Here’s my story, just posted, on the aging of the human population, which hits 7 billion on Oct. 31, according to the United Nations. (Of course it’s just an approximation [see this story by my colleague Darryl Fears] — no one can say how many people there are, exactly, and the Population Reference Bureau has said we already hit the milestone). My story focuses on the demographic transition — longer lives, lower fertility, the consequences thereof. Juliet Eilperin had an earlier story on the environmental and resource issues. And Simon Denyer had a piece on India’s population pressures.
Excerpt from my story:
The aging of the human race has been faster than anyone could have imagined a few decades ago. Fertility rates have plunged globally and, simultaneously, life spans have increased. The result is a recontoured age graph: The pyramid, once with a tiny number of old folks at the peak and a broad foundation of children, is inverting. In wealthy countries, the graph already has a pronounced middle-age spread.
This is, in many respects, very good news. Longer life is a blessing of modern medicine and improvements in nutrition. Lower fertility corresponds to greater prosperity and education. Women have gained more control over their reproductive lives.
But the unexpectedly abrupt demographic transition has created economic upheaval. For the countries that hit the fertility brakes the hardest, the graying of society has become a full-blown crisis. They’re suddenly desperate for babies. They need more workers to provide goods and services to huge numbers of pensioners.
[I write that human population has more than doubled since Obama was born. Mudge annotates: “I just knew Obama was going to get the blame for this.”]
This might be a good time for me to insert a link to the AARP’s new ad showing a senior citizen daring lawmakers to cut Social Security and Medicare. The guy looks into the camera, as seniors form a crowd behind him, and says:
“I’m not a number. I’m not a line item on a budget. And I’m definitely not a pushover. But I am a voter. So Washington, before you even think about cutting my Medicare and Social Security benefits, here’s a number you should remember: 50 million. We are 50 millions seniors who earned our benefits. You will be hearing from us: today and on election day.”
Here’s a blog item I did a while back on the Anthropocene.
It’s not true, as someone wrote this morning, that no one’s in the newsroom today. I saw Michael Chandler, author of a new blog,.which has a fab discussion of “freaking” and the horrified parents of teenagers grinding and bumping and shirt-hiking and whatnot on the dance floor (apaprently it is a mistake for us older folks to interpret this as overly sexualized dancing, to wit: “Grinding has little sexual meaning to most teens, he wrote. Rather, it’s the basic dancing style of their generation and it’s as prevalent at bar mitzvahs and house parties as it is at school dances.” Uh huh.)