In one of his world’s Clifford Simak had a near depopulated Earth, in which each human remaining had retreated to his country estate and lived like an English gentleman of the golden era, attended by android servants.
When I was little, lying in bed, reading these books, after the daily Malthusian sermon at school, this place and time seemed very desirable. (To be fair it still does. That’s the appeal of a certain type of escapist novel, and why people keep reading them and writing them. I mean, look, which of us given the choice wouldn’t live at Manderley or Pemberley as lord or lady of the manor, if it came staffed with androids, to whom we owed no real responsibility, and had all modern conveniences?) Sure, every man a Lord, every woman a lady, but more importantly the kind of life that instinctively appeals to those of us who grew up in places with deep history: generations, living in one house. Growing old watching ones grandkids play in the same fields we played in (which are not covered by concrete) and then lying at rest besides the graves of one’s ancestors.
Even those of us who chose — of our own volition — a much different path, and have as restless feet as cats who never had them rubbed with butter, feel a certain atavistic appeal to that kind of dream.
For a long time, I held on to that dream, that thought. If somehow the Earth’s human population went down — in Simak’s case it was through going to space — then we could have that. Well, given a bit more development in robots, and the creation of android-like ones. (Because if you don’t have enough humans around, then having robots that look like humans is important. We are creatures of the band.)
In fact, I pretty much grew up believing all the crap they taught us in school. The Earth was over populated. We were destroying what was needed for a stable Earth environment, because there were so many of us. We were going to freeze! After we were nuked till we glowed. Oh, and oil was running out. So the post-apocalyptic world would be very cold and very limited. And all of it. I even believed in global warming, briefly, in the late eighties, because well, it was Scientific American (stop laughing) and they wouldn’t publish crazy non-scientific stuff. Maybe they had calculated wrong, when they espected the ice age.
When I was 29 someone sent me an issue of Reason. Well, actually a six month (?) subscription to Reason, which was back then much better, under the admirable direction of Virginia Postrel. I remember clearly when I got the first issue, because it was such a pivot point in my life. We were living in a rented house in Columbia, South Carolina, while getting our house in Charlotte ready to sell on weekends. We had three cars but usually only one working car at a time (yes, like that) and my husband worked way too much. But on Friday night, he picked me and #1son, who was just walking, from the house in Columbia, and we drove to Charlotte, to work on the other house. (Paint, clean up, re-flooring. The usual.)
That day we went outside, and to the mailbox, then came back and I sat down on the steps, blocking the exit from the large iron-railing enclosed space. This was great, because there was nothing there to hurt the kid. I mean he could throw the rug around and/or knock on the door but that was it. So I had time to read this magazine I had just gotten.
A year later, when we were living in a downtown apartment in Colorado Springs, I was still reading Reason and still re-adjusting my perceptions of the world. Until one day the monstrous but liberating hypothesis penetrated my brain: What if everything they taught me to believe about the excess of humanity, the inevitable depletion of oil, the bad effects humans have on the planet is a lie?
I didn’t tell anyone. DUH. I know what happens when you dye a monkey pink and put it in the middle of the band. Heck, I don’t think I told my husband about it.
And then, of course, we got the net. Well, we had it at the time, but it was all um… limited to the network you were on, and Dan refused to get AOL for the same reason he doesn’t like adobe products. Prejudice of someone who works in the field.
So, I first read the Colorado Springs library dry. Mostly non-fic tbh. Mysteries I bought in Denver’s mystery bookstore, three huge bags, twice or three times a year. But I always read a ton of non-fiction, and it’s more predicated on what I stumble on, and whatever grabs me right then than any reasonable or sane plan. In those days, in addition to what was available to borrow, we also attended every library sale we could find, and I would by whatever my latest obsession was. (We get rid of 2/3 of our books every time we move, then they come back.) I still do the same online, where I will pursue a rabbit hole and read a subject dry.
Then we moved to Manitou Springs, where the library is far more limited but — ahah — since husband worked for MCI we got some kind of deal on dial up internet. I honestly don’t remember. It’s possible it was unmetered in some way. What I know is my writer friends came to my house to look up things on line, and I became a minor goddling of search engines.
The kids were small (#2 son was one when we moved there) and while I wrote, I mostly wrote while the kid and later kids were in school. Because it’s really hard to write when WWIII breaks out at your feet on the floor, over THAT lego piece both want. But it’s perfectly fine to jump around on the net, reading about whatever caught your attention.
And then there was Amazon and I could buy books to feed whatever the elephant child got obsessed with.
At some point in the late nineties, I started to getting the nagging feeling that while most of what we’d been fed was a lie, the “population bomb” was a particularly eggregious lie.
Going back, I looked at things like claims that while I was growing up Portugal had an average 5 children per woman of child bearing age. Look, not unless one woman in a hundred were kept in an underground chamber having nine children at once for her entire life. Not just her entire reproductive lie, her entire life. While Portugal wasn’t as …. child-scarce as it is now, it was still rare, for my generation — as opposed to mom’s and dad’s — to have more than two. Or for educated people to have more than one. And by educated read “has enough schooling to work a white collar job.” To that joined the aristocracy of blue collar: people who owned shops, or factories, or repair concerns, or who were simply very skilled and/or well paid in blue collar professions. They also rarely had more than the one precious child.
Then I poked around at other places.
Um…. you don’t know my methods, because to be honest I don’t know them myself. My brain works in weird lurches and pivots. Yes, that’s how I get books, but it’s also how I get…. everything.
My brain is an indiscriminate cement mixer. Unless I’m in the grip of one of my (rare but usually persistent) obsessions, which usually means a book is gestating at a level I’m not aware of, during which time I read only one subject or maybe two. (Marian apparitions: real, fake, and uh… that is just wrong and probably false flag took over my brain for two months, which is how we got Deep Pink.) When I’m not running under a “craving of the mind” I read pretty much whatever. Including college books on economics, or biology, or whatever.
And then out of the mess ideas form about how things work, or why such and such an event went this way.
The weird thing is, as opposed to things I think through carefully, using my reason, these sudden “certainties” are almost always right. I say almost always because some might yet prove wrong. I just haven’t talked about some of them yet. To anyone.
More often than not, when I get one of these and talk to experts in the field, they look at me and go “Of course, this is known.” Well, yeah…
The population thing was so bizarre, I did talk. First to a fellow writer who told me I was crazy. She knew that population was growing, because her native city had grown over fields and meadows.
Never could convince her that we have different ideas in lodging than our grandparents did, which take more space; that there has been a move to the cities starting about oh…. 1920 in the US? Maybe earlier. And since agriculture takes fewer and fewer people to work at it, we have more and more people moving away from ancestral farms. Also the US is a country of immigrants, but that’s something else entirely and we’ll touch on it later.
The place I grew up is also, now, a suburb of the nearest largest city — Porto — and the fields and meadows where I played while grandmother gathered grass for the rabbits are either under a high way or a stack-a-prol block of apartments. It’s one or the other.
But does that betoken larger population for the country as a whole? Well, from the seventies on, Portugal became a little like Florida for the Brits. Definitely since the EU. It also took in a lot of Eastern Block refugees (they drove those Trabants as far as they could, and since Portugal ends in the sea…). And a lot of Chinese escaped Macau.
But with all that, yeah, the places near the big cities have exploded.
However, if you ever visit, drive to the mountains. Do. They’re not very big mountains. Jumped-up hills, but pretty. And if you get there, spend some time just LISTENING. There’s nothing. No sound, nothing. That sense of vast unoccupied spaces.
By the nineties, land in the remote parts of Portugal was cheap, and a lot of ancestral farms were empty and crumbling. So were farms and entire cities in Kansas. Starting at the same time, people started sounding the alarm about this, and asking how to repopulate the hinterlands.
And I was sure then. Sure that the population might be becoming more urban, acquiring different habits, etc. But it was not in point of fact growing at anywhere near the numbers that showed on paper.
Deep dives on the internet showed we have one of the most reliable census processes and — snort, giggle — you know what a sh*tshow it is, particularly since the Clintons when they decided to add a random number to cities, because of people were “uncounted.” (Those shy, shy homeless people.)
In most other countries, even the Portugal I grew up in, any count by the government becomes a chance to mess with the government.
So, for instance, when I was little you had to — probably still do — pay a license for radios (and TVs but there were only two in the village) every year. And there was a radio/tv inspector (I SWEAR I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP) who came to the village once a year, to make sure we had proper licenses for all our receivers.
As soon as he showed his nose at the entrance to the village (there was only one entrance if you came by bus from the city, and he did) word went out. Grandmas hurried out on unavoidable errands. Kiddies were sent to visit the neighbors.
Before he reached the old cross, at the entrance of the village proper, the whole village knew, and were rushing home, to hide the multiple radios. I mean our family had three. I don’t think we paid license for any. Grandma had maybe two maybe three (I don’t remember if grandad had one in the workshop, but I think he might, in which case it was three, and if cousin had one to listen to music four. I just don’t remember) , but she paid license for the old one (it was cheaper) and since it was a large radio, on a shelf over the kitchen table, with a doily under it, it was kind of hard to hide.
Anyway, I think in the end the government KNEW there were like one radio per ten households in the city, and probably the only TV counted was the one in the coffee shop (again, hard to hide.) Very bucolic and backwards was the village, in government documents. Probably still is as mom who wavers between being addicted to Brazilian soap operas and being addicted to PBS style programs on history and such, has her TV dish in the attic. Under the roof. (No, I don’t know how it works, but I assume that there’s some special arrangement on a portion of the roof, or possibly the dish is different, because, well, it’s Portugal. The rapidity with which my DIL’s dad, who was there for four days, learned to say “Forget it Jack, it’s Portugal” was gratifying.)
The same sort of games went on with censuses, particularly if a census worker came through personally. Look, all children might not look alike, but if you change their clothes, and they’re playing in a big bunch, do you know you saw them at another house before? And you know, the government pays support every month for every kid whose parents are below a certain threshold in income.
And I suspect that when the papers hit the desk of some bureaucrat the same happens again, only more bloodless and with pen and paper. Because Portugal is, technically speaking, a welfare mother. I.e. it gets payments, per capita, from better off countries, as part of the global redistribution shell game whereby those who don’t work as hard and squander what they make are entitled to the income of those who make more. (And that’s a discussion for another time, but seriously. I know the left looks at the relative poverty of the third world, and the wealth of the west and thinks that’s because we stole from them. This is akin to thinking I stole my house from a homeless man on crack. Some of the richest-in-resources countries in the world are the poorest. No one stole their resources. They’re still there. But they have toxic cultures that prevent their use. And then we taught them — G-d forgive us — Marxism, which makes it impossible for them to correct the problem.) Anyway, Portugal used to suck IMF teat, and now sucks EU teat (to be fair, Germany wanted Europe, they deserve it.) And the more people you have, the more the teat produces. Even if half of these people are imaginary.
Oh, and Portugal when I was growing up was AT LEAST a second world country. Maybe first and a half. (Yes, I know that’s not what that meant, but it conveys the idea.) What I mean is, even now, it’s the place Brazilians studying engineering in the US (and there’s a lot of them) dream of going to work. And back then it had antibiotics, and TV and trains, and it wasn’t excessively tribal. Oh, it also had industry. So it’s not some completely backwards place.
I want you to stop and take a deep breath. Look at the countries that claim their population is still growing by leaps and bounds: they’re all net recipients of international aid. Every one of them.
Maybe not in money, as far as the Arab countries are concerned, but in immigration visas, opportunities for education, etc.
Now, another deep breath, because we’re in deep heresy here: look at those countries. Do you really think countries in Africa or even the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) or the Indian subcontinent do a proper census? As in mail forms to every household to be filled? Or send people out, briefcase in hand?
If you think so, you’re suffering from cultural provincialism. In most of those countries there MIGHT be a census bureau. Opportunity to employ relatives, yo. But that’s about it. At the time to send the yearly graft to the US, they look around and go, my mom has three kids, call it eight. My wife has one, call it five. UN we have starving millions. IMF save us!”
But, you’ll say, (and people said the last time I wrote on this topic, which I revisit periodically), what about all the immigrants from Africa and the Arab countries to the West? Doesn’t that prove their population is exploding?
No more than the growth of cities. BTW I’m not the only to say this, though I can’t now find the article about how the population is falling off a cliff in Arab countries, because…. well…. women poked at the internet and discovered the rhythm method. No. I kid you not. Turns out when you’re effectively enslaved you might not want to have a passel of kids for your owner.
The problem being, because of the polygamic system and the culture, and– Arab countries can’t really provide for their population or at least not at modern levels. So. It’s compounded of other things: most things are. There’s also the fact that the West is Welfare land giving you money for nothing and your chicks for free, and the fact that Islamic culture has deep-set mythos of world conquest/re-conquest that impels people to make them come true.
