I’ve been reading ‘America Alone’ by Mark Steyn (Regency Publishing, 2006). Subtitled ‘The End of the World As We Know It,’ Steyn looks at the next 30-40 years demographically, and finds some amazing trends.
Steyn’s a tad alarmist in his fairly right-wing thinking and admits it; nonetheless, even when one overlooks his biases, there are some fascinating projections to be made of what the world’s populations, economy, and politics will look like.
To wit: He calls Russia the “most ill country in the world,” in terms of the demographic changes that are occurring. It has one of the lowest birthrates (1.2 children per woman), the highest abortion rate (70 per 100 pregnancies), one of the fastest growing HIV rates (1% of the population is infected, a figure that the World Health Organization uses in sub-Saharan Africa to indicate a diseases “plague” status), and the lowest age expectancy among men (58.9 years)- even lower than the men of Bangladesh. Russian women’s life expectancy is nearly that of American women (77+).
All of that, within the next several decades, equals a drastically declining population in Russia, a wide gulf between the number of men and the number of women- particularly young men, and an absolute mess of what is an already hugely messy economy.
Now, those population demographics are not true in all in all 89 of Russia’s federal provinces. 12 of them are enjoying high birth rates, a much smaller rate in the growth of HIV infections, and a much more stable ratio between the numbers of males and females. And those 12 provinces are all ..drumroll..Islamic, in terms of their majority populations.
Russia is, Steyn says, indicative of what’s happening to birthrates throughout Europe. Italy also has a fertility rate of 1.2; by 2050, 60% of Italian adults will have no siblings, no cousins, and no aunts or uncles! And it’s becoming so in France, and England, and the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Scandanavian countries- except for each of their (so far) unassimilated, but growing Muslim populations
The story in the U.S. and Canada is only (very) slightly better demographically, and that ‘slightly better’ birthrate is largely because of recent immigrant populations.
Let your imaginations loose on even these few facts, and it is not hard at all to imagine alliances between Russia (which still has a huge nuclear arsenal), China (which has far too many men- 119 of them for every 100 women), and various bordering Islamic countries who have not only strength in numbers, but great strength in religious ideologies as well, and the demonstrated abilities to wield that strength.
This is not something any nation can do a whole lot about, either. Demographic facts roll through history at a much slower rate than do new ideas about changing them. In other words, whatever great ideas are come up with, in the next year or so, if they are come up with at all, will take decades to implement. And decades from now, things will be very different.
All of the above is disturbing, if the status quo, or anything close to it, is our standard for “the way things should be.” It is very disturbing on another level, though, in that Curiosity has traditionally been suppressed in the theocracies of history. I want to think out loud about some of these things tomorrow.
For now, though, I just can’t get over what an amazing, fascinating, invigorating time in history it is to be alive, and observing, and wondering.
Need proof of that last statement, and a quick antidote to any discouragement you may be feeling right about now? Try this; it is a masterpiece in the making: