 0.7% of GNP as development assistance". US aid is 0.15% of GNP, the lowest of any donor country. The US has advanced an unlikely candidate for the World Bank position - Paul Wolfowitz whose positions on crucial issues are unknown. The bank's legitimacy will be damaged by a show of White House power and the MDG may be at risk. Mr Wolfowitz and other candidates should be required to clarify their positions. Does the candidate support the MDGs? Would the president make them the targets of bank programmes? Does the candidate endorse the 0.7% of GNP in development assistance? Would the new bank president press donors to increase aid to 0.7% by 2015. Would the candidate champion to privatise or agree that public finance is vital? Does the candidate support a vote for developing countries in the World Bank and IMF? doclink

    The Next Step is Action

    Guardian (London)

    Most countries in Africa are worse off than 20 years ago. Half the population lives on less than a dollar a day. Corruption has been rife and life expectancy is only 46 and falling. The Commission for Africa does not shirk from criticising corruption and incompetence that has bedevilled Africa's development, not to mention internecine wars. But they stress that good governance extends to having efficient officials and capacity at the local level. One sobering statistic is that it costs $ 1,500 to ship a car from Japan to Abidjan yet $ 5,000 to ship it on to Addis Ababa because of the state of roads built to convey colonial mining spoils rather than to give Africa a decent transport system. Yet there is a global admission, from Bill Gates downwards, that something must be done, and the report is backed by incumbent governments who have the will and the means to help even if they are tardy about raising their aid contributions to 0.7% of GDP as agreed. The US dislikes Gordon Brown's scheme to accelerate aid payments and it likes doing things its own way but one of the attractions of the proposals is that they are realistic. The old dictatorships are disappearing and economic growth - maybe linked to the emergence of democracies - has started to return. In 2003, growth exceeded 5% in 24 sub-Saharan countries. The number of wars is in decline. The agenda is formidable: debt relief, institutional change, rooting out corruption, improving education, eradicating disease and ending the immoral and economically crazy subsidies that western countries give farmers to grow crops that could be done better in Africa. The measures could cost richer countries a total of $25 billion a year, but that is little compared with the good that could come. Western institutions, as well as the governments of Africa, must change their ways. doclink

    We Must Find the Will and the Means to End Poverty

    February 16, 2005, Financial Times (London)

    Some argue that aid allows bad governments to ignore the wishes of their populations and avoid reforms. Others believe that aid is sure to deliver improvements, but neither of these is right. Much aid has delivered, allowing for conflict, disease and poor climatic conditions, but there are examples of waste. What are called "fragile states" are home to 15% of the world's population and one-third live in poverty. East Asia and Pacific will eliminate poverty by 2015, but in sub-Saharan Africa conditions are getting worse. There are success stories in sub-Saharan Africa. Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda have good policies that are capable of absorbing more aid. How are we to ensure that increases in aid are to be well used? Give tolerably governed countries the aid to achieve agreed goals. Make open agreements that can be monitored. Governments cannot be forced to do what they do not wish but they should do what they promise. One of the most effective approaches is the use of market mechanisms to deliver subsidised goods. Make aid predictable, untied and sustained. It is important to avoid the waste inherent in protection against imports, inefficient state monopolies and macroeconomic instability. This leaves two dilemmas. One is that the quickest way to reduce poverty is to shift aid towards India and Bangladesh from other low-income countries. These countries have enormous numbers of people in poverty and reasonable administration. The bigger dilemma is what to do about failing states that are the places where money is likely to be ill-used and where the concentration of poor people is set to rise. This must not divert attention from what we can do: help those already prepared to help themselves. Additional aid is certainly not the answer on its own, but is part of the answer. doclink

    The Looming Disaster - Red Sky at Morning

    September 8, 2004, American Scientist

    In the book Red Sky at Morning, by James Gustave Speth, an environmental revolution would link local environmental issues with global ones and embed them into public policy. Our economic system should support social goals and human values, also reestablish the US as an environmental leader. The ultimate goal would be a world society that is environmentally sustainable, economically equitable and peaceful. We need citizens and scientists capable of advancing the actions needed. The 1980 Report of the Brandt Commission warned that mass hunger, economic disaster, environmental catastrophes, and terrorism could be as much of a threat as war. Fundamental changes are needed - we must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is about being more, not having more. So far treaties, agreements and protocols are not preventing environmental deterioration. The failure is a tendency to address symptoms rather than causes; economic opposition and protection of sovereignty; weak multilateral institutions; the use of consensus based negotiating; and lack of strong leadership from wealthy countries. Increasing pollution and biological impoverishment have been triggered by expansion in human populations and their consumption. Global population increased fourfold during the 20th century, and the productivity of individuals grew fivefold; resulting in a 20 fold growth in the global economy, which is expected by 2050 to quadruple to $140 trillion. In the 1980s human demands began to exceed the regenerative capacity of the air, water, land, sunlight, and plant and animal life. 23 affluent nations today produce and consume more than 20 times the quantity of goods and services used by the 40 least developed countries. Annual gains in economic productivity powered by fossil fuels are 50% higher in affluent countries. By 2050 production and consumption will be more than 40 times greater in affluent countries than in less developed countries. In about a third of the countries surveyed (including Japan, the Nordic countries, and Eastern European countries), the richest 10% of the population enjoys 5 to 10 times as much income as the poorest 10%. The annual rate of population increase is six times greater in the least developed countries. Most of the growth in world population will take place among the five billion people in the developing world where three billion live on less than two dollars a day. Population growth in developing countries and production and consumption in industrialized countries are threatening environmental sustainability, and jeopardizing stability and peace in a world blessed with new technologies and cursed with terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Transitions to progress require a stable or smaller world population, freedom from mass poverty, environmentally benign technologies, environmentally honest prices, sustainable consumption, an emphasis on knowledge and learning, good governance, and a culture that respects nature, human rights economic justice, and peace. These demand reduction of population growth in developing countries; restraint on economic production and consumption in the industrialized world; development of environmentally benign sources of energy; and education that will equip individuals to become creators of the human future. doclink

    ADB Warns of Increasing Inequality in Asia

    August 26, 2004, Agence France Presse

    High economic growth helped Asia reduce poverty in the past decade but the unfair distribution of income could hamper future improvement. The number of people living on less than a dollar a day in 20 developing nations across Asia fell to 688 million between 1990 and 2002, 21.5% of the population. If the poverty threshold is set at $2 a day, 60% of developing Asia's population were poor in 2002, compared with 75% in 1990. The poverty reduction has come from high rates of growth, but growth increased the gap between rich and poor. Real inequality was likely to be higher than official figures due to under-reporting of wealth by the rich. We have to create jobs with higher productivity which will enable higher wages, and lead to sustainable reductions in poverty. Ownership of the land - or a guarantee that what you produce belongs to you - is a major step forward. Between 1990-2002, China accounted for 174 million or 75% of the decline of 233 million in the people living on less than a dollar a day, followed by 48 million in Vietnam, Indonesia and South East Asia. South Asia, including India and Bangladesh, had a drop of only 14 million in extreme poverty. South Asians on less than two dollars a day would rise to 1.12 billion by 2015 in its worse-case scenario based on low growth and greater distribution inequality. If South Asia will grow as strongly as in 1990-2003, the number would drop to 915 million. For developing Asia, there may be a net reduction in poverty at below the two dollars a day by 2015, on a worst case basis. The number below the poverty line would decrease to 1.22 billion from 2.02 billion in 2002 at best, and 1.67 billion in the worse case. doclink

    We cannot keep growing for ever. We should be seeking other solutions.

    Out of the Dark In Rural China - Electricity Transforming Village Life

    June 25, 2004, Washington Post

    In this ethnically Tibetan village in China's southwest, villagers haul water from the river for cooking, washing and drinking and walk a day down a dirt trail to get to the nearest market town. Yet a hydro generator the size of a coffee can, installed last year, kicks to life. Single bulbs cast light through the five houses. In one home, villagers stare transfixed at a TV drama beamed by satellite from Beijing. As China seeks energy for industrial expansion, here in Yunnan province, villages are being wired with electricity. Television penetrates the remote corners of the country, giving people an inkling of the world. Isolated farmers are seeing how quickly their country is developing and how little wealth reaches them. 98% of households now have electricity, yet there are millions of people without. The government reckons China has potentially hydropower capacity of 87 million kilowatts. The Three Gorges Dam accounts for much of the plans. But dams have displaced millions of people and raised environmental concerns. The Ministry is now pressing to subsidize small-scale hydro projects. Deforestation in these areas of the Yangtze is blamed for the floods and villagers dependent on firewood must find other sources. Gonjo a village of 200 people, is connected by a highway paved in 2002. Wheat and cornfields encircle the houses, but many residents supplement incomes as truck drivers, hauling from towns to the south for upriver villages. Gonjo has had electricity for 15 years and runs refrigerators, electric stoves, televisions, water filters and washing machines. Plumbing has yet to arrive. Three hours' walk upriver five families occupy mud houses beneath a Buddhist stupa. They tend to the grain fields or orange groves, harvesting fruit they sell in towns, carrying it on their backsto Gonjo. Most families live on less than $1,000 per year. Firewood is stacked up outside every house, but a satellite dish looks over the river. The electrical system installed seven years ago has brought TV news from Kunming and Beijing. One family put their savings into the purchase of a washing machine and a refrigerator where they can keep their vegetables and fresh meat. Two years ago, they installed a plumbing system to bring water up from the river. Farther upriver, electricity did not arrive until last December. The five families each paid $10 to buy the tiny generator that operates from 8 p.m.-to-midnight. Villagers used to spend three days a month harvesting pine branches they used as torches. Now, they have more time for farming, gathering the mushrooms they sell, giving them more cash to buy goods such as the tape player, the television and the DVD player. The township government supplied a satellite dish. Electricity has also heightened awareness of how poor this area is. The television images of Shanghainese riding around in cars and buying designer clothes in steel and glass malls makes them frustrated. A day's walk upriver, the village of Bala had electricity arrive last June. It runs between 7:30 and 10:30pm. The township government donated the diesel generator but keeping it running is the responsibility of the locals. Twice a year, each of the nine families must trudge down the road to buy diesel fuel and bring it home on the back of a donkey. Each household contributes about $4 per month. If they had more electricity, they could use an electric stove, tape players, a rice cooker, a washing machine. Household income here is around $300 per year. The teacher at the school sees the television as a force of economic ascendance. He is one of the only people who can speak Mandarin Chinese, most speak only a unique dialect. His students sit nightly in front of the television, absorbing entertainment in Mandarin. It helps them understand life outside the village. doclink

    Poor People of the World, Start a Business

    June 17, 2004, Monitor, The(Uganda)

    Some say there's no proof that promoting small business reduces poverty. It's a prescription for international development based on faith. Despite decades of foreign aid and education half the world's population remains in poverty. The proportion has declined as the population has grown, but almost 3 billion people make $2 per day or less. At the UN, the World Bank, and other bodies, the G-8 plan reflected their enthusiasm for harnessing private enterprise to tackle poverty. The G-8 endorsement has a positive reaction from developing countries. The thesis is that in developing countries the removal of obstacles to private initiative has potential to accelerate economic growth. Supporters say it could prove useful for small and medium enterprises. Unhappily, studies find no correlation between the formation of small enterprises and economic success. Economic development is more complex and involves property rights, cultural barriers, the soundness of contracts and business agreements, and helping big business, as well as small and medium-sized business. In China and India, big business is driving progress as much as small business. Other factors are the heavy debts many poor nations have accumulated. Free trade would add $200 billion per year to developing countries' income - and lift 540 million people out of poverty over 10 to 15 years. Single solutions will not solve global poverty. Instead, a combination of measures looks more likely to turn the tide slowly. doclink

    Protestors: G8 Needs Africa Focus

    June 3, 2004, United Press International

    Activist noted the debt crisis, HIV and poverty as key concerns that the world's industrialized nations should be focusing on, calling on the G8 to relieve Africa's $300 billion debt. The G8 created the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative to offer low-income countries debt reduction. The program aims to provide $53 billion in debt relief to 27 low-income countries over a 20-year period. African countries are spending $15 billion a year to pay back loans. The 20-year period is too long because countries remain in a cycle of loans and payments. The World Bank maintains that better economic and government policies will eliminate poverty. Many countries have a history of repressive governance that stagnated economic growth. G8 opponents criticized the relief of $40 billion by the United States, Britain, Italy, France, Germany and Russia for Iraq's reconstruction. Director of Africa Action argued that the G8 was a system where the rich minority controls and exploits poor countries. As a result Africa has the largest share of poverty, and the greatest HIV burden. They also criticized the Bush administration's plan to fight global HIV as financially inadequate. The President's AIDS Relief grants $15 billion to combat HIV, malaria and tuberculosis over a five-year span and aims to treat 2 million AIDS victims and prevent 7 million new infections. Critics argue it diverts funds from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Two percent of Africa's 30 million HIV-infected population has access to anti-retroviral drugs. Critics claim G8 is focused on safeguarding its narrow economic and security interests. This year's agenda for G8 discussion includes democracy and development in the Middle East, reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan, oil prices, poverty and HIV in Africa. Heads of states from South Africa, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana, Uganda and Senegal will be attending the G8 meeting as observers with Arab and Muslim leaders. doclink

    The Profit Motive

    Ralph Woodgate

    If we are to reduce and contain the population of our world we face one very serious obstacle. That is the almost universal acceptance of personal profit as our chief objective in life and our ultimate measure of success.

    For years the profit motive has been the guiding light for almost every aspect of our lives. In many respects it has been an excellent objective, indeed we have seen the failure of systems that aim for other targets. With profit as our ultimate goal however business must always be seeking more consumers, we are always linking growth with profit and this inevitably means more people. We are already seeing governments in countries with a falling population taking extreme measures to increase the number of their citizens rather than work towards a stable population in line with their resources. It is of course much easier to maintain the old system of the profit motive than to begin to plan for population reduction or population stability that would require a change in many aspects of our daily life.

    This system began during an era of apparently limitless natural resources but as we see more and more every day these resources are in fact finite. We have to consider how we are to change our society in order to conserve what we already have and to develop other resources to replace those that we have consumed. This means that eventually we will no longer be able to use the profit motive as our measure of success unless we are prepared to accept the inevitable wide disparity between rich and poor that is already growing in many countries. We are also seeing a growing government intervention in industry and commerce with controls via taxes and regulations that affect the production of many products and influence many aspects of commerce and life.

    As a resource becomes limited, this level of government intervention will inevitably increase via taxes, incentives or price supports that use the profit motive to influence production. Energy and water fall into the above category but when these essential resources become scarce as they are bound to do, are we going to deny them to those who cannot afford to pay for them? Already in most states there are programs to assist the poor in paying for electricity, oil and gas to light and heat their homes. In the third world we are providing food to millions of poorer families. So we already know that the profit motive does not work in some areas of society and there we are looking at the well being of the inhabitants as our objective.

    Other failures of the profit motive have recently become a subject of concern. The payment of millions of dollars to officers of companies, even to those that are failing, has to be questioned. Especially when the workers concerned are laid off with little if any compensation. Many ordinary citizens have lost all or much of their saving from investments in companies that fail, yet the CEOs of these very companies are paid millions as a "golden handshake". These are a few of the growing number of examples of the failure of the "profit motive" and it seems inevitable that when all of these events are put together we will see a move towards more humanistic objectives. doclink

    Poverty Affects One-tenth of Children in Industrialized World

    January 27, 2000, Voice of America's Dateline

    Over 1 billion people are estimated to be below the poverty line, defined as living on less than $1 a day. 70% of the poor live in developing countries in Asia. One in 10 children live below the poverty line in some of the world's richest countries. doclink

    Millenium Summit and Globalization

    October 2, 2000, UN Press Release

    One of the goals set by the Millennium Summit was to halve poverty by 2015. The Russian Federation representative compared globalization to a rolling train that one could safely board only from the right platform at the right time. Morocco's representative said that inequality in income continued to worsen. The three richest people in the world had an income that exceeded the gross national product of the world's 49 poorest countries. 20% of the richest people held over 80% of the world's wealth, while 20% of the poorest only held 1%. Should the international community allow that situation to deteriorate? he asked, or should it work together to find solutions that would protect the dignity of human beings? Ecuador's debt service consumed more than 50% of the national budget. That prevented the execution of health programmes, education, employment, and the well-being of the population's poor sectors. A solution based on the principles of justice, responsibility and solidarity must be found. The Secretary-General's Millennium Report noted that half of the inhabitants of Africa lived in abject poverty. The urgent question was to know what had to be done to alleviate the poverty of the planet. The Nepal representative said many developing States were in deep conflict and the majority of humanity lived in absolute poverty, illiteracy and disease. Although poverty reduction and development were primarily responsibilities of the developing countries, they could not do it alone. Developing countries needed better terms of trade, as well as improved access to the developed country markets for their products and services. They must also have access to technology in the rich countries for their modernization. The Philippines representative said least developed countries could not be expected to make significant progress in social and economic development if they were encumbered by an unmanageable debt burden doclink

    Birds and Politics: Land Enclosure Today

    Patrick Burns

    After World War II, the hedges and stone walls erected during the British land enclosure began to be taken down to enlarge fields for mechanized planting and harvesting. A field that would have taken days to prepare by hand could now be achieved in hours. Increasing agricultural mechanization is having an impact on song bird populations and there are signs that many species of wild birds are in decline. The hedgerows and stone walls that the gentry erected to shunt the poor off of the lands that they farmed, are falling under pressure from the plows, air-conditioned harvesters, and competitive international commodities maketplace. In September of 2002, over 400,000 people marched in London as part of the largest political rally in British history. While ostensibly about "preseving fox hunting," the real complaint that was that rural people of Britain feel they are losing political and economic hegemony to all those folks in the city. doclink

    The Lost Decade: They Were Promised a Brighter Future

    July 9, 2003, Guardian

    While the US was booming in the 1990s, more than 50 countries were suffering falling living standards, and famine, HIV, conflict and failed economic policies have turned the clock back. The UN called for action to meet its millennium goals for 2015 of a halving of people living on less than a dollar a day and the mortality of under-fives, universal primary education and a halving of those without drinking water and sanitation. The 90s had seen a drop to 23% in the number of people globally living on less than a dollar a day, but the improvement had been the result of the progress in China and India. Thirty of the 34 "low human development" countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. The world has became more divided between the rich and the poor. The richest 1% now receive as much income as the poorest 57%. Much of the decline in the 1990s can be traced to the spread of HIV, which lowered life expectancies, and a collapse in incomes. September 11 created a consensus that poverty was the world's problem, but urged the west to abandon the liberalisation agenda. The west needs to tear down trade barriers, dismantle its subsidy regimes, provide deeper debt relief and double aid to $100 billion a year. This would provide investment in health, education, clean water and rural roads. Without addressing issues like malnutrition and illiteracy the goals will not be met. 54 countries are poorer than in 1990. In 21, a larger proportion is going hungry. In 14, more children are dying before five. In 12, primary school enrolments are shrinking. In 34, life expectancy has fallen. doclink

    Population Decline

    The Historic Reversal of Populations

    August 8, 2016, IPS Inter Press Service   By: Joseph Chamie

    Historically, due to low longevity rates and high birthrates, children (< 15) were always more numerous than the elderly (> 65). But both longevity rates and birthrates have been reversing. The demographic turning point, when a nation first had fewer kids than oldsters, was reached in Italy in 1995. Within five years it also had occurred in Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Japan, Portugal and Spain, and today it has occurred in 30 nations, including most of Europe. In fifteen years the number of nations is on course to nearly double and include Australia, Canada, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

    When the world's population was 3.3 billion 50 years ago, for each elderly person there were more than seven children. Today, with a world population of 7.4 billion, the ratio has been more than halved to about three children per elderly person. By 2075 the world's projected population of 10.7 billion is expected to pass through the Historical Reversal where the number of elderly will bypass and then start exceeding the number of children. The ratios for Asia and Latin America are close to the current world average. But the whole of Europe now has slightly less than one child per elderly person.

    By 2065, while the world population is expected to increase by 40%, the number of elderly is expected to more than triple. By that year, the elderly will comprise at least one-third of the populations in China, Germany, Greece, Japan, Italy, Poland, Singapore, South Korea and Spain.

    Africa has averaged nearly 12 children per elderly person, and it probably will not experience the reversal this century. Africa is projected to still have 1.5 children per elderly person in 2100, with countries such as Niger, Nigeria and Somalia having more than twice as many children as elderly. At that time, all the other major regions of the world are expected to have about two times more old people than children.

    Although gradual, the effects of an aging population are considerable, impacting consumption, employment, voting, defense, foreign policy, recreation, health care, entertainment, family life, immigration and taxation. Most notable, an aging population makes it more difficult to fund pension systems that will have more beneficiaries, but fewer workers to support them. To sustain pension programs, countries can raise the retirement age, raise taxes, redirect government revenue, reduce benefits, or privatize their systems. Other options include raising fertility rates (20 years in advance to be effective) and hiring more immigrant workers. doclink

    Art says: The so-called dependency ratio is causing many low-birthrate nations to offer incentives for having more children due to a fear that they will eventually face a shortage of working-age people. This aggravates problems that stem from over-consumption and overpopulation.

    Karen Gaia says: First, the author does not think about the fact that children also add to the dependency ratio. If parents have more children to help old people, how can they manage to support both children and elderly parents?

    Which is worse: having too many old people or not having enough food to feed people and not enough energy to fuel a civilization? My guess is that we will have both too many old people and not enough resources.

    We would not have this problem of too many old people if we had not enabled population growth in the first place, by: lowering the death rate and by not instituting sufficient and effective family planning earlier.

    Fertility Decline Spurs Per Capita Consumption Increase

    April 25, 2016, Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment   By: Robert Engelman

    Contrary to common misconception that fertility decline and aging of the population tend to lower economic growth, a paper by Lee and Mason finds that the use of family planning may contribute indirectly to higher per capita consumption, but the consumption of the total population does not rise proportionally.

    In addition, when fertility rates fall, parents and societies then invest in the human capital - chiefly education and health, instead of more consumption of resources - of each child in smaller generations.

    The authors stress that they are not declaring that lower fertility directly causes increased per capita consumption, only that it is strongly associated with it in their model.

    Applying a demographic-economic model that integrates data from the experience of 19 rich and poor economies between 1994 and 2004, the authors conclude that rising investment in human capital as fertility declines diverts money from current consumption. Yet any reduction in economic growth is overcompensated by the higher per capita consumption that this investment in children eventually yields.

    At the center of the FPESA conceptual framework is a dotted box representing the possibility that, by reducing fertility, the use of family planning might actually encourage higher per capita consumption of natural resources. Although this paper makes no mention of either family planning or the environment, it does address this important possibility-and finds it to be more likely than not.

    The authors' treat consumption in purely economic terms, rather than as the energy or materials consumption that would interest environmental researchers. However, they have found that, when fertility falls, per capita consumption increases, but the consumption of the total population does not rise proportionally. Parents and societies continue to divert money toward human capital investment that might otherwise have been spent in current consumption of goods (e.g., housing, clothing, entertainment, etc.). The model leaves unanswered whether fertility decline tends to shrink or boost a population's net consumption over time, compared to what these would have been without fertility decline.

    There is some question of the veracity of model used. Nonetheless, the parameters and data used are based on actual demographic and economic experience in such countries as the United States, Japan, India, Mexico, Thailand, and the Philippines.

    The Lee and Mason paper does not undermine the demographic pathway from family planning to environmental sustainability in the FPESA conceptual framework. Neither these papers, nor any others we have assessed, offer evidence that fertility decline raises net consumption levels economically or environmentally. doclink

    Don't Panic: There's No People Shortage

    June 7, 2016, Huffington Post   By: John Seager

    With all the global challenges, from climate change to Zika to ISIS, it can seem like there are more challenges than people. Yet some "talking heads" and politicians seem panicked about declining birth rates in countries like Japan, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Germany, and the United States.

    Population Connection has produced a new book, titled The Good Crisis, which explains why declining birth rates are the least of our worries.

    Even though industrialized countries have seen a decline in birth rates, the world continues to add about 83 million people each year. There will be 11.2 billion people on this planet by 2100, says the UN. As our population continues to grow, access to food and clean water decreases and CO2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption increase.

    In the parts of the world where there is a decrease in birth rates, that is a good thing. Voluntary population stabilization would help solve some of the worst problems we now face.

    Some alarmists argue that with lower birth rates, an aging population and smaller numbers of workers, there will be no one to take care of the seniors. However, with declining birth rates, the funding we spend on some services [such as schools] can decrease, thus freeing up resources for older people.

    In the U.S., while it is true that funding for Social Security and Medicare ultimately depend on our national productivity, innovation, increased access to quality education and health care, job sharing opportunities, and many other factors can contribute to productivity. If we act wisely, we can cover future retirement costs.

    In 1960, Japan had 56 dependents for every 100 working age people. By 2010, it was virtually unchanged at 57 dependents. In Germany, it went up slightly during that half-century from 48 to 52. These small shifts are of no great consequence. Note also that the U.S. dependency ratio improved greatly during this same period from 67 to just 50.

    Despite lower birth rates, the GDP in the developing world has continued to grow. Research suggests that increased opportunities for economic empowerment, innovation and leadership, especially for women and marginalized communities, increases productivity, while decreasing economic and social inequality.

    Economic challenges tend to be greater for countries with rapid population growth than those with declining birth rates. Countries like Niger and Haiti, which are among the least developed nations with low income levels, have high birth rates.

    So instead of worrying about some imaginary people shortage, let's work to improve the quality of life for people everywhere while preserving our planet.

    The book is available as a free download here. doclink

    Analysis: More Countries Want More Babies

    November 17, 2015, IPS Inter Press Service   By: Joseph Chamie and Barry Mirkin

    In 82 nations, home to almost half of the world's people, fertility rates are below replacement level. As a result, even with small projected increases, the native populations of 48 of those countries, including Germany, Japan, Russia and South Korea, are projected to be smaller and older by mid-century. Fearing a shortage of working-age people relative to the number too old or young to work, 56 nations aim to raise birth rates - four times the number promoting higher fertility in 1975. The group includes Australia, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey.

    The most recent and largest pro-natal nation is China, which has announced that it will now allow two, rather than just one, child per family. China's average age has been escalating. In 1950 less than 5% were 65 or older, but now it's 10%, and it could go to 33% by 2050. The change will produce 200 million more people than current fertility rates would yield, raising the population from 1.39 to 1.42 billion by 2030. But China's population should then slowly decline to 1 billion by the end of the century.

    Leaders have adopted a variety of policies to raise birth rates. They can prohibit contraception, sterilization, abortion and the education and employment of women. But rather than go to that extreme on a national level, they more often try to reduce the costs to parents for childbearing and child rearing. Some offer bonuses at the time of a child's birth and/or recurrent supplements for dependent children. In Turkey, for example, parents receive 300 Turkish lira ($108) for the birth of their first child, 400 for the second and 600 for the fourth and subsequent child. This can also require continued assistance to couples with large needy families.

    In Western countries, most policies try to make employment and family responsibilities more compatible. In addition to extended maternity and paternity leave, they offer part-time work, flexible hours, and work at home. Family-friendly workplaces can have nurseries, pre-school, and after-school care facilities. Such services are expensive. For example, with fertility at two children per woman, French family benefits cost about 4% of GDP.

    Selective immigration can also raise the workforce size relative to the number too old or too young to work. A U.N study concluded that even current levels of international migration cannot compensate fully for the expected population decline. Between 2015 and 2050, the excess of deaths over births in Europe is projected to be 63 million, half the projected number of new migrants during that period. The financial costs, social integration and cultural impact of immigration are considered the downside of relying on large-scale immigration. So the E.U. is considering plans to offer aid money and visas to African countries willing to send temporary workers and take them back when the contracts end.

    Japan and South Korea hope to avoid immigration by boosting productivity to compensate for a shrinking labor force. But they are also reviewing legislation to encourage more women to work by offering family-friendly work environments, improved career mobility, and promotions to management and senior positions. doclink

    Art says: Often nations with pro-natal policies, such as Italy and France, have high unemployment rates. That may be a reason couples aren't having children. Why increase world over-population to balance the percentage of working-age people with those to old or young to work if your nation cannot find jobs for all of its working age citizens?

    Karen Gaia says: even if a country is aging, a bigger concern is the footprint of that country and if the country is able to feed its people, or do they rely heavily on imports?

    The Amazing, Surprising, Africa-Driven Demographic Future of the Earth, in 9 Charts

    July 16, 2015, Washington Post   By: Max Fisher

    The United Nations Population Division has dramatically revised its projections for the next 90 years. The new statistics, based on in-depth survey data from sub-Saharan Africa, tell the story of a world poised to change drastically over the next several decades. Most rich countries will shrink and age, poorer countries will expand rapidly and Africa will see a population explosion nearly unprecedented in human history.

    Here is the story of the next 90 years as predicted by UN demographic data and explained in nine charts. The charts are interactive. Click on the link in the headline to see the charts.

    In 2100 today's dominant, developed economies will be increasingly focused on supporting the elderly and Africa, for better or worse, will be more important than ever.

    In Africa there will four times the workforce, four times the resource burden, four times as many voters. The rapid growth itself will likely transform political and social dynamics within African countries and thus their relationship with the rest of the world.

    Nigeria will have almost a billion people by 2100 and will be within range of surpassing China in population. Nigeria is only about the area of Texas and the country is already troubled by corruption, poverty and religious conflict. The government that can barely serve its population right now. How will it respond when the demand on resources, social services, schools and roads increases by a factor of eight. The country's vast oil reserves could certainly help - the rapidly growing workforce could theoretically deliver an African miracle akin to, say, China's.

    Right now, many African countries aren't particularly adept at either governance or resource management. If they don't improve, exploding population growth could only worsen resource competition -- and we're talking here about basics like food, water and electricity -- which in turn makes political instability and conflict more likely. The fact that there will be a "youth bulge" of young people makes that instability and conflict more likely.

    Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, went from 34 million people in 2000 to 45 million today. By 2100 it is projected to reach 276 million. Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have similar projections.

    If Tanzania remains as poor and troubled as it is today, water and food resources will only get scarcer as it's divided among more and more people, as will whatever money the government makes exporting natural resources. That typically leads to instability and a higher risk of conflict. But if Tanzania puts its growing population to work building the economy, its future in 2100 could be promising.

    The "dependency ratio" is the ratio of people under age 15 or over age 64 to the number of people age 15 to 64. The idea is that people who are very young or very old are dependent on others to provide for them. In Africa only 56% Africans are working-age, and the dependency ratio is 80%. That's a huge burden on society and a big contributor to poverty. But as the birth rate slows and those young dependents enter the work force, the dependency ratio is going to fall, dropping to 60% by 2055. There will be a lot of young men who could be employed, (creating a 'demographic dividend') but if resources are scarce, this can create political instability.

    Europe, as it continues to shrink, will get the worst of the economic problems, with the average dependency ratio hitting an Africa-style 76% in 2055.

    South America is expected to reach a deeply worrying 82% dependency ratio by 2100. Its population will rise until about 2050, at which point it will begin its own gradual population decline.

    Asia's population growth, already slowing, is expected to peak about 50 years from now then start declining. Its dependency ratio, currently low, will stay low until it starts to rise around 2050.

    In China, when the current generation retires, there will be a rapidly growing pool of retirees just as the workforce starts to shrink. Those aging retirees will be an enormous burden on the Chinese economy, which is just beginning to slow down.

    North America continue to grow at a slow, sustainable rate, surpassing South America's overall population around 2070.

    Because the United States can expect healthy, sustained growth, mostly due to immigration, it will continue to be a leader economically. Immigration helps the U.S. to do what very few other countries, including China, has yet figured out: how to be a rich country with a growing population. doclink

    Art says: The article text concludes that population growth is the best assurance of economic growth. It never suggests that nearly doubling our existing population might have any bad consequences - only that some African nations might have adjustment problems due to population increases. It strongly advocates the dependency ratio theory which says that low fertility rates lead to economic decline.

    However, the Washington Post author may not be representing the UN data correctly. His twist that dependency ratio is the major problem of concern when the population nearly doubles may not represent the views of UN demographers who gathered the data.

    Karen says: The author seems to think that improved governance or resource management are going to be enough to overcome resource depletion, which, if you do the math, means that by 2100 the resources per person are going to be 1/8 of what they are today, unless something is done. This something has got to be very miraculous, such as pul

    Why Shrinking Populations May Be No Bad Thing

    June 3, 2014, Economist

    For an ideal state to be achieved the total fertility rate used by demographers for the number of children a woman is likely to have needs to be above two: around 2.1 in wealthier countries and higher in poorer countries, due to the fact children are more likely to die before adulthood. However recently, the global fertility rate is beginning to decline. Even in Africa, the number of children per woman in 2010-15 is forecast to fall to 4.7, compared with 5.7 in 1990-95 Overall the average fertility around the world is estimated to be 2.5.

    In a growing number of countries the fertility rate has fallen below replacement levels, and this is beginning to worry governments. Fewer babies mean fewer workers later on, and as people are beginning to live longer, they will have to support a growing number of pensioners.

    In a growing number of countries the fertility rate has now fallen below replacement level. South Korea, at 1.3, has the lowest rate of any big country. Numbers are also slipping below replacement level in less wealthy South-East Asia. Quite soon half the world's people will live in countries where the population is no longer reproducing itself.

    This worries governments, because fewer babies mean fewer workers later on, and as people are living longer, they will have to support a growing number of pensioners.

    But is a fertility rate at replacement level the right target? In a recent study Erich Striessnig and Wolfgang Lutz, of the Vienna University of Economics and Business and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, argue that in predicting dependency ratios (the number of children and pensioners compared with people of working age), education should also be taken into account. And that makes optimal rates much lower than previously thought.

    Not everyone of working age contributes equally to supporting the dependent population. Better-educated people are more productive and healthier, retire later and live longer. Education levels in most places have been rising and are likely to continue to do so.

    Overall the worries about falling populations can be better addressed through education rather than current alternatives such as baby bonuses or tax breaks. But population policies are not all about rational economics: the world pays more attention to populous countries with sizeable armies than small ones without them. And countries that feel under threat tend to look for safety in numbers. It is no accident that, almost alone among developed countries, Israel has a fertility rate well above replacement level, at 2.9 doclink

    Japan: The Incredible Shrinking Country

    March 25, 2014, Economist

    Japan's population began falling in 2004 and is now ageing faster than any other on the planet. More than 22% of Japanese are already 65 or older. A report compiled with the government's co-operation two years ago warned that by 2060 the number of Japanese will have fallen from 127m to about 87m, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older.

    The 2012 government report said that without policy change, by 2110 the number of Japanese could fall to 42.9m, ie just a third of its current population. It is plausible to think that the country could learn to live with its shrinking population. But that might mean also embracing a fall from being the world's third-largest economy.

    Some of the solutions considered included allowing immigration (currently only 2% of Japan's population is foreign) and making it easier for mothers to be in the work force. Japan's gender gap is ranked a low 105 out of 136 countries.

    Japan is already weighed down by one of the world's largest public debt burdens. With its inverted population pyramid, where will it find the tax base to repay this debt, and to care for its growing population of elderly? doclink

    It Takes a Generation

    January 24, 2014, New York Times   By: David Brook

    Over the past decade we've had a rich debate on how to expand opportunity for underprivileged children.

    But, we've probably placed too much emphasis on early education. Human capital development takes a generation. If you really want to make an impact, you've got to have a developmental strategy for all the learning stages, ages 0 to 25.

    And, we've probably put too much weight on school reform. But millions of students can't control their impulses, can't form attachments, don't possess resilience and lack social and emotional skills.

    President Obama should sketch out a stage-by-stage developmental agenda to help poor children move from birth to the middle class.

    Such an agenda would start before birth. First, children need parents who are ready to care for them. But right now roughly half-a-million children are born each year as a result of unintended pregnancies, often to unmarried women who are not on contraception or are trying to use contraceptives like condoms or the pill. As the University of Pennsylvania's Rebecca Maynard and Isabel Sawhill and Quentin Karpilow of the Brookings Institution have argued, if these women had free access to long-acting reversible contraceptives like I.U.D.'s, then the number of unintended births might decline and the number of children with unready parents might fall, too.

    Once born, children are generally better off if they grow up within a loving two-parent marriage. It would be great if we knew how to boost marriage rates, but we don't.

    We probably should spend more time thinking about parenting skills such as reading more to their kids, speaking more, using consistent, encouraging discipline.

    Once they get to elementary school, children need to learn how to read and write. But that can't happen in schools where 15% of the students are disruptive, where large numbers of students live with so much stress that it has stunted the development of the prefrontal cortexes, sent their cortisol levels surging, heightened their anxiety responses and generally made it hard for them to control themselves.

    Therefore, we need more programs that work in schools to help teachers and administrators create "fortified environments," in which overstressed children can receive counseling and treatment, in which the psychic traumas that go with poverty are recognized and addressed.

    We also have to help people from poorer families chart a course through the teenage years. We as a nation have made awesome progress in reducing teenage pregnancies, so it is possible to change teenage behavior, even in the face of raging hormones.

    It feels like less money has been raised to help teenagers, fewer innovative programs have been initiated. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: If we want humanity to continue a civilized course, we must provide resilience training for our children. Spending more money on seniors who have such a short future than on youngsters who are neglected, cannot get a job, or have to struggle for existence - does not make sense.

    China's Aging Population

    January 28, 2013, Huffington Post   By: Michael Hodin

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China in early December this past year, has proved successful. As head of the G-8, Cameron has agreed to hold a Dementia Summit, to address issues regarding the correlation between China's ageing population and various dementia related illnesses.

    Current statistics indicate that roughly one in two people over the age of eighty five risk Alzheimer's, and by mid century China will have roughly a population of 55 million individuals that fall into this demographic. Thus, black clouds such as Alzheimer's and other dementia related illness could derail growth.

    Bob Zoellick, former president of the World Bank, explains that a central plank in China's economic success will be based on how it urbanizes. China's president Xi Jinping and the Chinese political leadership also recognize that the looming labor crisis associated with their urbanization must be married to successful policy on aging. With China's rapidly aging society -- threatening to become old before they become wealthy -- understanding how to deal these changing demographics is a critical factor in their economic growth plan upon which all else hinges.

    Our 21st century is marked by the phenomena of aging societies -- with more old than young -- that will have as much impact on economic growth as any single factor currently more popular on the global agenda. It is at least conceivable that China did indeed get the memo from Standard & Poor's report "Global Population Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth" that bluntly stated "No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances, and national policies as the irreversible rate at which the world's population is growing older." Thus, the future public policies regarding China's 60+ population will not only affect China, but other countries facing similar problems. Countries such as Japan, Thailand, India, and even European countries will look to China not only as an economic leader but as a public policy leader as well. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: We must remember that aging is a temporary problem brought about by a baby boom 60-70 years ago. Having more babies will add more dependents to the burden of the working population and will do nothing for the aged. Bringing in immigrants to take care of the aged will only create another population boom that will present another aging problem in years to come.

    In addition, todays seniors who had smaller families realized a large economic benefit from not having to raise so many children and also their children are more likely to be educated and more able to provide for their families. Todays seniors are also healthier and able to work more years than yesterdays seniors.

    Japan's Ageing Population Could Actually Be Good News

    New Scientist   By: Fred Pearce

    Concerns regarding fertility rates in Japan have risen, spurred by an announcement that Japan's population has fallen by a quarter of a million individuals in 2013. As the fifth consecutive annual fall, concerns are rising as it is believed that these warnings indicate that Japan may be in terminal decline.

    "The stagnation of the lost decades is a symptom of problems brought on by demographic change," wrote Reiko Aoki, an economist at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, last year (Population and Development Review,

    As a country with the oldest population in the world, Japan's future has not been condemned to a gloomy future just yet. With an average lifespan of 84 years and a median age of 46 years, what happens in the coming years might even point the way for other countries.