I will bet you money though every one of those immigrants to the west is still being counted at their place of origin, too. Because it is the same with emigrants in Portugal, or was when I was growing up. You report the absent child, first, because they can collect unemployment (seriously? You didn’t see that coming?) second because they can come back and resume their lives at any moment. Even those who insist they won’t, the family tends to keep a candle lit for.
So, since the late nineties, I’ve been convinced that the world population was not only not growing (even with the added longevity of modern medicine) but was already headed down down dubeedoo. And that at some point it would become impossible to recover.
Things trickled to me, but from unverifiable sources. Mostly people who were translators for globe trotting NGOs.
Such as that Mexico City, for one, doesn’t have the water needed for the claimed population. Hell, not for half the claimed population. And no, we’re not talking at American levels of water use. Just enough for everyone not to die, if they also drank beer and wine. And in Africa it’s even more so, with the cities having to be by the mathematical inevitability of supply and needed resources to live, no more than between a third and a tenth their reported population.
And then I noticed other stuff: For instance, Heinlein spotted that the USSR couldn’t possibly have the population it claimed, even if the CIA bought the spit-out-numbers hook line and sinker. When the USSR fell, we realized that hell yeah, it couldn’t have the population it claimed, and the numbers were revised down. But the global population numbers weren’t.
Things that weren’t reported, like when Dave Freer told me Africa had a massive number of orphans, because a ton of people died of AIDS which for cultural reasons went beyond the gay community (if there is one, which I doubt) there. But were those people counted as dead? Their reproductive life taken in account as shortened? Um…. no.
In face, though recently they started revising the growth projections down, officialdom never revised THE POPULATION totals down, even when it was obvious they had miscounted.
Yesterday we got an announcement that China is in probably irretrievable population collapse. Is it real or memorex?
I don’t know. Totalitarians wouldn’t want to admit to a falling population. OTOH I very much doubt totalitarian regimes have ANY accurate information, including number of people or children. On the third hand (I write science fiction. Also shush) it makes sense of their economy and society, and stuff that leaks out now and then. Oh, and the fact they’re a crazy dictatorship works on population like the fact that Muslim women are second class citizens. Slaves don’t like having children for their masters.
So, here we are. This post was brought about by the fact that I have, since the early two thousands thought that falling population, HEAVILY weighted to the older ranges was the only way to explain the strange gyrations of the world economy. And why we haven’t crashed hard yet, despite a number of democrats running with printing press. And yesterday BGE who knows more about economics than I do mentioned the same in the comments, and that the pressure is — therefore, and it would be in a falling-like-a-rock population scenario — DEflationary.
This makes perfect sense of Western governments obsession with Mo’e money given out. And spending on the craziest shit.
Yes, I know, it more or less always does, but listen to me, the way they’ve been going would cause a total collapse, and they can’t be completely stupid. Stupid, yes, but not that stupid. Unless they’re desperately trying to keep the fiat currencies from fatally deflating with a bang at the same time the world spirals into depression.
Supposing they’ve realized what is really happening, and I suspect they have because: open borders. I knew because it was a more or less open secret in Europe that this was the reason Germany was importing Muslims faster than you could say “we both hate the Jews. Join with us.”
Part of the issue with that, of course, is that the left — most of the immigration schemes are left, though not all — thinks that humans are interchangeable widgets. Take a Muslim immigrant, bring him to Sweden and he’ll be a Swede.
Replacing the population for the votes? Sure. But….. hey, Europe voted socialist anyway, so what would possess them? Well, a fatal lack of people. And stupidity. We can’t forget stupidity.
Same here, where yeah, they think people who can tan vote dem, but beyond that, I think they’re sniffing the air and realizing the population is falling. And they’re stupid. So, you know, someone who’s never seen a toilet from a village in the Andes, can move to NYC, take welfare, never work, and their kids will be stock brokers. (They missed something in that process. It’s called assimilation. And that it doesn’t happen during mass migration, no matter how enforced. And it isn’t now.)
You see, modern civilization, with welfare, and the great society — rinses mouth with soap — DEPENDS on each generation being bigger than the last. Not just for welfare, but to keep the fiat currencies inflating slightly, to keep houses valuing, to keep the things we take for granted happening.
When the next generation is smaller and then smaller again…. we’re in uncharted waters.