    The conventional view is that a declining population hobbles economic growth and the ageing population becomes a major financial burden, but this may not be the case. Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC says there may be an upside to an ageing population. The proportion of Japan's population that is dependent on those of working age isn't unusual, he says, it's just that it has almost twice as many over-65s as children. Consequently Japan spends less on education. And because the Japanese are the world's healthiest, care bills are also lower than in other nations.

    Japan's economic performance for that past two decades, as it has been slowly and continually growing and individual income has been rising strongly - outperforming most US citizens'.

    With a population of 127 million people, Japan is hardly empty. But fewer people in future will mean individuals will have more living space, arable land per head, and a higher quality of life, says Eberstadt. Its demands on the planet for food and other resources will also lessen.

    Japan is not the only country faced with a demographic contraction: Russia, Romania and Hungary all follow the trend. For many more, it is being delayed by immigration. But the global population bomb is slowly being defused. As Swedish statistician Hans Rosling first noted, the world recently reached "peak child" - the point where the number of children aged 0 to 14 around the globe levels off. Global fertility rates have halved in 40 years - they are now below 2.5 children per woman - and global population may peak soon.

    So, far from being a demographic outlier, Japan is "the world leader in demographic change", says Aoki. For some this sounds like a disaster. But others believe that peak population is a necessary first step to reducing our assault on the planet's life-support systems. Japan may just be the country who's footsteps the world will follow. doclink

    Why Have Young People in Japan Stopped Having Sex?

    September 26, 2013, Mail and Guardian

    Japan's under-40s have been losing interest in conventional relationships. Largely free of religious inhibitions, the Japanese have long maintained "a pragmatic separation" between love and sex. Yet today, millions of singles don't date and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex. Calling it "celibacy syndrome," the government considers this trend a problem.

    Japan can almost claim the world's lowest birth rate, and its population (currently 126 million) continues shrinking, while the number of single people has reached a record high. A 2011 survey found that 61% of single men and 49% of single women aged 18-34 had no romantic relationships. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated, and a Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) survey found that 45% of women and more than 25% of men aged 16-24 either "were not interested in or despised sexual contact." Kunio Kitamura, head of the JFPA, frets that Japan "might eventually perish into extinction."

    Perhaps logic outweighs passion in modern Japan. The decision to not have children often makes sense for both sexes, but especially for women. The saying "Marriage is a woman's grave" originally referred to mistresses getting more attention than wives, but today it more often applies to women's fear of setting back their careers. They dread the tender trap. While kids are too costly for most single-income couples, Japanese men don't earn as much as their fathers did and are less secure in their jobs. And while Japanese women have become more independent and ambitious, employers make it difficult for them to combine a career with a family. Bosses also look down on living together or having children out of wedlock, so many now see casual sex or short-term trysts as the safest option. Others turn to technological solutions, such as online porn or virtual-reality "girlfriends." And some just find pastimes that have nothing to do with sex or the opposite sex. Many stay with their parents until middle age. Of the estimated 13 million singles who live with their parents, about three million are over 35.

    Tomita, a 32 year old HR worker with two degrees, now spurns all romantic attachments so she can focus on work. When a boyfriend proposed to her three years ago, she realized that her job came first. After that, she said, "I lost interest in dating. It became awkward when the question of the future came up... The bosses assume you will get pregnant." She feared that the long, inflexible hours would force her to resign and end up as a housewife without an independent income. The World Economic Forum ranks Japan very low on both attitudes toward working mothers and parental amenities on the job. Rather than face such barriers, about 70% of Japanese women leave their jobs after giving birth.

    In some ways Japan is sexually permissive, yet it still has a double standard toward unwed women having sex. And once couples marry, the family model still defines husbands as salarymen and wives as stay-at-home mothers. Kunio Kitamura (noted above) used these words to explain why a 2013 JFPA study on sex among young people gathered more data from men than women: "Sexual drive comes from males. Females do not experience the same levels of desire." While most young people spurn the government's claim that giving birth is a civic duty, they are still made to feel that something is wrong with the way they think. Ai Aoyama, a sex therapist, blames the government for "whipping up fear about the falling birth rate." doclink

    Art says: Japan's birth rate is 1.39 children per woman (CIA World Factbook 2013 est.). Perhaps the most effective way to lower birthrates is to run government ads that spin sex more as an obligation than a taboo.

    Global Population Debate

    October 21, 2013, OnPoint with Tom Ashbrook

    Follow the link in the headlines to hear the debate between Alan Weisman, senior editor and producer for Homeland Productions, author of the books "Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth," and "The World Without Us" and Steven Philip Kramer, professor of Grand Strategy at the National Defense University, author of "The Other Population Crisis: What Governments Can Do About Falling Birth Rates."

    The new global population debate. How many humans should, can, will live on this planet?

    In 1900, there were a billion and a half people on Earth. In the 20th Century, that population doubled, then doubled again. Now we're over 7 billion. By the end of this century, projections are we'll be near 11 billion humans. We're adding a million every four-and-a-half days. For centuries, doomsayers have warned of an over-population apocalypse. Now the warnings are coming two ways. That we must cut back or nature will do it for us. That in reining in numbers, some nations will fail. Up next On Point: the blazing new debate over human population, high and low, and its impact. doclink

    Art Elphnick says:

    Alan Weisman and Steven Philip Kramer spilled no blood during NPR's On Point radio debate on global population (see ), but they did view the issue from distinctively different points of view. Weisman, the author of Countdown and other books on overpopulation, represented our view at World Overpopulation Awareness, so I found it easy to anticipate what he would or should say. It was Kramer I wanted to hear. As an advocate of family planning, I know that my own proposals to fix the overpopulation problem must come with several downsides and trade-offs, and I expected that Kramer, author of "The Other Population Crisis: What Governments Can Do About Falling Birth Rates," might help to highlight some of those drawbacks.

    After Weisman spelled out the many consequences of overpopulation, Kramer conceded that nations with high birthrates should give more attention to family planning. His goal of encouraging chi

    Singapore Announces S$2 Billion Package to Increase Population

    February 2, 2013, Bloomberg Business Week

    The Singapore government is addressing falling birth rates by will increasing spending on population-growth measures by 25 percent, rolling out incentives ranging from government-paid time off for adoption and paternity leave to funding for fertility treatments.

    The fertility rate was at a low of only about 1.2 per woman, but rose to between 1.28 and 1.3 in 2012.

    The government feels that the low birth rate undermines Singapore's ability to sustain growth levels achieved by embracing free trade, fostering higher-value manufacturing and nurturing services industries such as gambling and health care.

    State-funded childcare leave, healthcare costs and financial support for housing to married couples will be available to provide more comprehensive support for Singaporeans in getting married and starting their families.

    The government will pay 75% of the cost of reproduction technology treatments for couples. Newborns will get S$3,000 to help with health-care. The government will also provide S$6,000 for the first two births and S$8,000 each for the third and fourth.

    Singapore's citizen workforce will begin shrinking in 2020 while land and labor limits will "increasingly constrain" its economic growth, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: if there are land limits now, they can only get worse with a growing population.

    Also, paying people to have children they would not have otherwise had is a bad idea. Such children are likely to be neglected if parents have other things on their minds.

    Record Decline in Japan Population

    Today Online

    Japan's population last year declined by 212,000, the biggest drop on record, according to an estimate by the nation's Health Ministry.

    The number of newborn babies fell to a record low of 1.033 million, down by 18,000 from 2011, Kyodo News reported. Deaths are expected to reach 1.245 million.

    The four leading causes of death in Japan were cancer, heart disease, pneumonia and cerebrovascular disease, which together accounted for 60% of the overall death rate.

    Japan's fertility rate - defined as the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime - was 1.39 last year, unchanged from the previous year. Japan has been trying for at least two decades to raise the birth rate without success.

    Japan has a shrinking pool of taxable citizens and ballooning social welfare costs to care for an increasing number of elderly.

    The low population growth is attributed to factors including the high cost of raising children, more women choosing to remain in the workforce rather than opt for childbirth and the country's reluctance to accept immigrants.

    The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research has predicted that Japan's total population would drop to 86.74 million in 2060. doclink

    Karen Gaia says Japan imports about 60% of its food. Perhaps the country will recover its birthrate when it doesn't have to pay so much for food.

    The Population Conundrum

    November 23, 2012, Financial Times   By: Norma Cohen

    From the 1960s through the end of the 20th century, there was an unprecedented rise in life expectancy and a drop in birth rates. This left the industrialized world with a demographic profile very different from the 1950s. In addition, there was the post-war baby boom, which resulted in a bulge in the numbers of working-age adults driving the 1982-1999 bull market. The people in this age group were able to save a lot of money.

    Now there are indicators that the rates of stock market growth enjoyed by investors during those decades are gone for at least a generation - and possibly forever. With current current trends in birth rates and life expectancy, evidence suggests that ageing populations will weigh on economic growth and asset values for years, if not decades.

    Because populations in most major industrialized nations are aging rapidly, the proportion of those saving and investing for retirement is diminishing. The baby boom generation tends to favor safer assets such as bonds. Add this to the regulatory drive to push banks and insurers into "safer" assets and yields on those assets are being driven lower.

    With more older, longer-lived adults and fewer younger workers, policy makers are faced with unpalatable choices about how to pay for pensions and healthcare in economies where workers simply cannot provide enough tax revenue to maintain decent standards for those too old to work.

    The millions of people who are beginning pension saving for the first time will not see the double-digit returns that the baby boomers took for granted.

    Japan, for example, has seen sharply declining fertility rates, net immigration of virtually zero and the longest-lived population of any large economy. Its stock market peaked in the late 1980s - at about the time the size of its working age population did - and has atrophied ever since. Already, those over 65 comprise 25% of the population.

    In a recent speech, Ms Sayuri Shirai, a member of the Bank of Japan's Policy Board, noted that stock prices are not the only affected asset class, pointing out that the bursting of Japan's real estate bubble also coincided with the peak in the working age population. As people age, she noted, households with financial resources tilt even more heavily towards "safe" assets, such as deposits and bonds.

    A Federal Reserve Board study in 2011 of US stock market performance from 1954 to 2004 looked at the ratio of those in their peak "saving for retirement" years to the number of those who are around retirement age. As the proportion of those at peak savings age rose - it more than trebled up until around 2000 - so did the average price/earnings (p/e) ratio of the stock market. But after that, as boomers began retiring in large numbers, both the proportion of peak savers and the p/e ratio fell sharply.

    Mark Speigel, an economist and co-author of the report, said that although it is too early to prove that an aging population causes weaker stock markets, there is clear evidence of a strong correlation.

    A similar study by the Financial Times in the UK found a similar pattern.

    While those over 65 accounted for 12% of the industrialized world's population in 1982, that has risen to 16% today and is projected to reach 25% by 2042. The working age population within the European Union is expected to decline by 2060 to 56% of the population, from 67% today. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Unfortunately, adding more people, as suggested by some economists to solve the problem, only strains the world's resources even more.

    U.S.: California's Population Flat-Lining

    November 8, 2012, Orange County Register   By: Bill Waykins

    Note: California's growth rate is 0.9% - not far from where it has been for 15 years - at 1%, which would double the population in 70 years.California is not flat-lining, and it is not almost at zero population growth.

    California has almost achieved zero population growth. According to the California Department of Finance, state population has stagnated at sub-1-percent rates for an unprecedented seven consecutive years. The slow growth was a result of negative domestic migration, declining international migration and declining births.

    Negative domestic migration results when more people move from California to other states than move to California from other states. It's a clear indication of limited opportunity in California. California has seen negative domestic migration in each of the past 20 years,

    International migration to California over the past three years also has been lower in absolute numbers than at any time over the past 20 years.

    California last year had fewer births per thousand population than in any year since the mid-1930s. The declining birth rate reflects an aging population, one result of young families leaving the state.

    The big risk of zero population growth is that population declines, instead of stabilizing, set up a vicious cycle of economic decline. Countries in this cycle, such as Russia, are desperate to halt the decline.

    The families leaving California are the heart of the community and the workforce - upwardly mobile young families. As the middle disappears, the population adopts two modes: an older, wealthier population and a younger, poorer population. Employers leave. The tax base deteriorates. School quality deteriorates. Upwardly mobile families to move away. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the whole country is seeing fewer births per 1000, but births are still increasing. One of the biggest reasons for our aging population is the baby boomers have retired. This, too is country-wide. Russia actually did see declining population. However the country seems to now be recovering.

    Building a Good Future for Singaporeans: the Dilemma of a Declining and Aging Population

    July 29, 2012

    It's a delicate balance between too many people and not enough people. The question this video doesn't ask: is Singapore sustainable? Can it survive in a world experiencing resource depletion? doclink

    Russia's Demographics Continue to Improve, Natural Population Growth Likely in 2012

    September 5, 2012, Forbes Magazine   By: Mark Adomanis

    Russia went from experiencing one of the world's most dire depopulations to being naturally stagnant in barely seven years. It's population is now more naturally stable than those of many of its neighbors, including several countries that have joined the EU and NATO.

    Russians are, on average, living longer, having more children, drinking themselves to death less frequently, killing themselves less frequently, and killing each other less frequently.

    In the late 1970′s and most of the 1980′s mortality in the Soviet Union was increasing. To a large extent this reflected the shocking growth in alcoholism and binge drinking, and to a lesser extent it reflected a genuine society-wide sense of malaise and hopelessness and a breakdown in the basic functionality of the public health system.

    Even though it is said that Vladimir Putin has cruelly driven the Russians to despair, in 2012 Russia is arguably safer and healthier than it has ever been before. doclink

    Americans Put Off Having Babies Amid Poor Economy

    July 25, 2012, USA Today

    The USA's birthrate has dropped to its lowest point in 25 years as young adults postpone having babies because of the poor economy.

    Demographic Intelligence - a Charlottesville, Va., company that produces quarterly birth forecasts for consumer products and pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Procter & Gamble -- has said the fertility rate is not expected to rebound for at least two years and could affect birthrates for years to come.

    The average number of births per woman has fallen 12% from a peak of 2.12 in 2007 and is projected to hit 1.87 this year and 1.86 next year -- the lowest since 1987.

    The less-educated and Hispanics have experienced the biggest birthrate decline while the share of U.S. births to college-educated, non-Hispanic whites and Asian Americans has grown, telling us that "births have clearly been affected by the economy." says Sam Sturgeon of Demographic Intelligence.

    The effect of this economic slump on birthrates has been more rapid and long-lasting than any downturn since the Great Depression.

    Sturgeon says. "People are a bit in a wait-and-see pattern. ... There's a sense of hesitancy, of 'What does better look like? How will we know?' -- especially for those of prime child-bearing age." Many young adults are unemployed, carrying big student loan debt and often forced to move back in with their parents.

    "The more you delay it, the more you delay the possibility of a second or third child," says Stephanie Coontz, of the Council on Contemporary Families. "There's a growing sense that college is prohibitively expensive, and yet your kids can't make it without a college degree," so many women may decide to have just one child.

    Asian and European countries, where fertility rates are as low as 1.1 (Taiwan) and 1.3 (Portugal), are worried about their populations aging and not having enough young workers to support them. Immigration has helped the USA maintain higher birthrates, but that segment has been hard hit by this downturn. The birthrate for Hispanics tumbled from 3 in 2007 to less than 2.4 in 2010.

    Hispanic immigration has slowed, and studies show some immigrants have returned home. Carl Haub, demographer at the Population Reference Bureau says: "Their overall proportions of births are enormous -- roughly 25% of the U.S. total." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Having more children to support the aged is not the answer: who is going to take care of those children when they are older? Where are they going to find jobs? We already have a giant baby boom in the world. Having more children is like a giant Ponzi scheme.

    Iran, with Eye on Long-Term Economy, Urges Baby Boom

    July 29, 2012, Seattle Times

    In a major reversal of once far-reaching family-planning policies, authorities are now slashing its birth-control programs in an attempt to avoid an aging demographic similar to many Western countries that are struggling to keep up with state medical and social-security costs.

    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the country's wide-ranging contraceptive services as "wrong." Family-planning programs have been cut from the budget for the current Iranian year.

    Iran's economy is stumbling under a combination of international sanctions, inflation and double-digit unemployment. Many young people, particularly in Tehran and other large cities, are postponing marriage or keeping their families small because of the uncertainties.

    Ali Reza Khamesian, a columnist in several pro-reform newspapers, said the change in policy also may be an attempt to send a message to the world that Iran is not suffering from sanctions imposed over the nuclear program that the West suspects is aimed at producing weapons - something Tehran denies.

    More than half of Iran's population is under 35 years old. Those youth form the base of opposition groups, including the so-called Green Movement that led unprecedented street protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009. Some experts have said that trying to boost the numbers for upcoming generations also could feed future political dissent.

    Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Gulf Research Center based in Geneva said: "Young people are the heart of the Arab Spring, or the Islamic Awakening as Iran calls it." .. "Countries that haven't faced major protests during the Arab Spring still have to be mindful that the demands of the youth are still there."

    In 1979 leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini encouraged families to contribute to a baby boom to build a "20 million member army". In 1986, toward the end of the eight-year war with Iraq, census figures show the population's growth rate reached 3.9% - among the highest in the world at the time, and in line with Persian traditions that favor big families.

    But in the 1990s, leaders feared galloping population could overwhelm the economy, which led to Iran becoming a regional leader in family-planning options, including offering free or subsidized condoms and other contraceptives, and issuing religious edicts in favor of vasectomies. By 2011, Iran's population growth had fallen to one of the lowest in region - 1.3%. Recently, Khamenei said contraceptive policy made sense 20 years ago, "but its continuation in later years was wrong."

    In 2005 newly-elected President Ahmadinejad called the birth-control measures ungodly and a Western import. In 2009, he unveiled proposals for each new baby to receive $950 in a government bank account and then get $95 every year until reaching 18.

    "Scientific and experts studies show that we will face population aging and reduction if the birth-control policy continues," he said, a day after the Statistical Center of Iran said the country's population had reached more than 75.1 million - more than double its 33.7 million in 1976. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: How can having more children help the unemployment situation?

    Lack of Babies Could Mean the Extinction of the Japanese People

    May 11, 2012, Fox News

    Japanese researchers have now warned of a doomsday scenario if it birth rate decline continues - with the last child to be born there in 3011 and the Japanese people potentially disappearing a few generations later. Another study recently showed Japan's population is expected to fall a third from its current 127.7 million over the next century.

    If the birth rate continues to drop at the current rate, it will reach 1.35 children per woman in 50 years.

    Why is there a lack of children? It could be that Japan is an extremely expensive country and getting a child through college can wipe out a family's finances. However the Japanese state does throw a lot of money at people with children.

    The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research study showed 25% of unmarried men and women in their 30s had never had sex, and most young women preferred being single. Also 60% of unmarried young men didn't have a girlfriend, and nearly 50% of women of the same age weren't dating.

    Japan's population isn't falling faster because people there are living longer. Japan has a life expectancy of about 86 years for women and 79 for men at present, and the ages are expected to rise in the coming decades. Over 20% of Japan's people are aged 65 or over, one of the highest proportions of elderly in the world.

    Japan's graying population is a real problem for the country's leaders as they need to ensure the dwindling numbers of workers can pay for all the care needed for the growing army of pensioners.

    The diaper manufacturer Unicharm recently announced that sales of its adult diapers were now larger than those for babies.

    "The universal longevity society is what we humans have longed for and what countries across the globe have been aiming for. Yet, in order for Japan, which is in the process of becoming one, to be truly considered as a model of universal longevity society, the country needs to recover the birth rate," Japan's Council of Aging warned in a letter to the prime minister.

    The easy answer would be large-scale immigration from other Asian countries, but the Japanese public has historically opposed such a measure.

    Despite concerns about the lack of babies, the country is still packed into the coastal belts because the rest of the country is mostly mountains.

    One Japanese person told the author that if there are far fewer people there in the future it will be a much better place to live. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Japan's birth rate is likely to fall until the population becomes sustainable. Currently Japan imports much of its grain. World grain prices are going up because, worldwide, more grain was consumed than produced in the last 8 out of 12 years. Having more babies or bringing in immigrants will only exacerbate the problem. Rewarding people for having children they wouldn't have had otherwise often produces unloved, poorly raised children.

    U.S.: It's Scary Out There: Today's College Graduates Face An Uncertain Future

    May 19, 2011,

    In the U.S., 1.7 million members of the class of 2012 will soon embark on the next phase of their lives. A future that looked promising four years ago has dimmed for many in the class of 2012. A disturbing number of those who were successful in college will be forced to take minimum-wage jobs or return home.

    The New York Times Magazine interviewed members of the Class of 2011 from Drew University in Madison, N.J. and found that 11 months after graduation, 17% of its sample of Drew grads were unemployed; only 39% had full-time jobs; and 34% of all jobs involved food service, retail customer service, clerical or unskilled work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only 5 of the 20 jobs projected to grow fastest over the coming decade would require a bachelor's degree."

    Heavy debt to finance college also hangs over most graduates and their families.

    With jobless youth a rising problem both in our country and around the world, what can be done to keep societies from imploding under the stress?

    The plight of unemployed U.S. college graduates pales in comparison to those Americans with less education or minority status. And nothing can match the sheer scale of youth unemployment around the world.

    In Britain, 1 out of every 5 people aged 16 to 24 is unemployed. The majority of those who took to the streets in London last summer were young people who were unemployed, out of school or not in training programs. In Italy, almost 3 in 10 young people between 15 and 24 have no job. The Italian family has become the welfare state, maintaining their children of 20, 30, even 40 years old. In Spain, half of the country's eligible young people cannot find work. Greece's rate is 48%.

    Egypt's jobless rate for young people is 25%, and 60% of Egyptians are 30 and under. The jobless rate for those under 18 in South Africa is 70%. In Africa, 3 in 5 of the unemployed are youths.

    Even though fertility implosion in the U.S. could lead to lower living standards, this pales under projections that world population will grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2044. A U.N. Population Fund director said: "Most population growth in coming decades will come from the demographic momentum arising from young people who currently populate most of the developing world." This group will account for 80% of world population growth. About 70% of future world population growth will take place in just 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia."

    In Bangladesh, a fragile and crowded nation with one of the worst per-capita incomes, 22 million people are projected to join its labor force in the next nine years. In Afghanistan population could double to 63 million by 2050. In Swaziland, children account for 50% of the country's population, a majority of them orphaned by an HIV epidemic that infects 26% of adults. In the Middle East, the population will increase by 132% by 2030, generating an unprecedented youth bulge. Falling fertility rates are welcome, but come too late in the day to change the fate of those already caught up in the momentum.

    The Council on Foreign Relations recently warned that the dominant power in the 21st century will depend on human capital. But many of our young people are subject to what sociologists call "failure to launch," with joblessness leading to loss of skills, self-respect and ability to work. Parents have reason to wonder whether we have done enough to prepare them for ruthless competition in a globalized world. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Two points: 1. At a time like this, how can anyone possibly suggest that more children are the answer? 2. In an age of people living longer, it is time to think of diverting resources toward training our youngsters for the uncertain future. This is more important that worrying about 'who is going to take care of the old people'? - Unless we don't care about the future of humanity.

    Hong Kong Frets Over Low Fertility Rates

    March 26, 2012, Wall Street Journal

    In the 1970s, Hong Kong's government worked hard to persuade people against having too many children-with posters around town declaring "Two is enough" and "Family planning can make work a delight and life blissful."

    By 2030, a quarter of its population is expected to be age 65 and above. Some leaders of government are planning to raise tax breaks for families who have babies. Hong Kong's fertility rate was just 1.10 births per woman, well below the 2.1 rate needed to maintain a population at its current levels.

    One proposal would give a family with three kids an annual US$36,300 in tax breaks, more than the city's per-capita GDP. But Paul Yip, research chair for Hong Kong's Family Planning Association, says that even these sums aren't enough, noting it's extremely expensive to raise a child in Hong Kong, as much as HK$4 million (US$515,000). For prospective parents living in tiny apartments (the average flat in the city is just 600 square feet), he says, the idea of an additional child can be stressful. The money parents might save through a tax credit "can buy some milk powder, but it's not enough to pay for violin and piano lessons," he said.

    Other parts of Asia have the same problem. In Singapore parents receive cash incentives because the fertility rate is 1.15. In China the fertility rate is 1.8, according to government estimates. Taiwan has a a fertility rate of less than 1,

    Mr. Yip, argues that more children-who eventually become productive, tax-paying workers-are an economic force that help to support the whole community, especially the older generation.

    One way to address the local fertility rate would be to allow more mothers from the mainland to give birth in Hong Kong, a controversial trend that is already filling up baby wards in the city. Though most children accompany their mothers back home, as Hong Kong permanent residents, many eventually return to Hong Kong to work or study. However, locals strongly oppose such a population influx, saying it threatens to overburden the city's hospitals and schools. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: with the high cost of living, one might wonder if Hong Kong's current population size is sustainable. In general, it is not a good idea to add to the current working generation's burden by having more babies - since they already burdened by having to take care of the senior generation as well as the younger generation. The senior generation has already benefited economically by having fewer children. How many more benefits can you get by squeezing a planet that is already beginning resource depletion? How are you going to feed the next generation? Will they be able find jobs?

    U.S.: Contraception 'Savings' Ignores Economic Impact

    March 10, 2012, Sacramento Bee

    President Barack Obama's new mandate that insurance companies provide free contraception and sterilization services may actually be a brilliant budget move that will be particularly helpful to states like California. After all, if you don't have children, insurers and government won't be forced to pay for your maternity and child health services.

    Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House panel: "The reduction in the number of pregnancies compensates for the cost of contraception." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in 2009 that contraception "will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government" and will help "stimulate the economy."

    Thus the newest health care cost containment strategy appears to be subsidizing women to avoid having children, balance budgets on the backs of not-to-be-born children.

    California already has a rapidly graying population, with one in five Californians now 60 years of age or older. In 2010 the state's birth rate fell to its lowest level since 1935, and its fertility rate, the rate at which a society replaces itself through births, has fallen to 1.94, below the 2.1 replacement level, according the California Dept. of Finance. Californians are not having enough babies to replace themselves.

    The U.S. total fertility rate, which was 3.17 in 1964, has fallen to 2.06.

    By subsidizing free birth control, federal policy appears to be designed to drive these birth rates down even further. We can soon cut budgets for schools, teachers, child health, welfare and other services.

    But fewer children mean fewer job creators, fewer employees, fewer taxpayers a shrinking economy, and an even tougher burden on Social Security, which is already facing a financial crisis, with only three workers supporting each retiree compared to 16 workers in 1950, as well as on Medicare and other programs.

    Fewer children means less demand for homes, frustrating the ability of the housing market to rebound.

    Our poor economy, with an unemployment rate among the highest in the nation, is propelling people to leave the state instead. California's population grew only 0.7% in 2011.

    By looking at Europe, we can see where this trend will lead. In Germany, the fertility rate has plummeted to 1.38 children per mother. Germany, France, Italy and other nations, worried about the serious weakening of their economies from sliding birth rates, have now inaugurated tax and cash incentives for having children.

    Decisions on birth and birth control should be made by individuals based on their own family and faith considerations, not mandated and manipulated by government. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: having birth control freely available is not a mandate to use them. If a woman did not have birth control, she would have 12 to 15 children in her lifetime, assuming all of the children lived. If we had more children, we would increase the burden on the current working generation, already overloaded with unemployment. If we produced more children, where would we get the jobs for them? We are already highly unemployed. Evan says: The suggestion that increasing birth rates will aid economic growth is at best a proposal for a most dangerous Ponzi scheme. All such schemes are doomed to collapse, in this case leading to the very catastrophe Bengs deplores, "...a serious negative impact on our future." Truly, "sustainable growth is an oxymoron." Continued growth increasingly stresses available water supplies and productive land, and worsens gridlock, toxic wastes, and air pollution. Continued growth will endanger our children's future. If everyone burned through resources

    Population Studies: Birth Rates Are Declining. For the Earth-and a Lot of People-That's Not a Bad Thing

    March 14, 2012, Time magazine

    Note: this article is a sleeper. Follow it to the end for the real conclusion

    Japan has an increasingly low marriage rate among young people and the vanishingly small birth rate, which translated to an aging -- and eventually shrinking -- population. Most young Japanese women simply didn't seem interested in having many children-at least not under the conditions of Japanese society.

    Fertility is on the decline in much of the world, from Iran -- 1.7 births per woman -- to Russia, where low fertility combined with high death rates mean the population is already shrinking, David Brooks wrote in his New York Times column. Brooks looks at the resulting aging like a 'gray tsunami' a term coined by writer Philip Longman. The tsunami being the time when the population over 60 swamps those under 30.

    Even the U.S., which has long had higher birth rates than most developed nations, is facing this tsunami, especially now that its population growth is decelerating faster than expected.

    To Brooks this is a slow-motion disaster. Aging countries will face the burden of caring for large elderly populations without a large resource of young workers to draw on.

    But Amanda Marcotte in Slate points out that it's difficult to separate Brooks's concern-trolling about declining fertility from the recent political battle over contraception. With it women control if and when they become pregnant and once women have the means to control reproduction, they will almost always choose to have fewer children. Marcotte argues that conservatives' decision that we're actually suffering a crisis of too few people has implications for women's basic reproductive rights.

    Meanwhile Brooks seems to stupidly guesses women are having fewer children for mysterious reasons, does he realize it's because women don't have to be constantly pregnant anymore.

    Marcotte's colleague, Rachael Larimore, also in Slate, says we have a choice. We can reduce our expectation of what the entitlement state should provide us in our old age. Or not. But if we don't reduce our demands, if we want enough money to live on AND free health care AND prescription drugs, we have to look at how we're going to achieve that without bankrupting ourselves.

    I still worry about a coming generational war over resources, just as I worry about how I'll take care of my own parents in their old age, just as I worry who might take care of me. How long can the generational imbalance remain?

    All over the world, as people become richer and healthier, the infant mortality level drops-and suddenly parents no longer need to produce many children in hopes that a few will survive to a healthy adulthood. (In colonial New England, up to a quarter of all children died before the first year of life-by comparison, the figure is about 10% in modern Somalia.) As people move from rural areas to the cities extra children go from an economic benefit for farm work to an economic penalty. As women enter the work force-and come to value their leisure time-the oppourtunity and perhaps desire to raise large numbers of children shrinks as well.

    The freedom to control reproduction seems pretty basic to me-it's certainly exercised almost everywhere, even among groups whose religious beliefs are supposedly against it. We're simply going to have to adapt to an aging world.

    Another benefit: while overpopulation isn't the human catastrophe it was made out to be in the 1970s, the number of people on the planet multiplied by the amount of the stuff they use exacerbates nearly all environmental woes, from deforestation to climate change.

    So maybe a world that grows slower-and grows older-will put less pressure on the environment, and buy us a few more years to ensure that our energy use, along with our birthrates, reaches a sustainable level. After all, we're supposed to get smarter as we get older. Hopefully that holds true for the planet as well. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: I believe that we can reach the point where we age so much that we can't reproduce ourselves. There is a fertility rate below which we shouldn't go. Losing population is probably good, to a point, but increasing old people's life spans while sacrificing a viable generation of young people may not be a choice we want to make. We need to strike a balance between young and old, and lowering birth rates should be balanced by not prolonging life far beyond productivity.

    Greenspan: 'True Revolution' to End Welfare State Impasse

    January 5, 2012,

    Former Federal Chairman Alan Greenspan says the U.S. welfare state has "run up against a brick wall" of economic reality and fiscal book-keeping and only a "true revolution" involving major entitlement overhaul will improve the economy.

    The country's leaders have found it difficult to agree on policy due to the rise of the tea party among Republicans coupled with the shift to the left of many Democrats. Last year's debt-ceiling fiasco was an example.

    Compromise must happen eventually, and that will likely include reform to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, programs that have expanded without funding to match.

    "We face a true revolution, not so much in the streets but in the fundamental choices the American people will have to make to secure our fiscal future," Greenspan writes.

    "Arithmetic demands it."

    The government's net liabilities swelled by more than $1 trillion for 2011, according to a U.S. Treasury report. The government's liabilities exceeded assets by $14.785 trillion, up considerably from $13.473 trillion a year earlier,. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Demographics demand it. The U.S. dependancy ratio is now at 49% and will continue to go up as more and more baby boomers retire. And then there are the large numbers of unemployed. In other words, there are not enough people paying payroll taxes.

    Demographic Dividend

    March 24, 2007

    China's Economic Growth is Set to Slow - China's economic growth will slow in 2010 when the gap between the working population and those too young or old to work is cancelled out, in China it was at its lowest in 1968, allowing the country to spend less on dependent groups and more on economic development.

    China's population structure has contributed to 27% of economic growth, but a country's demographic dividend usually lasts for 40 years until the aging problem looms.

    China currently has 144 million people who are over 60 years old, 11% of the 1.3 billion population. But the number will reach 160 million in 2010, 200 million in 2015 and 400 million in 2044, which will result in pressures on the pension and healthcare systems.

    China has to invest more in education and training to raise productivity. Otherwise, when the demographic dividend is over, everything will slow down.

    From 1950 to 1980, China's population exploded from 500 million to 1 billion, prompting the country to start its family planning policy in the late 1970s. doclink

    What's Behind the Drop in US Birth Rates?

    September 22, 2011, Karen Gaia - WOA website

    The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released a report revealing that the U.S. birth rate has dropped to the lowest level since national data have been available. Which brings the question to mind: are we going to follow the path of some European countries and Japan, where birth rates have dropped to an alarming low? Here are some facts you should know when considering this (some of this is from and some from and

  • The population has been aging due to the Baby Boom starting after WWII in the 1940s and continuing until the early 1960s. Not only have the Baby Boomers retired, they've stopped reproducing, meaning a smaller portion of the population is having babies. Add to this the fact that seniors are living longer, and you have a very lopsided population pyramid.
  • Part of the lowered birth rate is due to the falling birth rate of of teenagers, which fell to a new record low, continuing a decline that began in 1991. This represents a 5% decline from 2001 and a 28% decline from 1990
  • Part of the lowered birth rate is due to the fact that the birth rates of women of peak childbearing age has also been declining. Birth rates for women in their 20s and early 30s were generally down while births to older mothers (35-44) were still on the rise.
  • More than one-third of all births were to unmarried women.
  • Births fell 2.6% last year even as the population grew. The total number of births, a record 4.3 million in 2007, dropped 7% to 4 million in 2010. However, it may be that people are living longer, which may offset the drop in births
  • The United States is still growing, in fact it is the fastest growing and has the highest birth rate of any developed country in the world, and is also the third largest country. So we do not need to be worried yet about a birth dearth.
  • In 2007 more babies were born in the United States than any other year in the nation's history.
  • Part of the explanation for the birth rate could be that it follows a record for U.S. births - "an all-time high of 4,316,233 in 2007," according to the authors of the CDC study.
  • Nearly half of low- and middle-income women surveyed a year ago by the Guttmacher Institute said they wanted to delay pregnancy or limit the number of children they have because of money concerns. Half of those women also said the recession made them more focused on contraceptive use.
  • Last spring's report showed a surprising rise in births to women over 40, who may have felt they were running out of time to have children and didn't want to delay despite the bad economy.
  • By age, the largest decline was 9%, among women between 20 and 24. Fertility rates among Hispanic women also dropped by 9%.
  • Research by Stanford University sociologist Paula England, based on interviews with 17,000 college students shows that more college students are now reporting that they are virgins - even as the practice of hooking up for short-term flings or one-night stands has also increased. "Just under one-quarter (24 percent) of seniors say they are virgins."
  • Reporter Sharon Jayson of USA Today found one young man who said he has chosen not to have sex told Jayson that he and his friends try to avoid looking at porn online. But Iowa State University sociologist Teresa Downing-Matibag suggests that maybe virtual sex is competing with the real thing - and winning. "They can still be a virgin and have 100 different partners online through chat rooms or webcams."
  • Experts said a decline in immigration to the United States also may be pushing births down.
  • Reasons for not encouraging women of child-bearing age to have more children: 1) It will not improve the current dependency ration of working adults to children and seniors; instead making it far worse. 2) Resource depletion would only get worse if you produce even more children. 3) Who would take care of the new Baby Boom when they retired? It is just another Ponzi scheme.
  • Then there is this from : Japan has seen Tokyo home prices decline by about 50% over 20 years as population growth embarked on its downward trend and became negative in recent years. So in a modern economy that has had anemic economic growth for well over a decade and very little, if any, population and household growth, hit a bottom at 50% from its home pricing peak. It took 16 years for the bottom to be reached and prices have been stuck at the bottom for the last four years in Japan.
  • doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Sooner or later we will have to face the fact that we have already hit the peak of the American Dream. It is better to face that fact now and prepare. We must balance our attention between preparing our children for the future that will be theirs to control and preparing ourselves for a normal mortal life rather than a nation of old people.

    Fertility Rates: the Last Woman...

    August 27, 2011, Economist

    Numerous women in the richer parts of Asia prefer the single life to marriage and have few, or more likely, no children. This helps to explain why their fertility rates have fallen.

    In fact, in 83 countries and territories around the world, women will not have enough daughters to replace themselves unless their fertility rates rise. In Hong Kong, births to 1,000 women will number just 547 daughters, who will have 299 daughters of their own, and so on - if current birth rates are maintained, taking only 25 generations for Hong Kong's female population to shrink from 3.75 million to just one. This would occur in the year 2798 using Hong Kong's current average age of childbearing, which is 31.4 years.

    By the same logic, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain will not see out the next millennium. Even China has only 1,500 years left.

    Note: You can comment on this at doclink

    Karen Gaia says: If a woman does not want to replace herself, it is up to her. Does a country exist for its own sake or for the sake of its inhabitants? However, I still have faith in the human desire to replace itself. Maybe it will be more likely when conditions are more suitable for having children.

    U.S.: Time to Get Real: Demographics is a Bigger Problem Than Health Care Costs

    June 23, 2011, Keith Hennessey website

    The rapid growth of per capita health spending in the U.S. needs to be addressed. However the aging of the population is the primary driver of our federal budget problems over the next 30-40 years.

    America is rapidly aging, due to two factors: people are living longer and the Baby boomers.

    People living longer means that people will be collecting benefits for more years. That's good for older people and expensive for the government.

    The Baby Boom is due to fertility rates surging after World War II from about 2.2 in 1946 to 3.6 babies per woman in 1960. These rates went down from there to 2.0, where it is predicted to stay.

    The first cohort of Baby Boomers started collecting their checks at age 62 in 2008.

    Current workers pay, by way of payroll taxes, for the Social Security and Medicare benefits of current retirees. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying payroll taxes for each retiree collecting Social Security benefits. Today, there the number is 3.3 workers, In the future there will be only 2.

    [A recent analysis showed that, to maintain the SS and Medicare systems at projected costs, a 45% payroll tax would be necessary, or 60% to include other projected federal expenditures.] doclink

    Karen Gaia says:

  • Another thing to consider is that seniors require more health care than younger people
  • Medicare began 45 years ago, in the days of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Life expectancies were 5-years less than now. Woman now take benefits 33% longer and men 44% longer than the days of LBJ. It was expected that wages for American workers would continue to rise, but today they are either stagnant or declining
  • In a poll of students of economics, about 70% indicated they would never be a recipient of SS and Medicare
  • Last, there is nothing in the works to protect retires against loss of the value in their homes, and inflation, which is sure to come with the huge deficit.
  • Recession Makes Educated Women in Rich Countries Postpone Having Babies; Fertility Worldwide Dropped but UK Population Rose by 470,000 in 2010 Because, Say Experts, Less Educated Had More Children

    July 1, 2011, The Guardian

    A study for the European Union by the Vienna Institute of Demography shows that, in many rich countries, highly educated young women have delayed having children due to the the global recession, and -- if governments slash public spending -- may wait for an additional five to eight years.