Add to this questions no one has bothered asking, like “What minimum amount of population do you need to retain a tech civilization?” because you know, it takes a particular kind of mind (and now I wonder if that’s why they’re watering down STEM.) And “how fast can we reorganize economic and social life, so civilization isn’t wiped out?” And others, I’m sure you can think of yourselves.
BUT SARAH, you say, the elite is also still preaching the population bomb, and pushing women to work outside the house, and–
Oh, sure. If anyone has awareness of the real trouble, it would be at the highest levels, and justifications found for the drones.
But living through the covidiocy has given me some insight into how this works: you see, big government made a big blunder when it was fresh and new and shining with paint, when the boomers were little.
They believed prophets and soothsayers, and continued believing them when their lies and prognostications got crazier.
Ancient regimes used to stone soothsayers. Now we let them stone themselves, ramble Marxistly, and we believe them. Paul Ehrlich, when civilization collapses, the fingerprints on its collapse will be yours.
Paul Ehrlich is the most egregious, but there were thousands of them all through the late twentieth century. And the idiot politicians and bureaucrats BELIEVED their bullshit without checking. (I don’t think they caught on till the collapse of 06, and probably most still don’t know or believe.)
And they did what they did with the Covidiocy. Propaganda was blasted at the masses, in an effort to get them to behave “properly” — that is how the elite thinks they should — “TOO MANY PEOPLE, YOU ARE KILLING THE EARTH, SCARCITY EVERYTHING. REEEEEEEEEEEE.”
Well, people were behaving according to the real signals around them, like we were around March 2020. And then the propaganda wave hit, relentless. And suddenly even a little girl in a completely non populated village in Portugal believed that the world had too many people and we were going to run out of everything and ahhhhhhh!
And the population plunged. Hard. Yes, there were other factors that would probably have taken it down anyway: women in the work force means late marriage age which means fewer kids, for instance. And other stuff. But the fact governments believed the bullshit and started penalizing having kids didn’t help.
We probably would have a minor correction without this craziness.
And now, now that they’re starting to get the feel for the trouble we’re in? They’re terrified the people will catch on, terrified to admit it. JUST LIKE WITH THE COVIDIOCY.
Instead they’re hoping to keep the top spinning till they exit stage left, and apres moi le delluge.
Possibly the only way to return the population to numbers that will give us time to adjust to the idea that each generation won’t grow exponentially, and to prepare for whatever THAT economy will look like (Not big government blue, for sure) would be for government and the press (but I repeat myself) to pivot on that mass insanity now and start encouraging people to have more kids by every means available, including putting research money into reproductive technologies, and perhaps subsidizing infertility treatments, up to surrogacy for a short time.
What they’re actually doing is spinning as fast as they can, WHILE a portion of them tries to prepare us for extinction will bullshit like the Green New Deal which is all about leaving the Earth pristine when we self flush.
They’ll pivot. In ten years or so. If I’m still alive, I’ll see commercials about a woman’s duty to have one or two children out of wedlock (and put them up for adoption, send them to be raised in creches, or giving them to parents to raise) before going off to school and a career and eventual marriage and legitimate children. They’ll say you should be pregnant by your Junior year in high school because it’s good for you (possibly true, given modern medicine) and your nation needs your babies. (Yes, I know it’s insane, but I also know it will happen. Ten, twenty years at most.)
By then it will probably be WAY too late to prevent a hard crash of most industrial economies. And we won’t have the time to retool for what comes next.
So, what do you do? I don’t know. Look, I could be wrong, though not as wrong as Ehrlich. Maybe we have just enough time. If you can, consider having kids. Consider having three kids if you can.
If you’re a woman in your late twenties and you haven’t found the right guy? Consider having some eggs frozen. Or maybe an ovary. Yes, I know it’s expensive, but honestly, we need to start crowdfunding this stuff. And I’ll help if I can. And no it’s not guaranteed you can conceive by those means, but at least you’ll have a chance.
I’m not you. I can’t speak to your religious or ethical restraints, but in the absence of those, look for all available means to have kids, and again crowd fund if needed (we should have charitable organizations for this purpose.)
Have another kid. Have two. Have three. Consider if you can have more.
Because the likely result of the path we’re on is not a family living on an estate with androids doing all the hard work, and visiting other estates in pomp and circumstance.
I’m afraid if we don’t turn this boat around — without and against our institutions’ strenuous bullshit — the end result is a lone savage, clad in the rags of civilization walking the Earth trying to find a mate, or even a friend.
And possibly still wearing a mask.