    A steep decline in fertility rates occured in the US and Spain in 2009-10, while rates stagnated in Ireland and most European countries.

    Britain was an exception, with population rising by 470,000 to 62.2 million in 2010, the highest annual growth rate for nearly 50 years, a rise caused by natural change rather than immigration for the third consecutive year.

    Tomas Sobotka, one of the Austrian report's authors. "It is possible this is because the educated women are choosing to delay having while the less educated are having more."

    The report claimed that highly educated women delay having children, especially if they are childless, when employment is uncertain, while "less-educated women often maintain or increase their fertility under economic uncertainty."

    On the other hand, men with "low education and low skills face increasing difficulty in finding a partner or in supporting their family, and often show the largest decline in first child birth rates."

    Rising unemployment, failing consumer confidence, tighter credit and falling house prices have all affected the birth rates, says the study. 26 out of 27 EU countries had rising birth rates the year before the recession started, but by 2009, 13 countries saw their fertility rates decline and another four countries experienced stable fertility rates.

    The massive cuts in social spending in Greece, Britain, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere "could lead to a double dip fertility decline," said Sobotka.

    The present recession could have a more permanent effect on birth rates. "Women's age at first birth has reached around 28 in most European countries and Japan," Sobotka said. "This leaves women and couples less flexibility to postpone parenthood until a later age." doclink

    Aging: Demographics Will Determine the Day

    June 29, 2011, The Prague Post

    Only if the fertility rate (the number of children per woman) is above the generational replacement level, namely 2.1, will there be a natural increase in population. But the fertility rate hit a low of around 1.3 at the turn of the century in Germany and Japan - and even lower in Italy, Russia and South Korea.

    The base of the age pyramid continues to erode, even more so in countries averse to immigration, like Russia and Japan. Low fertility rates seem to be countered by a steady increase in life expectancy.

    Japan reached its population peak in 2008. In Russia, declining life expectancy caused population shrinkage to start as early as 1993.

    Ireland, France and a host of countries from Northern and Western Europe claim fertility rates close to generational replacement, which, together with net immigration, keeps their population growing.

    Demographers assume that fertility rates will bounce back toward the 2.1 children per woman mark in the coming decades. Even if that happens, Europe's population will peak in the early 2020s, and then follow the path of Japan, Russia, Germany and most East European countries, whose populations have started to decline.

    A massive wave of immigration would fill the gap, but that prospect meets strong political resistance in most countries concerned.

    The scale of the burden imposed on younger, economically active people is already visible. Japan's dependency ratio -- the population above retirement age related to the active population -- is set to double to 76%, by 2050. In South Korea the ratio is predicted to soar from 17% to 66%. In Spain, Italy and Germany the dependency ratio will be pushed close to 100%. By 2050 Germany's median age will go from 44 to 49, Italy's from 43 to 50, and China from 35 to 49, while Japan and South Korea vie for the 52-years mark.

    Rapid aging means a shrinking work force and a narrower pool for entrepreneurship, which undermines prospects for economic growth; threatened public pensions systems; and increased health care and other costs associated with an elderly population.

    The only major developed country to remain structurally immune to these heavy trends is the United States, thanks to a fertility rate around the generational replacement level and annual net immigration of 2.7 million people - legal or not. By midcentury, the American median age will be 40 years, compared with 37 today, and the old-age dependency ratio will be below 40%. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: this article overlooks the U.S. Baby Boomers, now retiring. The number of people 65 and older to every 100 people of traditional working ages, is projected to climb rapidly from 22 in 2010 to 35 in 2030, after which it will decline, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But the real question is: when the immigrants age, who is going to take care of them? And where, in a world of depleting resources, will the resources come from?

    One way of looking at it: Census Reveals Plummeting U.S. Birthrates


    Children, the mainstay of suburbia and residential neighborhoods across the nation for more than a half-century, are fewer and increasingly sparse in many places.

    The share of the population under age 18 dropped in 95% of U.S. counties since 2000, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the 2010 Census.

    The number of households that have children under age 18 has stayed at 38 million since 2000, despite a 9.7% growth in the U.S. population. As a result, the share of households with children dropped from 36% in 2000 to 33.5%.

    There are now more households with dogs (43 million) than children.

    In Levittown Cini and Bachman see the impact of a shrinking child population far beyond their neighborhoods. Schools have been closed since the late 1970s and early '80s. Enrollment has dropped. The number of public school pupils generated by each housing unit in the district is 27% less than it was 20 years ago.

    Americans are getting older, and women are having children later. And when they do, they're not having as many. Births among Hispanics have not been enough to stem the overall decline.

    Because families with children tend to live near each other, the result is an increasingly patchy landscape of communities teeming with kids, and others with very few.

    The number of non-Hispanic white women of child-bearing age has dropped 6% since 2000, and they're not having having enough children to keep that population from dropping eventually.

    The USA TODAY analysis shows:

    •Children make up 24% of the nation's population, down from 25.7% in 2000. The kid population declined more precipitously in 58.6% of the country' 3,143 counties.

    A University of Southern California analysis of the state's shrinking child population found that Los Angeles County is at the center of the decline because of difficult living conditions for families facing high housing costs during economic hard times.

    "The image of the white family living in the suburb is becoming extinct," says William Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution. "It's an endangered species."

    As jobs disappeared, so did young people. The 17,311-home Levittown community that once embodied the American dream became known as "Leave-it-town."

    The child population slipped more than 6% in rural counties "where young people left and older people are left behind."

    "The way to keep a community going is to keep it young."

    "Levittown was the epitome of Baby Boomers," says Jim White, 55. doclink

    Chuck says: While the percentage of young people (under 17 years old) in the U.S. population went down slightly between 2000 and 2010, the number of young people actually went up by 1.9 million. The only age group that showed a 2010 decrease in numbers was the 25-44 year old group at minus 2.9 million. The 45-64 age group went up by a whopping 19.5 million. ... Karen Gaia says: What is happening is the large number of BABY BOOMERS, and the comparatively low number of people of child-bearing age, make for a very skewed population pyramid, and a plummeting birth rate (births per 1,000), even though fertility rates are relatively unchanged. Not only are housing and communities and local economies affected, but the real problem is that the ratio of people actually able to work to dependents (seniors and youngsters both), is very low, and unemployment makes it worse. But, no, having more people is not the answer. That would only lead to another Baby Boom and a disaster in the future.

    U.K.: How Will We Care for the Centenarians of the Future?

    Guardian (London)

    Author Danny Dorling and Bethan Thomas in the social atlas Bankrupt Britain demonstrate how current economic woes have revealed a whole series of potential financial, residential and moral future bankruptcies. By 2048, advances in medicine, a better-ordered society, and even huge amounts of care being provided by the young elderly, will not be enough to help us care for our rising population of the very old.

    Last year, the Department for Work and Pensions upped their estimates of future centenarians considerably, to suggest that there will be more than half a million aged over 100 by 2066.

    Yesterday the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that the future potential care bill for the elderly in Britain is so great that it could threaten family ties, with country will spending more than a fifth of its entire national output on services for the elderly by 2050.

    Meanwhile, there is confusion about how many young people there will actually be around in the future in Britain, compared to how many we need to take care of the elderly. When the 2011 census results are released we will may be in a better position to accurately predict this number. However the matter is complicated by the way people move around, with immigration patterns changing. And the greatest fall in fertility in the world recently has been in eastern Europe, so we shouldn't expect help from Polish carers in future. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: It may come to a choice between using our resources to care for the elderly or to help the younger generation survive and keep civilization alive.

    U.S.: How the Budget Deficit Could Lead to Generational Warfare

    April 18, 2011, Yahoo Finance

    Today Republicans and Democrats. In the future there may be a divisive fight between generations over who should pick up the tab for baby boomer retirement and medical expenses.

    Recently the House approved the 2012 budget plan which would cut $6 trillion from federal spending over the next 10 years, but it is not expected get far in the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate.

    The choice is to raise the federal debt ceiling or face a recovery-ending default on U.S. securities. We should also ask who should pay for closing annual budget gaps that will add trillions of dollars to our $14 trillion-plus national debt for years and years.

    There is now some hesitation to ask older Americans to pay much of the price tag for fixing the enormous structural deficits built into Medicare and Medicaid, and, to a much smaller extent, Social Security. Meanwhile, even the relatively modest $38 billion in spending cuts agreed to for the rest of this fiscal year will inflict some real social costs on younger Americans, including a half-billion dollar cut to nutrition and healthcare aid to low-income women and their young children.

    All current retirees and more than half of the baby boom generation comprise a cohort of Medicare recipients that is bankrupting the system, not the much smaller population of people who will be retiring in later decades. According to a study by the Urban Institute, most Medicare beneficiaries receive much more in benefits than they pay into the Medicare trust fund in payroll taxes.

    A commission appointed by President Obama proposed specific plans to close Social Security's long-term deficits. As it is now structured, Social Security will be able to pay all benefits until the year 2037, at which time it could afford to pay out only 78% of benefits. But President Obama said he would not accept reforms that reduced benefits for current Social Security recipients.

    The impact of these deficit-reduction proposals is thus like a giant transfer tax on younger generations. A recent study of the U.S. budget dilemma by economists with the International Monetary Fund concluded that our deficits can only be closed at an enormous intergenerational price.

    "Unless currently living Americans pay more in net taxes or unless government spending on current generations is curtailed, future Americans will face net tax rates that are about 21 1/2 percentage points" higher, the study concluded. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Sadly, this is what it means to have an aging population. 1) 65 years ago we had a baby boom and it is catching up with us today. 2) Medical advances and health insurance have enabled us to raise our life expectancy, but we have not raised our retirement age. We now have a large number of non-working adults who will live longer, but are not necessary healthier, due to environmental diseases such as auto-immune diseases, and overconsumptive diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 3) We now have 4-5 generations alive at one time, adding to the population considerably. 4) More money may be spent now on the care of seniors, than is spent on schools, while, at the same time, our interest in having children wanes with the current economic crisis and trying to maintain a life style pumped up by debt and speculation, and comparison to rock, movie, and sports stars. One wonders where this will lead. How do we achieve a balance between old people and children?

    Spain: Older Generations Can't Bank on La Buena Vida in Retirement Any More

    March 30, 2011, Guardian (London)

    "Short on children and short on family policies," is how demographers headlined a recent study, concluding that Spanish women are unlikely to have enough children to stop the country's population falling steeply. With so few children, who will pay for the old in decades to come?

    There was such a backlash against General Franco's women-at-home pro-natalism paternalism that governments since have avoided incentives for having children. The birth rate plunged shortly after democracy's return and is now among the lowest in the EU at 1.4 children per woman.

    Despite gay marriage and abortion being legalised, many Spaniards are still religious but a third as many British households have three or more children. One child in seven lives in a single-parent family, compared with one in five in the UK.

    Nurseries in Spain have universal all-day provision for three to six-year-olds, though little for younger children.

    26% of older people live alone in the UK compared with only 10% in Spain. Young people in Spain tend to leave their parents' home later, which helps explain the lower birth rate. They don't have housing to go to: only one in 12 Spanish households live in social rented accommodation against one in six in the UK.

    The retirement age is being raised from 65 to 67. Spain has among the highest life expectancy in Europe, 82.2 years for a girl born now, 77.8 years for a boy. The downside is paying for these extra years, especially when social security funds are going into deficit because of high unemployment.

    Public spending on pensions is high - 8.1% of GDP compared with 5.7% in the UK.

    About 20% are classified as in or near poverty.

    Nearly a third of young people leave school early, a rate twice as high as the EU average, and educational attainment levels are low. The Spanish call it "generacion ni-ni" meaning young people neither studying, training nor in jobs - about 15% of under 29-year-olds. If you add in those "poorly integrated" into the jobs market, you get up to 40%, against 10% in the UK.

    Unemployment is at a record high of 20.3%, pushing the insurance funds deeper into deficit, a system in crisis. doclink

    Immortality? Researchers Discover Way to Reverse Immune System Aging

    March 27, 2011, Infection Control Today

    Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have discovered a way to reverse the aging process by removing old B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell responsible for the production of antibodies) from old mice, and forcing the production of young, potent cells to replace them.

    It was previously thought that the aging of the immune system - including that of the B cell population - is a progressive process that cannot be stopped and/or reversed. "But we have succeeded in showing that it is possible to turn back the aging process," lead researcher professor Doron Melamed of the Technion's Rappaport Faculty of Medicine said.

    The immune system is weakened with age, a fact reflected by a significant increase in illness among the elderly, and a dramatic decrease in their ability to respond to vaccination.

    The B cell population undergoes dramatic changes with age as a result of a decline in the body's ability to produce new B cells and a selection process that leads to an accumulation of old B cells with a limited and reduced response capability.

    Researchers found that active removal of the B cells changes the cellular homeostasis in the body which causes the body to re-activate the bone marrow, forcing it to produce B cells again at a rate not different than that which exists in young mice, leading to an improvement of up to 400% in the ability of the treated mice to respond to vaccinations.

    "This paper shows .. that physiological aging is a regulated process that can be reversed .." Melamed says. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: immortality, or even extending life for the elderly presents a moral dilemma when overpopulation exists: if we enable older people to live longer, then we have no room for babies. Do we want humankind to consist of only old people, or do we want to strike a balance between young and old?

    U.S.: Who Will Care for the Onslaught of Aging Baby Boomers?

    March 22, 2011, The Miami Herald

    As the 78 million baby boomers live longer with more chronic illnesses, the country will face a shortage of professionals trained to meet the special needs of the elderly.

    Not just the elderly will be affected by this shortfall. Fewer medical practices will accept new patients and people will face longer waits to see physicians -- if they see them at all.

    If current graduation and training rates continue, the United States could face a shortage of about 130,000 physicians by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The physician shortage will likely be exacerbated by the aging population, which uses more health care, and the possibility of having as many as 32 million newly insured Americans by 2014 under the new national health plan.

    About 7,100 physicians are certified geriatricians nationwide -- or about one specialist for every 2,546 older Americans, according to a study by the Institute of Medicine. By 2030, when all the boomers will have turned 65, an estimated 36,000 geriatricians will be needed, a figure unlikely to be reached considering that the number of geriatricians has dropped by 25% in the past decade.

    \About 4% of social workers specialize in geriatrics, one third of the number needed. And less than 1% of physician assistants, pharmacists and registered nurses are certified in geriatrics.

    Healthcare workers in general are inadequately prepared to deal with the complex issues of elderly patients.

    Society is in "general denial" of what it will take to maintain a growing number of older people in the community. A study released last fall by the National Center for Health Statistics showed that people 45 and older -- boomers are 45 to 65 years old -- made up 38% of the U.S. population in 2008. But they were responsible for 57% of doctor's office visits and 70% of prescribed medication.

    There's a shortage of data on aging compared to other life stages. Clinical studies have not been done on older people.

    The typical elderly patient often has chronic conditions that require management, not cures; the possibility of overmedication to treat those conditions and the resulting effects on balance, cognitive understanding and independence.

    Geriatricians make far less money than specialists. A large number of social work students indicate they do not want to go into geriatric work.

    "Increasingly young people are not connected to older adults." The average salary of a home health aide is $10.12 an hour -- often less than an office or house cleaner. doclink

    Karen Gaia (a senior) says: A harsh reality: If our economy continues to slide, the attitude toward seniors from the younger generation may change, with there be so many seniors using the country's resources.

    Even Age Isn't on Japan's Side

    March 18, 2011, The Financial Express (India)

    Japan was quick to recover from previous disasters: the Kobe earthquake in 1995 as well as from the World War II (1939-1945) due to rapid improvement in productivity aided by technological advances and supported by a relatively younger, well-educated and hard-working population. A period of rapid population explosion, especially in the working age group, supported growth dynamics. In 1960, the Japanese economy was 1.6 times smaller than the UK and 12 times smaller than the US. By 1970, when Japan had a dependency ratio as low as 45, the economy had grown past the size of almost all European economies and contributed 7% of world GDP.

    Now, with the uncertainty on the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake, tsunami and escalating nuclear crisis, just when the economy was beginning to recover from the recession of the last two years, Japan no longer enjoys the demographic dividend of a young population. Its shrinking workforce and rapidly ageing population could constrain a speedy recovery from the current calamity.

    Japan's economic growth rate stood at 3.9% for 1980 - 1989 and reduced thereafter, stagnating at 2%. From 2000 onwards the working age force started shrinking, and played a vital role in lowering growth the growth rate to 1.6% in 1990-2000s. Even total population has begun to fall since 2007 and by 2015, Japanese working population would be close to what it was in 1995.

    About 31% of Japan's population is 60 years or over, as compared to a mere 9% (8 million) in 1960. The working age population, which rose to 80 million in 1995 from 56 million in 1960 has fallen to 72 million in 2010. By 2015, this figure is estimated to fall to 68 million. The overall dependency ratio (ratio of number of individuals aged below 15 and above 60 divided by the number of individuals aged 15 to 59), which reduced to 57% in 1995 from 64% in 1960, has risen to 76% in 2010 and is estimated to increase to 83% in 2015.

    With a marked decrease the in productive population, the contribution of labour input to economic growth could subside. In addition, if the savings rate in the country starts to fall with declining wage earners and an increasing percentage of aged population, investment and hence contribution of capital input to growth could wane, thereby affecting long-term growth potential. Also, as population size decreases, a prolonged period of stagnation could return. A smaller workforce will also contribute less to the country's tax collections, as an ageing population pressurises on the fiscal front.

    Japan's economic recovery also rests on the restoration of power supply. The earthquake and tsunami have severely affected the country's nuclear power generation capacity. For a nation with around 25% dependency on this form of energy, the restoration of its nuclear power stations and subsequent recovery of electricity is crucial to get the economy back on its feet.

    The next few years will test Japan's resilience in terms of raising productivity, pushing consumption and investment demand, and ultimately raising the country's growth potential. In contrast, the burden of an ageing population on social security provision and fiscal liabilities remain high. The Japanese government has limited choices to address this widening gap-either expand the labour force or improve labour productivity, none of which can be immediately addressed.

    Once the restoration activity begins, the labour force may need to be expanded. This challenge may result in the reform of Japan's immigration policy, allowing more foreign labour into the country to help reconstruct the nation. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Japan is already unsustainable, importing about 60% of its food. Increasing the population would mean Japan would have to import even more food and increase its energy capacity above pre-earthquake levels.

    U.K.: Take a Positive Look at Our Ageing Population

    March 6, 2011, The Observer (UK)

    For years we have been alarmed over an upcoming "agequake". Life expectancy for many is increasing at the rate of five hours a day, every day - and that is reason to celebrate. However, certain milestones in this demographic upheaval also provoke profound concern.

    The European working age population is reaching the point where it will begin to shrink, while the population of those over age 60 will continue to increase by at least 2 million a year. In the past, the pensioner would die only a decade after retiring. In contrast, today's baby-boomers could spend longer in retirement than they have in paid employment. At the same time, younger people face high unemployment and the very real possibility that they will slip several rungs down the ladder of opportunity, and will be expected to contribute to the upkeep of the larger group of pensioners.

    This unfair situation could strain the bonds between the generations to breaking point. The problem of sustainable public finances, particularly around health, social care and pensions, as society ages, is a difficult one.

    Lord Hutton, the former Labour secretary of state for work and pensions, was asked to make recommendations on how public service pensions for the NHS, the police, local government, the civil service, teachers and the armed forces could be made sustainable and affordable; fair to both the public service workforce and the taxpayer; and ensure they are consistent with the fiscal challenge ahead.

    Many ways were discussed to devise a system that would be fair to both young and old.

    Perhaps it is time to reframe the "agequake" in less apocalyptic terms. Baby-boomers were net contributors to the economy at £ 30-40bn a year. They spend, give time, care for others, pay taxes and donate. Instead of viewing an ageing population as a threat, why not view it as a chance to recalibrate society so that we invest more in family ties? We embrace innovation in, for instance, work patterns (older people paid for slivers of time?). We resist the warehousing and mistreatment of the elderly and we demand that politicians prioritize an active old age. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Kudos to the author for not recommending that we bring in more people to take care of the old folks. That would end up like a pyramid scheme. We are already straining the earth's resources.

    Natural Decrease Cited as US Counties' Deaths Exceed Births

    March 6, 2011, Associated Press

    A near-record number of US counties are experiencing more deaths than births in their communities, due to an aging population and a poor economy.

    The problem is spreading amid a prolonged job slump and a push by Republicans in Congress to downsize government and federal spending.

    "You're the anchors of our Main Streets,' President Obama told small business leaders in Cleveland recently. Local businesses began to close after US Steel departed McDowell County. The high-school dropout rate is 28%, and the local college students can't wait to leave. In the 1960s, McDowell County ranked tops in the US in coal production. Even as it began to stumble, President Kennedy took notice and pushed federal aid to the region.

    About 760 of the nation's 3,142 counties are fading away: industrial areas near Pittsburgh and Cleveland; vineyards outside San Francisco; rural areas of east Texas and the Great Plains; and the retirement communities in Florida.

    As a nation, the US population grew by just 9.7% since 2000, the lowest decennial rate since the Great Depression.

    "The downturn in the US economy is only exacerbating the problem,' said Johnson, whose research paper is being published in the journal Rural Sociology. "In some cases, the only thing that can pull an area out is an influx of young Hispanic immigrants or new economic development.' doclink

    Karen Gaia says: a US population growth rate of 9.7% in a decade is unsustainable. Natural resources such as soil, water, and oil/gas have already peaked. If we have added 9.7% and they have chosen not to go to these declining places, who can blame them? It is wrong to spend the taxpayers' money on trying to prop up populations in failing areas.

    Challenging Our Assumptions; Depopulation -- Myth Or Reality?

    August 15, 2005, San Francisco Chronicle

    Malthus warned that world population would rapidly outpace the food supply, leading to global famine. Malthus fell into the trap of discounting human ingenuity. Increased use of contraception enabled much of the world to bring down growth rates. Now, however, we're hearing warnings about global depopulation. Pundits conjure alarming scenarios to undermine support for family-planning programs. Like Malthus, these doomsayers ignore the human capacity to adapt and survive. But they overlook the "demographic divide" between rich and poor countries. The populations of most developed countries, are stable or even shrinking. Of the 136 million children born each year, more than 122 million arrive in developing countries. Women in many sub-Saharan countries are still having four to six children. In other poor countries, women are having fewer children than their mothers, but more than the "replacement" level and downward trends have stalled. For these people, reality is poverty, slums without sanitation or clean water, and children's playgrounds that are garbage dumps. More than 1 billion young people are now entering their reproductive years. Their childbearing decisions will shape the future for all of us and at least 120 million women say they would space or limit their children but lack access to family-planning options. Every minute of every day, a woman dies of a pregnancy-related complication, almost all preventable. Family planning is more urgent now than ever on the poor side of the demographic divide. But what about the rich side? Polls show that many European families want more children than they now have. But women cite the difficulty of combining parenthood with careers, the shortage of affordable housing and reluctance to marry where traditional child-care patterns and women's roles persist. Farsighted governments and employers are trying to make it easier for women to balance careers with child- rearing. No government or donor country should ever force individuals to have more or fewer children, but it is their legitimate role to create, monitor and tune policies that align what's good for individual women and families with what's good for their societies. A worldwide one-size-fits-all approach that dismisses family planning is not only wrong-headed and dangerous, it's downright cruel. doclink

    Understanding the Demographic Dividend

    The demographic dividend occurs when a falling birth rate requires fewer investments to meet the needs of the youngest age groups and resources are released for economic development and family welfare. It improves the ratio of productive workers to child dependents and makes for faster economic growth. In the Republic of Korea, as its birth rate fell in the mid-1960s, school enrolments declined and funds allocated for elementary education were used for education at higher levels.

    However the demographic dividend is a limited window of opportunity. The age distribution changes again as the adult population moves into the less-productive age brackets and smaller families are born during the fertility decline. Then the dependency ratio rises again, to care for the elderly.

    Some countries will capitalize upon the released resources and use them effectively, but others will not. When the window of opportunity closes, those that do not take advantage of the demographic dividend will face renewed pressures in a position that is weaker than ever.

    When the generations of children born during periods of high fertility leave the dependent years, good policies are required to educate and train them. Women with fewer children tend to be better educated, take jobs outside of the home and are more productive. This assumes governments create more jobs and seize upon the "dividends" of the changed age distribution. If they fail to do this, countries may struggle with the social unrest of unemployed citizens.

    Working-age adults can save more money when individuals born during periods of high fertility move into their 40s and their children require less support. Personal savings serve as a partial resource for investments that fuel growth. Having fewer children enhances the health of women and participation in the labor force enhances their status and independence. They contribute to their families and society.

    Men and women cite economic pressures as their reason for using contraception. Family income can provide better food for infants and education for girls and teenagers of both sexes. In 1950, East Asian countries moved through falling fertility rates and their opportunity rose during the next fifty years. It is peaking and will fade steadily as their populations age. Sub-Saharan Africa is starting to enter its window, with declining fertility rates over the next decades.

    If the governments take actions that follow those of East Asia, the dividends may become real. It points to the importance of policies to promote health during the demographic dividend. Poor health is a cause of losses in household income. Half of the world's 175 million pregnancies annually are unwanted and there is ample room for improvement in contraception. Reducing unwanted pregnancies also hastens the changes in age structure that advance development.

    Policies to create jobs are essential, to absorb the teenagers coming of age. Open trade policies can drive faster growth during the window period. Policies to generate capital are needed to fuel growth. The opportunities now present will not last long and will not be repeated.

    The window begins to close in all regions, except sub-Saharan Africa, in the next 10-20 years. Investments in education, health, and job creation are vital, also policies that favor the fertility declines that have created and sustained the window. A failure to act could have a damaging effect as unemployment rises, the social fabric crumbles, and rising numbers of old people begin to overwhelm available resources. Accepting and understanding demographic challenges must be a priority for all governments. doclink

    Ralph says: Excellent article. Time that we considered how to plan for a decreasing population.

    Commission on Population and Development to Focus on Opportunities ...

    April 6, 2007, Webwire

    The changes in the structure of world population offer an opportunity that countries should seize, the Population Division argues in a report. As fertility declines, there will be an increasing number of producers per consumer at the global level and, as societies age, there is the potential for increasing their wealth as people save more in preparation for a longer retirement period.

    During the first stages of population ageing, countries will have a window of opportunity that may last between 40 and 60 years. As the proportion of persons of working age increases, it is possible to reap a dividend by increasing production and improving the living standard of the whole population. Further population ageing could lead to increases in productivity and wealth. As people live longer, they accumulate enough wealth to cover consumptions needs after retirement leading to greater investment.

    During this period, a country can benefit from productive investment, because its economic dependency is low and there are more potential workers to support dependants.

    In this stage possibilities present themselves for raising a country's rate of economic growth and living standards. Consumption per effective consumer can rise at the same time as the share of GDP consumed declines, and a larger share of national output can be shifted from consumption into investment. As people realize that they may live longer, the demand for resources to support consumption in old age emerges. At this early stage countries can easily establish a framework that fosters wealth accumulation, setting the stage for a second demographic dividend. This arises from the improving balance of asset-holders to workers, which can boost labour productivity and raise asset income. One of the challenges is to educate and provide employment for the rapidly growing youth population. Societies need to plan for rapid population ageing by developing policies such as health care provision and support to older persons.

    Countries should focus on promoting savings and on investing by allocating resources to the education and health of both the young and the old.

    A pension system consisting of a mandatory, publicly managed, unfunded pillar and a mandatory, publicly or privately managed, funded pillar that should include supplemental voluntary privately funded schemes.

    Other trends include:

    A growing number of international migrants. A considerably older population. An increase in the ratio of the population aged 60 or over to the working age population. A largely urban world, with half of the world population living in cities. A longer life expectancy in developed countries. A rural population in the less developed regions.

    The report, by UNFPA, says that donor assistance has been increasing steadily over the past few years, reaching $5.6 billion in 2004. Both donors and developing countries may have surpassed the 2005 goal of $18.5 billion, but this conclusion is misleading, because the resources do not adequately address current needs, which have escalated since the 1994 Population Conference and now include HIV/AIDS treatment. The recent increase in the flow of financial resources has been primarily a result of the increase in funding for HIV/AIDS activities. But these increases still do not meet current demands for resources to combat HIV/AIDS or treat those infected. $15 billion is needed in 2006. The trend towards less funding for family planning could undermine efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies. Population issues should figure prominently in national development programmes and poverty reduction strategies, family planning and reproductive health issues. doclink

    Australia: Is Population Growth a Ponzi Scheme?

    March 4, 2010, Joseph Chamie - The Globalist

    The pitch of those promoting population growth is straightforward "More is better." While it may come in many guises, Ponzi demography is essentially a pyramid scheme that attempts to make more money for some by adding on more and more people through population growth.

    But measures of GDP do not reflect, for example, the degradation of the environment, the depreciation of natural resources or declines in individuals' quality of life.

    According to Ponzi demography, population growth - through natural increase and immigration - means more people leading to increased demands for goods and services, more material consumption, more borrowing, more on credit and of course more profits. Everything seems fantastic for a while - but Ponzi demography is unsustainable.

    When the economy sours, the scheme spirals downward with higher unemployment, depressed wages, falling incomes, more people sinking into debt, more homeless families - and more men, women and children on public assistance.

    That is the stage when the advocates of Ponzi demography consolidate their excess profits and gains. That leaves the general public to pick up the tab. Ponzi demography exploits the fear of population decline and aging. Without a young and growing population, we are forewarned of becoming a nation facing financial ruin and a loss of national power.

    Due to population aging, government-run pensions and healthcare systems will become insolvent, Ponzi demography advocates claim, thereby crippling the economy, undermining societal well-being and threatening national security.

    Low birth rates, especially those below replacement levels, are considered a matter of national concern. Without higher fertility rates and the resulting population growth, the nation, it is claimed, faces a bleak and dreary future.

    So Ponzi demography calls for policies and programs to encourage couples to have more children, which will lead to the promised sustained economic growth.

    In addition appeals are also made to one's patriotic duty to have children in order to replenish and expand the homeland. Ponzi demography also turns to immigration for additional population growth in order to boost companies' profits. The standard slogan in "the country urgently needs increased immigration," even when immigration may already be at record levels and unemployment rates are high.

    Increased immigration, it is declared, is a matter of national security, long-term prosperity and international competitiveness. Without this needed immigration, Ponzi demography warns that the country's future is at serious risk.

    Another basic tactic of Ponzi demography is promoting the advantages of an increasing population for continued economic growth. No mention is made of the additional profits they reap and the extra costs the public bears.

    When confronted with environmental concerns such as climate change, global warming, environmental contamination or shortages of water and other vital natural resources, the advocates of Ponzi demography typically dismiss such concerns as unfounded and overblown.

    And they obliquely stress "innovation," ingenuity and technological fixes as the only appropriate and workable solutions.

    Many environmental groups are also reluctant to take up or even touch the volatile subject of population growth, especially those that have been burned on this issue in the past. Such groups fear possibly offending some members and donors, which might undercut their organizations and efforts.

    Fortunately, most couples around the world have chosen to have a few children rather than many and to invest more in each child's upbringing, education and future well-being. The sooner nations make the transition from ever-increasing population growth to population stabilization, the better the prospects for all of humanity and other life on this planet. "If Norway can prosper with a stable population, why can't Australia?"

    It is argued primarily that we must have an expanding population, in order to maintain "labour supply", and to counter demographic ageing. These are related but subtly different goals. A third goal, not so publicly acknowledged but the driver for the largest single source of political donations, is to maintain the inflation of property values. All three goals of growth are examples of Ponzi scheme economics, not contributing significantly to the common good but rather shifting wealth from the many to the few, from the younger to the older, and from future people to current people.

    Weaning oneself off a Ponzi scheme can be an unattractive proposition. Luckily, the impact would likely be more than off-set by the dividends of population stabilisation. The diseconomies of growth rate far outweigh the benefits. By doubling our population growth within a decade, we have increase our infrastructure costs, perhaps costing hundreds of thousands of dollars per added person.

    According to MIT economist Lester Thurow, it requires 12.5% of GDP to expand capacity at 1% per year. For the developed world this was over $200,000 per person of net population growth. Using these figures, if we're currently growing at 2% per year, then 25% of our GDP is currently being used to expand capacity to accommodate the people who are not yet here. This means that the GDP available per capita to serve current residents is 25% less than the advertised per capita GDP.

    Against this burden, the 2010 Intergenerational Report's estimate of 4.1% of GDP needed for extra health care and aged care by 2050 pales into insignificance.

    Not to mention that only 40% of this is attributable to ageing, and less than half of that could be deflected by immigration. Does it make sense that we're incurring a 25% of GDP cost to avoid less than 0.8% of GDP cost?

    Ageing is touted as the greatest economic challenge facing Australia, and therefore to be minimised by whatever means we have. Conversely, we are told that growth merely requires planning and management (as if the infrastructure magically appears by virtue of having been planned). In fact, the exact opposite is true.

    Growth is a virtually insurmountable challenge, becoming ever more costly as resources are spread thinner, pushing an ever increasing burden on future generations, while diluting their wealth base and inflating their living costs. Ageing, in contrast, is a modest and limited shift, back towards the sort of dependency ratio we had in the 1960s, but with much higher workforce participation than then.

    So we have immigration to reduce the fiscal gap anticipated to be caused by ageing, but causing a fiscal black hole. And we have skilled immigration to solve the skills shortage but actually increasing it. And we have a baby bonus requiring a school-building program comparable to the current debt-financed economic stimulus package repeated annually to accommodate the extra 50,000 kids per year moving through the system. And, just when we should be encouraging extra saving for retirement, instead we have orchestrated oversupply of labour suppressing wages and increasing casualisation and underemployment, combined with the orchestrated housing affordability crisis, having a devastating effect on national savings.

    Back in 1986, Lester Thurow concluded that no nation could move forward economically with population growth greater than 2%. Deliberate (but not coercive) fertility reduction was the primary enabler of economic development in the Asian Tigers, boosting workforce participation and allowing government efforts to move from quantity to quality of services. In contrast, Argentina famously fell back from first-world to third-world status, with the most plausible explanation being that its growth outstripped its ability to maintain quality of life. A disgruntled population and unmanageable public debt are not conducive to maintaining good stable democracies

    Could Australia enter such a downward spiral? We already have many of the symptoms: widening inequality between rich and poor, declining national savings and expanding current account deficit, the selling of public assets to balance budgets, welfare systems falling behind the cost of living, intractable queues for medical services, increasing youth unemployment, fracturing social tensions erupting in ethnic violence ... the question is, will we wake up in time to arrest it? doclink

    Karen Gaia says: this argument could apply to any developed country. My objection to Ponzi demographics is: will we have to import even more and more people as each generation of immigrants age, or did the perpetrators of this scheme hope they could get away with neglecting the immigrants when they age?

    Population Research Presents a Sobering Prognosis

    July 29, 2010, New York Times*

    With 267 people being born every minute and 108 dying, the world's population will top seven billion next year, while the ratio of working-age adults to support the elderly in developed countries declines because of lower birthrates and longer life spans.

    The president of the Population Reference Bureau, said that "chronically low birthrates in developed countries are beginning to challenge the health and financial security of the elderly" at the same time that "developing countries are adding over 80 million to the population each year and the poorest of those countries are adding 20 million."

    Even with a decline in birthrates in less developed countries from 6 children per woman in 1950 to 2.5 today (and to 2 children or less in Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Iran, Thailand and Turkey), the population of Africa is projected to at least double to 2.1 billion. Asia will add an additional 1.3 billion.

    While the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand will continue to grow because of higher birthrates and immigration, Europe, Japan and South Korea will shrink. In Japan, the population of working-age people, those 15 to 64, compared with the population 65 and older that is dependent on this younger group, is projected to decline to a ratio of one to one, from the current three to one. Worldwide, the ratio of working age people for every person in the older age group is expected to decline to four to one, from nine to one now.

    The European Union reported that while the union's population topped a half billion this year, 900,000 of the 1.4 million growth from the year before resulted from immigration. Eurostat has predicted that deaths will outpace births in five years, a trend that has already occurred in Bulgaria, Latvia and Hungary.

    While the bulge in younger people, if they are educated, presents a potential "demographic dividend" for countries like Bangladesh and Brazil, the shrinking proportion of working-age people elsewhere may place a strain on governments and lead them to raise retirement ages and to encourage alternative job opportunities for older workers.

    In the US, the proportion of the gross domestic product spent on Social Security and Medicare is projected to rise to 14.5% in 2050, from 8.4% this year.

    By 2050, Russia and Japan would be bumped from the 10 most populous countries by Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. doclink

    Shrinking and Aging Population Poses Problems for Germany

    May 31, 2010, Planetizen

    With an average of just 1.38 children being born to each woman, the birth rate is not high enough to keep the population stable. The aging country will find it hard to secure the tax revenues to support all those pensioners of the future or to maintain economic growth. In fact, demographers expect Germany's population to fall by 17 million from the current 82 million over the next 50 years.

    Of the 155,000 Germans who chose to leave their homeland, most favored the US and Switzerland.

    And where is the Green Party on what I call the Population Implosion?

    Figures show that the country is no longer attractive, particularly to migrants. There are now 10,000 more people leaving Germany for Turkey than coming the other way.

    Bottom line: Germany is not sustainable from a demographic perspective. This is particularly true for the senior population that are looking to retirement, and services that come with getting older. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The question is: Would more people make Germany more sustainable or less sustainable, given the world's limited supply of natural resources? Would Turks come to Germany if migration was not met with prejudice? German seniors benefited from fewer children by the savings of not raising those children and the savings of sparing limited resources. Have German seniors squandered these savings so that they now have little left for their retirement? Sometimes limited resources forces us to make a choice - raising fertility rates to replacement level or having a country full of seniors who no longer produce. But more people is usually not the answer. Neither is economic growth.

    Debunking the Population Myths

    Overloading Australia website

    There are too many myths that foster Australian population growth.

    1. Some say that it's inevitable that we grow to a vast population, but if we chose, we can stop at 23 million the figure the Australian Academy of Science has said should be our safe maximum.
    2. Some worry that the refugee intake would suffer; however, refugees are a tiny fraction of our annual migrant intake.
    3. We can plan for convenient transport systems and every imaginable public facility. When was the last time we so much as managed to build the train line before installing the suburb. we're not keeping up with population growth even now.
    4. More people means higher house prices so we'll all be richer. There's likely a connection between more people and more environmental damage. More people means higher house prices and makes a few of us absurdly rich and turns the rest into mortgage slaves
    5. We can't do anything about Australia's population problem till we've solved the world's. Australia must take care of its own problems, just like every other country should.
    6. Australia is a vast continent.Australia is a small country with big distances.
    7. We're going to have a labor ahortage. Over 100,000 young Australians dropped out of the work force last year, unable to compete with imported workers.
    8. If we stop growth, we will be faced with an ageing population. Australia's population is unusually young by first world standards. It is those too young to work, not those too old, who make the greater demands on the public purse.

    China Moves Away From One-Child Policy

    July 27, 2009, Irish Times

    Fears of an ageing population means that Shanghai is highlighting exceptions to the One Child Policy that allow couples to have two children, although only particular kinds of people can apply.

    Couples who were both only children, which includes most of the city's newly-weds, are allowed two children. Couples are allowed to have two if both partners have PhDs, or are disabled, or come from a rural area, or in some cases if their first child is a girl. There are exceptions for when a widow or widower, or a divorcee, marries someone childless.

    Family planning authorities are going on the offensive to encourage more procreation.

    However the One Child Policy policy remains in place in most parts of the country. The main focus of the One Child Policy has been on the countryside, where farmers traditionally liked to have large families, especially ones with lots of sons.

    Middle-class Chinese in the cities have fewer children by choice.

    In 2004, Shanghai got rid of a rule that required a gap of at least four years between the births of first and second children.

    Shanghai has about three million people aged 60 or older, 21.6% of the population. We advocate eligible couples to have two kids because it can help reduce the proportion of ageing people and alleviate a workforce shortage in the future.

    The spectre of an ageing population hangs heavy over Shanghai, where the proportion of working adults poses a major burden in the future. By 2050, China will have more than 438 million people over 60, with more than 100 million of them 80 and above.

    China will have 1.6 working-age adults to support every person aged 60 and above. Government forecasters expect China's population to peak at around 1.5 billion in 2032. doclink

    Did South Korea's Population Policy Work Too Well?

    Population Reference Bureau

    Many developing countries adopted policies to slow population growth in the latter half of the 20th century. Developing countries experienced declines in their death rates after 1950 with no offsetting decline in birth rates.

    South Korea is one example of a country whose program to lower the birth rate had an unexpected result: Fertility so far below the replacement level that population aging and decline in population size is a real prospect. South Korea was one of the developing countries to have initiated a population policy to lower the birth rate during the 1960s and 1970s to have its birth rate fall to world record low levels.

    About 35 countries have total fertility rates (TFRs) of 1.5 children or below. Such a development may signal a longer-term change in childbearing in industrialized societies than was once thought. Demographers have suggested that decreases in birth rates may constitute a real change in societal norms, something he labels a type of "low-fertility trap." Following the Korean War South Korea's population remained rural. Its TFR exceeded six children per woman. In 1962, South Korea began its family planning campaign to reduce women's unwanted births through a program of maternal and child health services, and the provision of family planning.

    The program was essential if economic growth and modernization were to be achieved. By 1970, the TFR had fallen to 4.5 against the waning of the country's agrarian character. In 1981, the government set a target of a two-child, "replacement" level fertility. There was even some mention of a one-child family.The two-child target was met remarkably quickly: The TFR was down to 1.74 by 1984.

    But in 2002, the National Pension Institute reported that the pension fund would soon be wiped out because of a decline in the working age population vis-à-vis the number of retirees. The government realized that the number of women of childbearing age was declining and that the trend would only accelerate. In addition, by 2005, the TFR reached 1.08, but it had been well below two children for over 20 years.

    Plan for the 2006-2010 period included a plan with a long list of measures, including tax incentives, priority for the purchase of a new apartment, support for child care including a 30% increase in facilities, childcare facilities at work, support for education, and assistance to infertile couples. In June 2006, the government announced the Vision 2020 Plan to raise fertility and prepare for a society with extreme aging.

    The goal is to raise fertility to 1.6 children per woman (the average for OECD countries) by 2020, a fairly modest rise from the current 1.2 and still well beneath the replacement level.

    A return to higher fertility levels might be spurred by long-held family traditions. Succession from father to the eldest son is a central feature. The parent-child relationship is often valued above that of husband- wife. Great emphasis is placed upon children's education, and mothers often leave or defer employment to fulfill traditional maternal roles.

    Failure of the policy, on the other hand, could result from a breakdown of those traditional family values. This tendency has been observed in women in South Korea although much less so among parents and among men. The cost of raising children, particularly for education, along with rising employment opportunities for women, have made entering marriage less routine than in the past. In a 2005 survey, 49% of single women said that they were reluctant to get married and the percentage of married women who felt a need for children dropped to 65% from 90% eight years earlier.

    Many European countries, along with Japan and Taiwan, are finding that raising very low fertility is difficult. The costs of a pronatalist policy will also likely to be more difficult because of the slowdown in productivity and economic growth.

    The population below age 15, which will move into the childbearing years, has shrunk compared to their parents' numbers. Each year that passes with an extremely low TFR only exacerbates the situation.

    South Korea and other industrialized countries with very low birth rates realize that no single solution is likely to achieve success. A recovery in the Korean birth rate is certainly possible with changes in attitudes on women's roles by society (and men in particular) along with the establishment of programs and policies by government and businesses. Korea has clearly made the commitment to do just that. doclink

    Cashing in the Chips -- Postpone Social Security?

    Social Contract

    Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb in 1968, predicting congestion and resource depletion, motivated a generation in their child-bearing years to address exponential population growth. The U.S. fertility rate dropped as a result of environmental awareness of population pressures and improved family planning, female empowerment, urbanization, increasing costs of child-rearing, and rising college expenses.

    From about 1965 - 1975, U.S. fertility rates dropped from 3.5 children per women to 1.7. If the average number of children, per couple, were 2.1, then the nation would stabilize. At 3.5, the population would continue to explode. At 1.7, the parents would not be replaced.

    Fertility reductions lead to an "aging population." See the U.N. study at In 1995, every pensioner in the United States was supported by 5.21 workers. The mid-range projection for 2050 reveals only 2.82 workers per pensioner. By reducing the number of births in the 1970s, each retiree in 2050 will impose almost twice the load upon each worker.

    Our options are to postpone the retirement age or we can increase the population with more workers. By 2050 a retirement age of 74.3 years will preserve the 1995 dependency ratio.

    In contrast, between 1995 and 2050, an additional 593 million immigrants (11 million per year) would be required to maintain the ratio if the retirement age is to remain constant at 65. This is ten times the current immigration. The United States would have to become a nation of a billion and as populous as China and India for the baby boomers to claim the same retirement age and dependency ratio as their parents.

    Our growing numbers lulls us into a Ponzi scheme. Each succeeding generation strives to sustain itself on the shoulders of ever-burgeoning recruits lodged in the queue behind it.

    Will Americans be willing to roll up their collective sleeves and postpone their retirement age? Will they allow the U.S. population to begin a slow decline, with a view toward stabilizing at some future point? Or will they insist on retiring at 65 and lay the groundwork for the U.S. to become the next billion person nation?

    Sixty-five was established by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck when the world's first social security system was created in the 1880's, when life expectancy was 45 years. Today's 65 year-old retiree can expect decades of social security support. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: Part of the problem, not mentioned, is that we live so dang long! And require so much health care to ease us through the last years of our life! I can say this at age 67. Going back to work would be very difficult for me.

    Malaysia: What Happens When the Birth Rate Falls

    July 26, 2009, New Straits Times

    In Europe and in Asian countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Singapore there are more old people than babies being born.

    In Russia, birth rates are so low and death rates so high that the country could lose a third of its people in the next 40 years.

    In Malaysia the birth rate is 2.2 babies per couple compared with Hong Kong (0.9), Korea (1.08), Taiwan (1.1) and Japan (1.2). But if the replacement level is not kept at two children per family, the country could be heading the same way.

    With people living longer these days, there could soon be more people over 58 years of age in the population, who would not contribute economically to the nation's gross national product. And there is the healthcare of its senior citizens to pay for, which will cost the taxpayers a lot of money.

    Intervention programmes have not been fruitful - birth rates remain low in Singapore, Japan, France, Hungary and the Scandinavian countries where financial incentives for marriage and childbearing.

    Where you see an increase in education for women, the number of children goes down. "Women stay longer in schools, and when they work, they marry later and have less time for childbirth."

    On the other hand, it is economically beneficial to have a smaller family, especially if you want to educate them. A smaller family is easier to manage. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the benefits of having smaller families far outweigh the disadvantages. The biggest benefit is that there are more resources, like water, arable land, and food, per person.

    Japan's Birthrate Rests with 'Freeters'


    According to a government white paper, if Japan wants more babies, it needs to help "freeters,"; the country's non-student, job-hopping part-timers, get stable work.

    Deaths started outnumbering births in Japan in 2007.

    Ultimately, the document said, the decline in working-age citizens will "heavily impact economic society." doclink

    Karen Gaia says: having more babies in a bad economy is a bad idea. There are not enough resources in Japan to sustain its population and Japan may not have enough funds to purchase resources from other countries. Jobs are in short supply the world over due in part to a contraction of the economy and in part due to regional overpopulation.

    Population Control

    December 1, 2008, Swans Commentary website

    I disagree with this article on several points, but it is presented here to show the thinking of many population-concerned. See my comments below ... Karen Gaia.

    It seems inevitable that the human race will overpopulate this planet. Sex is the only joy in the lives of too many people, and children still represent social security to the majority of the poor. The major religions are against birth control. It is to their advantage in the short run to create as many potential Catholics as possible. Many governments reward poor women with increased welfare for having more children. All this is a recipe for overpopulation. This planet is a finite system, therefore unless we can stabilize our population, life on Earth will eventually descend into a constant competition for resources. To avoid this, we must make education a priority.

    Stabilizing population by unnecessary war is an increasingly dangerous option. Birth control makes the most sense. Abortion is still a necessary evil. We should concentrate on protecting the living, so when does life begin? I would suggest that a human embryo developed to where it can breathe on its own should not be aborted. Every young woman who is old enough to get pregnant, and every young man old enough to impregnate, should be given a complete education regarding sex and birth control. Giving young people the knowledge and tools to avoid unwanted pregnancies cannot be considered immoral. - Epictetus

    Sex should be reserved for the most transcendent moments. Its primary purpose has always been to insure the survival of the species, and at present, the human race is in no danger of going extinct. Promiscuous sex too often leads to unwanted pregnancies. In an overcrowded world. It is tragic to continue to add more souls who will never experience a proper, loving environment. The more people who are brought into this world without planning, the worse the situation becomes. Adults in committed relationships are free to have as much sex with each other as they desire. They should, however, make every attempt to avoid having any more children than they honestly need. Through a worldwide program of sex education in schools, at home, and even at church. We now live in a time when unprotected sex can kill us.

    It is ironic how many of our current problems are a direct result of overpopulation and how little attention we pay to the subject. Their master plan seems to be keeping most of us dumbed down and in the dark so that we will continue to be easily manipulated. Everyone will need to get involved at the grass roots level. We should make sure all of our children understand the problems caused by overpopulation. Family planning, should be a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license.

    Family planning through education and birth control, along with supporting a woman's right to choose, is the enlightened path to a sustainable world population. We should flood the Third World with birth control then we may be able to stabilize world populations. They are now skyrocketing out of control in a geometric progression.

    There will be a difficult period in the near future while the abnormally large "baby boom" generation ages. During this period we should develop a rational immigration policy that will supply the young workers that we will undoubtedly need. All of this should be coupled with intensive negotiations with Third World countries to promote family planning to reduce their populations.

    If nothing changes, as it has for so very long now, the future will be a difficult struggle for everyone. Our careless civilization spews pollution into the air and water. We have no escape. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: The title 'Population Control' bothers me, because it is voluntary family planning that has been so successful. Here in the U.S., with the introduction of modern contraception, the fertility rate has dropped from 4 children per woman to about 1.8 (for native born). Women (I was one of them) did this for the quality of life of their family and for their own self esteem (having education and careers). Asking people to restrict sex simply does not work, but contraception does. Asking countries to surrender their young people robs those countries of their work force - it is simply wrong. We should be encouraging people to stay in their home countries where they would rather be. Aging populations are a result of population booms caused by either baby booms and immigration booms. Anything that grows population to server older people is a giant ponzi scheme. The whole point of this website is to demonstrate that there are limited natural resources - both in the world and in m

    How the World Works

    June 20, 2008,

    A Wall Street Journal article on the tension between the Catholic Church and family planning advocates in the Philippines, references the latest thinking on the interaction between high population growth and economic prosperity.

    While misguided agricultural and trade policies and poor food distributions may be the key reasons for hunger, rapid population growth exacerbates bad policies.

    Conservative Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby claims that the real nightmare facing the world is a population bust, instead of overpopulation. In the 1960s and 1970s, those who believed that high fertility rates torpedoed chances for economic growth dominated the field. But in the 1980s, they were eclipsed by those who thought it more important for governments to institute the correct economic policies.

    The current wisdom is more nuanced: The benefits of slower population growth depend on the timing and intensity of change, and the focus of economic policies in countries undergoing change. Developing nations that reduce fertility get an opportunity for economic growth. When fertility is high, the proportion of children and teenagers is large. As fertility rates drop, the ratio of potential workers to nonworkers rises, and more workers are responsible for fewer children.

    This enables countries to increase their schools and teachers, health care facilities and workers, and communications networks and well-trained workers. However, opening a window of opportunity does not guarantee economic growth. It is temporary, because low fertility will eventually increase the population of older people who are no longer working.

    This effect depends on the speed with which the transition to low fertility takes place and countries pursuing sound economic and social policies, to enable potential workers to acquire skills and find productive employment. When this happens, a temporary surge in physical and human capital contributes to a rapid rise in living standards.

    A mix of family planning, education for women, and sound macroeconomic policies add up to the magic recipe. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: apparently there is more and more evidence that the ratio of older adults to younger adults makes a difference for economic success. However, the article does not mention how much fertility is lowered. If fertility is above replacement level, a baby boom will result, which in the future, as fertility rates drop, would mean more retired people than working people.

    Birth Dearth Worries Pale in Comparison to Overpopulation

    July 14, 2008, Christian Science Monitor

    Lately, "baby gap,", "birth dearth," and "population bust" have been popular topics for Western Europe and Japan, where women don't have enough babies to maintain population. Russia, with widespread health problems and alcoholism, and relatively low life expectancy, finds its population shrinking by 700,000 each year. Germany's is falling about 100,000 a year.

    Around the world, birthrates have plunged from 6 per mother in 1972 to about 2.9 today. Some suggest a declining population can lead to other problems

    Such problems are less serious than those from the current population "bomb." A world's population drop to about 2 billion, a number that is sustainable, would allow people to live in cities or with nature, as they prefer.

    Today, with 2 million copies of his book sold, Ehrlich remains puzzled why some conservatives see his book as damaging. At the time of publication of the "Bomb," the number of people on Earth was 3.5 billion, now around, 6.7 billion, and 9 billion by 2050.

    We have passed the earth's long-term carrying capacity. About 1 billion people don't have a proper supply of food. Famine threatens, and the world continues to add 75 million a year to its total population. Last Friday, more than 140 countries highlighted the role of family planning in reducing poverty and saving the lives of mothers and newborns.

    Reagan and Bush imposed a policy that bars US family planning aid to private organizations that support legal abortion. Family planning leads to fewer abortions and deaths of mothers lacking access to relatively safe abortions.

    People are creating a world that threatens "our own species." doclink

    Italy: No Babies?

    June 30, 2008, New York Times*

    The town of Laviano has housing for 3,000, but fewer than 1,600 live here, and every year the number drops.

    When Falivena took office in 2002 as mayor, four babies were born in the year before and five enrolled at the school. He came up with a desperate idea: pay women to have babies. He let it be known he would pay 10,000 euros (about $15,000) for every woman who would give birth to and rear a child in the village. It generated news across Italy and as far away as Australia.

    There are some indications that Falivena's baby bonus is succeeding but as it turns out, many of the new parents who have taken advantage of the bonus are locals who planned to have a child anyway. The main effect of the bonus money may be on the timing of births.

    In the 1990s, there was a downward trend in population across Europe and behind it a sharply falling birthrate. The figure of 2.1 is widely considered to be the average number of births per woman that will maintain a country's current population level. At various times birthrates have fallen below the replacement rate, but for the first time on record, birthrates in southern and Eastern Europe had dropped below 1.3. At that rate, a country's population would be cut in half in 45 years.

    But even in developing countries, birthrates have plummeted from 6.0 globally in 1972 to 2.9 today as populations have shifted from rural areas to cities and people have adopted urban lifestyles. Nobody foresaw that the fertility rate would go so low. In the 1960s, the overall fertility rate in Italy was around two children per couple. Now it is about 1.3, and for some towns in Italy it is less than 1.

    Social conservatives after arguing for decades that the West had divorced itself from God and church feel statistically vindicated. "Europe is infected by a strange lack of desire for the future," Pope Benedict proclaimed in 2006. may "still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the Netherlands," these will "merely be designations for real estate."

    The main threats to Europe are economic. People everywhere are living longer, and lifespan is continuing to increase beyond what was once considered a natural limit. Policy makers fear that, these trends forecast a perfect demographic storm. Demographers and economists foresee that 30 million Europeans of working age will 'disappear' by 2050. At the same time, retirement will be lasting decades as the number of people in their 80s and 90s increases dramatically. There won't be enough workers to pay for the pensions of all those long-living retirees.

    Many observers have been surprised to find that in recent years "childlessness emerges as an ideal lifestyle." No one has figured out why some countries are more predisposed to childlessness than others.

    Some of the lowest fertility rates in the world are to be found in Italy, Spain and Greece.

    On the surface there are economic explanations for why this phenomenon has occurred in southern Europe. Italy pays the lowest starting wages of any country in the E.U., which causes young people to delay striking out on their own. In all of these countries, it's very difficult to combine work and family, because in these countries the gender relationships are very asymmetric.

    As women enter the job market, a society's fertility rate drops but in the developed world, and especially in Europe, the numbers don't bear it out. In fact, something like the opposite has been the case. In other words, working mothers are having more babies than stay-at-home moms.

    In Europe, many countries with greater gender equality have a greater social commitment to day care and other institutional support for working women, which gives those women the possibility of having second or third children.

    In Norway the state guarantees about 54 weeks of maternity leave, as well as 6 weeks of paternity leave. With the birth of a child comes a government payment of about 4,000 euros. State-subsidized day care is standard. It's an issue of making sure women and men have equal rights and opportunities.

    In Italy about 50% of Italian women work, compared with between 75% and 80% in Scandinavian countries. There is little state-financed child care, and most newlyweds still find homes close to one or both sets of parents. But this no longer works as it once did. In southern Europe having children is a financial sinkhole, which drags a family toward poverty. This flies in the face of social conservatives, who argue that simply encouraging people to have more babies will raise the population and add fuel to the economic engine.

    The Japanese government released figures showing that the country's under-14 population was the lowest since 1908.

    Last year the fertility rate in the United States hit 2.1, the highest since the 1960s. Factor in immigration and in 2008 the population is 304 million, and the new projection for 2050 is 420 million.

    There is no single explanation for the relatively high U.S. fertility rate. Some commentators explain this in terms of the conservative and religiously oriented nature of American society. An American woman might suspend her career for three or five years to raise a family, expecting to be able to resume working; that happens far less easily in Europe.

    The most comprehensive study to date, which was conducted in 1997 and analyzed 22 countries, found that a 25% increase in child-related subsidies to couples resulted in an average of 0.07 more births per woman. A woman who knows she wants to have another child may do so sooner in order to take advantage of a payment.

    There is another obvious approach to increasing the population, lure them. The population flow largely went the other way during the first half of the 20th century, but immigration is quickly transforming European societies. Some are looking to Canada or Australia as models: selective immigration opening the door for those who have knowledge and training that will benefit the economy.

    The UK is going through a radical transformation largely as a result of immigration. Where a few years ago people were worrying about birthrate and falling population projections, a government report in late 2007 projected Britain would have 11 million more people by 2031 one estimate 69% of the growth would come from immigrants and their children.

    It doesn't mean that immigration is the answer to low birthrates. The actual numbers, according to several authorities, are discouraging over the long run. By one analysis of U.N. figures, Britain would need more than 60 million new immigrants by 2050 more than doubling the size of the country to keep its current ratio of workers to pensioners, and Germany would need a staggering 188 million immigrants in the same time period. Immigrants who come from cultures where large families are standard quickly adapt to the customs of their new homes. And eventually immigrants age, too, so that the benefit that incoming workers give to the pension system today becomes a drag on the system in the future.

    Other voices and more elemental questions. Is it possible to increase the population significantly? Is it even necessary? There are those who think that "lowest low" is not a looming disaster but more of a challenge, even an opportunity. The change that's required, they say, is not in breeding habits but thinking habits.

    A consortium of 17 cities in Germany has adopted an innovative strategy. Politicians and town planners in eastern Germany were forced to realize that the growth they were expecting with the turn to capitalism and representative government wasn't coming. They were in the economic malaise of the former Communist states and plummeting birthrates across the Continent.

    We had to tear down parts of our cities in order to grow, or to move forward. We understood that this was part of an international problem. So we sought help. According to some, a declining population presents opportunities, to increase efficiency and livability, to change lifestyle and environment for the better. By the year 2010, to come up with long-term redevelopment strategies appropriate to each to find a way for each city to shrink constructively.

    There are those who argue that low birthrate in itself is not a problem at all. Paul Ehrlich, said "It's insane to consider low birthrate as a crisis," "Basically every person I know in my section of the National Academy of Sciences thinks it's wonderful that rich countries are starting to shrink their populations to sustainable levels. We have to do that because we're wrecking our life-support systems."

    There is an error whereby birthrate is being blamed for future economic woes. The European population is declining, and I don't see that you can do much about that. But the real question is: How necessary is population growth to economic growth? I say not much. You can't have a country where everybody lives in a nursing home. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: growing population to accomodate old people when there is already a shortage or natural resources does not make sense! What will happen to the new people when they get old!!!

    Russian Population Dropped This Year

    January 8, 2008, United Press International

    Russia lost more than 200,000 people this year and this decline of 0.15% was smaller than in 2006, The country's population was 142 million as of Nov. 1. The death rate continued to exceed the birth rate, and the number of immigrants was up 87%. Most were from former Soviet republics.

    The working age population was 75.1 million or about 53% of the total population.

    If current trends continue, Russia's population will be one-third smaller in 2050 than it is now. The President has pushed to force the birth rate up, including increased maternity benefits and additional benefits for families with children. Real income grew by 10.1% in the first 11 months of 2007, with the top 10% of the population receiving more than 30% of all income. More than 15% of the population had incomes below the subsistence level. doclink

    Turkmenistan's Plan for Baby Boom

    March 5, 2008, unknown

    Turkmenistan's president announced incentives to women who give birth to eight or more children. Those who qualify will receive a payment of $250 and get lifetime benefits such as free dental care, utilities and public transport.

    There was a large increase in child mortality under the former President and the health system declined. Free health care was abolished, all hospitals outside the capital were closed, and thousands of health care personnel were sacked. The idea of trying to stimulate a baby boom by rewarding mothers is not unprecedented; after World War II the Soviet Union awarded medals to mothers of five or more children. This scheme will give $10 to every woman in the country, to mark International Women's Day on 8 March. doclink

    Russia's Birth, Mortality Rates to Equal by 2011 - Ministry

    January 29, 2008, RIA Novosti

    Russia's health ministry predicted that the birth rate in Russia would equal mortality rate by 2011.

    In the first eleven months of 2007 the mortality rate was 14.7 deaths per 1,000 live births, and 15.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006. The average mortality rate for the 27-member European Union in 2006 was 10.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. The first time in European modern history the death rate exceeded births.

    Experts are concerned that Russia will be hit by a demographic crisis in the near future: Russia's population could fall by 30% by the middle of the century.

    President Putin approved a set of targets to improve the country's demographic policy to 2025, designed to lower the national mortality rate, raise birth rates, improve national health and regulate immigration.

    In 2008-2010, the country plans to invest almost 500 billion rubles in socio-demographic programs.

    Maternity incentives, including payouts of about $9,500 for the birth of two or more children, were introduced in early 2007 following a presidential initiative. doclink

    U.S. Fertility Rate Hits 35-Year High, Stabilizing Population

    December 21, 2007, Washington Post

    The U.S. fertility rate (the average number of babies being born to each woman) increased 2% between 2005 and 2006, to 2.1. The rising fertility rate is unwelcome news to environmentalists, the "replacement rate" is considered desirable because it means a country is producing enough young people to replace and support aging workers without population growth being so high it taxes national resources.

    Industrialized countries have long had fertility rates below the replacement level, creating labor shortages and loss of cultural identity as the proportion of native-born residents shrinks in relation to immigrant populations. Over the long term you can't have significant continued growth or continued decline, neither is sustainable.

    Experts cite a complex mix of factors, including lower levels of birth control use, religious values that encourage childbearing, social conditions that make it easier for women to work and have families, and a growing Hispanic population.

    The rate dipped below replacement level in 1972 and hit a low of 1.7 in 1976, but it started rising again in the late 1970s. The population rose steadily nevertheless, however, due to, in part, immigration.

    The fertility rate finally surpassed the replacement threshold again in 2006. Teenagers may have had some impact, but the birthrate went up for every group, including women in their 20s. Some of the increase is explained by immigration. Foreign-born Hispanics have the highest fertility rate 2.9 (2.1), Asians (1.9) and whites (1.86). For developed countries, a replacement-level fertility rate is considered vital for supplying new workers to pay into the system to support retirees.

    If you're talking about replacing the births with migrants, that would lead to fundamental societal change for the receiving country.

    But not everyone sees growth as encouraging, given that the US remains a leading consumer of scarce natural resources.

    The world is consuming resources faster than the Earth can sustain over the longer term, forests are shrinking, fisheries are collapsing, water tables are falling. Large parts of the world's grasslands are deteriorating. The U.S. is already disproportionately responsible for that because of our very high consumption levels. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: contrary to what many people think, in a world of dwindling per capita resources, replacement rate is too high. Each offspring and/or new worker will use an additional share of the world's resources, leaving less and less for everyone, including retirees. It is time to stop thinking of growing the money supply, which only leads to inflation, and to start thinking about conservation of resources, which means reversing population growth, at least until there is a balance between the number of people and resources.

    Closing the 'Baby Gap'

    September 26, 2007, New York Times*

    In Japan, Russia, Germany and elsewhere in what gurus like to call "the global North," panic has set in about fertility declines, and couples are exhorted to have and are rewarded for producing more children. So fascinated are we in the developed world with this phenomenon that a misinterpretation of world population trends has taken hold.

    In a majority of nations, there is no shortage of babies. Women there are crying out for help in controlling their fertility. But when foreign aid priorities are set, family planning is no longer high on the list. The 1960s were the high point in family planning. Influential thinkers in richer countries came to accept that pushing family planning was a cultural or even political intrusion.

    President Bush has just barred for the fifth year U.S. government contributions to the U.N. Population Fund, which does more work in more countries than any other family-planning organization. His action is based on unsubstantiated claims, that the fund aids abortion in China. The U.S. is now $196 million in arrears.

    By 2025, the richer world will account for just over 1.25 billion of the projected global population of 7.9 billion; by 2050, 8 billion of the world's 9.2 billion people will be in poor nations. Almost all population growth will be among the people who already struggle hardest to survive.

    A large, young, productive workforce boosts an economy, through a higher birth rate and immigration, but when families and public services are overwhelmed by numbers, a terrible cycle of underachievement goes into motion.

    The exodus of desperate people from sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia is a symptom of the double burden of underdevelopment and overpopulation. Environmental damage is near- catastrophic. In India, nearly half the children are malnourished and no major city has running water 24 hours a day.

    Wouldn't the world's environment be better protected by offering more people a managed way to move to less-populated regions, perhaps through a new U.N. agency modeled on the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees?

    Wouldn't it be better to help developing nations achieve workable population levels through family planning, while filling current gaps in the working-age population of rich nations through immigration? Europe and Japan would rather have more babies. Does the world really need them? doclink

    Karen Gaia says: the trouble with moving people from poor countries to rich countries results in overextending the artificial sustainability of those countries whose economies are based on oil. All will collapse as is already happening in the US. The U.S. is already taking far more resources from other countires than it is providing in return.

    Aging, but Not Obsolete

    April 12, 2007, InterPress Service

    The U.N. Commission on Population and Development is discussing how to harness the untapped potential of older persons. The number of persons 60 or over will reach almost two billion in 2050.

    One speaker stressed that "the fact that people throughout the world live longer should be seen as an opportunity for both individuals and society." Global leaders are aware of some of the challenges posed by aging populations, which include higher costs for social services, labour shortages and higher costs for pensions and health care.

    Countries in the West would have to deal with the burden of chronic illness and the feminisation of ageing. The developing world, on the other hand, would have to deal with the burden of illness and maternal and infant mortality.

    We need older persons continue to consume, and contribute, whether in the informal or formal workplace. In the developing world there is a larger proportion of older people employed, because they need to earn their livelihood, and they remain a part of the workforce.

    Any structure that incentivises leaving the workforce is going to create problems. There are informal structures in the developing world that enable older people to contribute. In many instances in the developed world, the financial situation of retirees is better than when they were active in the workforce, they are wealthier, and their consumption is lower.

    People see retirement as freedom, they have already 'done their bit,' but a large incentive for people to continue to work is satisfaction. We have to find creative ways to incentivise this satisfaction and wellbeing. Phased retirement is being used by companies in the US to enable older people to contribute longer. This enables people past the retirement age to keep their jobs, but work less hours.

    Another strategy but a negative incentive, was cutting post-retirement medical benefits to coax people to stay at work. Average retirement ages have dropped, and this poses a threat to the financial viability of public budgets. Many older persons who would like to work longer were discriminated against and forced to leave the labour market prematurely or move to low-quality jobs.

    The main challenge for low-income countries is to extend social security coverage to the most vulnerable groups. The promotion of decent work is the best way to ensure social protection for all and to allow older age groups to remain active longer. In developing countries poverty among older populations was an increasing concern. Never before had so many people enjoyed such long and healthy lives.

    Countries need to change age structures with policies and programmes to meet the needs of all without compromising the rights of individuals to decide the size and timing of their families. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This discussion overlooks the strong possibility that there may not be enough jobs to go around. American workers are now being replaced by someone who will do it for less. They have priced themselves out of a job. Lowering a standard of living and not expecting to spend a fortune to prolong life may become necessary for the future sustainability of humankind.

    Government Moves to Boost Armenian Birth Rate

    August 7, 2007, Armenia Liberty

    The government approved a plan aimed at boosting the birth rate in Armenia. The $8.6 million program, financed by Western donors, is to boost the country's population. It is aimed at boosting the birth rate and creating favorable conditions for healthy childhood and maternity.

    Armenia's population has shrunk since the Soviet collapse as a result of the out-migration of hundreds of thousands of its citizens and a decreased birth rate. Giving birth in any maternity hospital is officially free of charge in Armenia. However, this is rarely enforced due to a well-entrenched system of informal payments levied from the parents and typically involves hundreds of dollars.

    The director of the Maternity and Gynecology Institute claimed that parents must pay only for having separate wards and other "special services" in maternity hospitals.

    In general, delivery is free of charge for socially vulnerable or poor people he told reporters. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: who is going to pay to raise, feed, and educate the child?

    Population and Perish

    September 12, 2007, Environment Australia

    Addressing a business luncheon at the Brisbane Club on Tuesday, September 4th, Mr Beattie said Australia's current ageing population was too small to meet future needs. The credentials of the Queensland government to make any statement on this issue are very poor. It has failed to plan for the large numbers of Australians attracted to SE Queensland when climate change data suggested that they could not be sustained. In South Australia there are targets for an increase in population in the face of water shortage. The pressure comes from commerce, the building and real estate interests. Governments worry about the increasing numbers of elderly Australians and reason that we need more young people to pay for them. How naive, population growth in perpetuity!

    No-one likes to talk about it, but population is the common denominator of climate change. Climate change cannot be arrested with an expanding population consuming food and resources. The 2 billion airline journeys each year are the fastest increasing cause of green house emissions, but the world's population by living and breathing creates 4 times as much carbon dioxide each year as the airlines. Even if the world managed to achieve a 52% cut in its 1990 emission levels by 2050 it would be cancelled out by population growth. The most effective global and national climate change strategy is to limit the size of the population.

    Procreation is a sensitive issue. This is why it's not on the climate change agenda. There is a similar conflict with the right not to vaccinate. Indeed personal liberty embraces the entire climate change debate. Remember that a non-existent person has no environmental footprint and if you decide to drop dead, emission saving is instant. Don't spoil the show by adding to emissions with cremation in a hardwood coffin. Set an example in a cardboard coffin buried under a native tree that will regenerate even if there is a bush fire. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This last paragraph is somewhat harsh, but it brings up a point: the earth cannot accomodate continuing population growth. The answer not only includes preventing a certain number of births and living simply, but also not attempting to prolong life forever.

    Low Birthrate Harming Romania

    October 2, 2007, Gulf Times

    The Romanian President said that he is worried his country was going through a demographic desert because of a drop in birthrates since 1990.

    In 17 years, Romania has lost 1.4 million people due to emigration and the lower birth rate. If this birth rate remains there will only be 16 million residents in Romania in 2050, 11 million in 2075 and 8.5 million in 2100. He said Romania needed to urgently review its demographic policies. In 2050, there will be 145 pensioners for every 100 active persons.

    That figure shows the burden that is weighing on the children's shoulders. doclink

    World Population Ageing 2007

    August 28, 2007, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population D

    Population ageing is without parallel in the history of humanity. The number of older persons is expected to exceed the number of children for the first time in 2047. In the more developed regions, the number of children dropped below that of older persons in 1998.

    Population ageing results from reductions of fertility that have become virtually universal. Population ageing has profound consequences for all facets of human life. In the economic area, ageing will have an impact on economic growth, savings, investment, consumption, labour markets, pensions, taxation and intergenerational transfers. In the social sphere, population ageing influences family composition and living arrangements, housing demand, migration trends, epidemiology and the need for health-care services. In the political arena, population ageing may shape voting patterns and political representation. Since 1950 the proportion of older persons has been passed from 8% in 1950 to 11% in 2007, and is expected to reach 22% in 2050. doclink

    Karen Gaia says: This article says nothing about the solutions to population ageing. My advice would be to plan ahead for baby booms so that the population is productive and can provide a future for themselves, including their older years. One of the ways a family can have a better future is to have a smaller family and to educate the children that the family does have.

    Catastrophists and Cornucopians

    paper by Maria Luisa Cohen

    To bring about destruction by overcrowding, we need only breed.

    Environmentalists have been accused of being prophets of doom. But lately laments from some commentators about the perils of population decline, say that the "Global Aging Crisis", stunts economic growth and as the cost of pensions and health care consume more of the nation's wealth, it will become difficult for Washington to sustain current levels of military spending or the number of men and women in uniform. What is at stake is the decline of capitalism, which has flourished with population growth.

    Governments, media, industries and business in general fear the ageing population in the developed world as against the youthful force of the developing world. Competition about power has got a new name : fertility. Since the UN has downgraded its global population projections, the reaction sounds like they have announced the fatal collision with an asteroid.

    Population will add by 2050, a population nearly the current size of India. Growth will be mostly in countries where women average six or more children. Predictions show an 85% chance that the world's population will stop growing before the end of the century and a 15% probability that the world's population at the end of the century will be lower than it is today. For some, the end to world population growth is welcome news for efforts towards sustainable development. Still, the pessimistic view of a population decline depends on the absolute faith in the benefits of population growth. Economists in the West have declared that it will be impossible to sustain the present system of old age pensions. The UN convened a group of experts to examine issues of population aging and decline. In 1937, Maynard Keynes said that the lack of demand from a declining population was the new threat. The Royal Commission reported in 1949 the danger of steady fall in birthrates since 1870. The lack of growth produces a stationary society especially if older people are excluded from the labour market. As life expectancy has increased in all the Western world, it has been associated with longer and healthier life spans in the older population. As a result, people can either work longer or consume less.

    Consuming less is anathema for the disciples of the Growth Factor. No society today is against the acceptance of such a dogma, which has become a quasi-religious belief system: economic growth is equivalent with population growth.

    The late Julian Simon advocated continued population growth long into the future. "We have the technology to feed, clothe, and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years". No population growth, no economic growth.

    The over-optimistic view that humanity's capacity to overcome every difficulty, has turned on its head, when confronted with the perspective of a diminishing population. If humans are so deft in inventing new solutions to ever increasing problems, so what stands in the way of creating new solutions to the demographic decline, publicised by the press and governments as the ultimate tragic event? We are being instructed to believe that the problem is just one of economics. Ecological concerns are not a priority, nor are related issues of resource's depletion, like energy availability and the like. The fact that many species are in danger of extinction is not a major concern, nor that natural beauty is disappearing under tons of concrete. Though it is undeniable that the density of human populations is responsible for all these destructive outcomes, it is also evident that not everybody is concerned with their disappearance, but rather that what interests people mostly is the sort of human societies that they like to live in, in their economic interest. If people examined the threat to their lives they would take into consideration other factors: Peak Oil is already upon us and its scarcity will profoundly impinge on lifestyle. They should recognise that a less populated world would have everything to gain in security, democracy, liberty, employment, resources availability.

    A report claimed that Britain needed to increase its fertility to prevent future tax rises. The report says, that we need more babies to pay for our pensioners but this ignores the fact that those babies will eventually become pensioners themselves. Population would thus have to go on increasing ad infinitum, something the planet cannot support. The European solutions is to fuel more pro-natalist propaganda and more immigration. This ignores the fact that the same immigrants will grow old, become pensioners themselves and in need of more support. More people means need for more people.

    Back in 1348, Europe suffered the Black Death or Plague, reduced the estimated European population by about a third. It also brought stability, progress and freedom from want to the people who escaped death. The great reduction in population created opportunities for the survivors and those who came after them; there were fewer people, more jobs and a higher standard of living. The status of women rose. Wages rose for common people. Talented young people were able to advance faster. The power of the kings declined more rapidly. Smaller families represent a great potential opportunity. The world is beset with social, political, and environmental challenges and crises-many caused by rampant population growth.

    If there is a time of plenty, this will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and miseries restored. Uncontrolled birth-rates lead to increased death-rates. It is hard to believe that this is not understood by those leaders who forbid their followers to use effective contraceptive methods. They express a preference for `natural' methods, and a natural method is exactly what they are going to get. It is called starvation.

    Policymakers should focus on the advantages of the median income on a per capita basis, that would make more individuals better off, rather than on the gross national product or national income. Governments hate a shrinking population because it restricts their power status, but what matters is GDP per person. The real crux of the population question is the quality of people's lives; to work, play and die with dignity; to have some sense that one's life has meaning and is connected with other people's lives. Let's look forward to our old age, when we will all be wiser, reasonably healthy and still active in contributing to society. doclink

    Birth Rate Hits 15-year High in Russia


    The birth rate over the first six months of 2007 has hit a 15-year high in Russia: between January and June 2007, 142,000 babies were born in the country. The number of childbirths increased 6.5% in the first half of 2007, while the number of deaths fell 6.5%.

    Two million women with children aged 18 months and younger were receiving maternity benefits. A program to increase the number of childbirths and improve the conditions of raising children was launched in Russia on January 1. The birth of a family's first child is welcomed with a non-recurrent payment of RUR8,000 from the federal budget. The amount is increased to RUR10,000 with the birth of a second child. In addition, parents receive a RUR250,000 certificate, redeemable after the child turns three.

    The Russian population is expected to decline by five million by 2020. There are currently 74.3m economically active people in Russia, which represents 52% of Russia's overall population. If the demographic problem is not addressed, the Russian population will have shrunk by one third in 40-50 years.

    Out of the 143.1m people registered in 2005, only 138.1m will remain by 2020. doclink

    Romanians Burdened by Birth Rate Decline

    September 25, 2007, Forbes

    Romania's population is dwindling and retirees would place an increasingly heavy burden on the country's working population.

    Authorities should do more to support women who have young children.

    Creches and kindergartens are not free, and childcare facilities are lacking. Romania has four million employed people, while retirees number six million.

    Romania had a population of 23 million in 1989. It has dropped to fewer than 22 million and is set to decline further.

    In the 1990s, many people opted to not have children owing to economic instability. Birth rates have fallen especially in villages, where poverty is higher and many younger women have traveled to Western Europe to find work. By 2050 there would be 100 working age people, to 149 citizens of retirement age.

    Ceausescu tried to increase Romanian's population by banning contraception and abortion. Women who had five children were given financial benefits doclink

    Ralph says: It is time that we began to plan for a stable population, we cannot expect populations to grow for ever!!!!