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Everything You Need to Know About Japan's Population Crisis

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Last week we focused on stories about economic growth at Growth Bias Busted. This week we’ll put population growth under the microscope. Let’s start with a story that exemplifies hand-wringing about the population bubble working its way out of our world.

Japan has for some time been the poster-child for worries about the bogeyman known as (cue the tense music) an “aging population” (gasp)! So important is this story, TheWeek.com assigned assistant photo editor Sarah Eberspacher to write Everything You Need to Know About Japan's Population Crisis. She leads her report with:

“Why is Japan in trouble? 
The Japanese now have one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, and at the same time, one of the highest longevity rates. As a result, the population is dropping rapidly, and becoming increasingly weighted toward older people.”

You might think low fertility would be smart on an island nation with 126 million people occupying 146,000 square miles 378,000 square km). Over 30 million reside in one city – Tokyo. The Japanese have for many years had to import many essentials from other nations; the land mass known as Japan won’t support 126 million people. But, even in a full world, Ms. Eberspacher advises the Japanese should avoid all efforts to live sustainably, within the carrying capacity of their country:

Without a dramatic change in either the birthrate or its restrictive immigration policies, Japan simply won't have enough workers to support its retirees, and will enter a demographic death spiral.”

In exploring the reasons for Japanese choosing small families, Sarah fails to consider the possibility they may be smart enough to see the collapse that will come from human overpopulation if we don’t all start exercising some reproductive intelligence. Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich offered this comment about the report:

“There's no crisis, just a triumph  -- Japan like every nation, especially rich overconsuming ones, needs a shrinking population and is pioneering in that respect.  Good example of journalists not ‘getting it."

If you’re tempted to buy into the myth that an aging population is bad news, take a look at this brief video I put together, from interviews I did a few years ago with Ehrlich and Population Media Center president Bill Ryerson. In 2-1/2 minutes they completely put to rest this myth. I hope Sarah takes a look at so it can inform her future reporting.

Then read all about the much-feared “demographic death spiral” (you know, the one that threatens to leave some planet for future generations and extend the life of our civilization?) in Sarah Eberspacher’s ill-informed report.

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  • Heinz de Chelard
    Heinz de Chelard Tuesday, 21 January 2014

    I was in Japan in 2007 and despite the dominant view held by the west that they are in dire economic straits they seemed a pretty happy bunch to me. This fear/anger of developed countries that one of us has broken ranks and gone against the growth at all costs paradigm may be similar to the fear and anger you encounter when you tell people that you don't spend money on unnecessary stuff and that you are actually very happy with your life. By not following the crowd you are causing them to question their own values, and they don't like being made to do that so their reaction is typically one of anger directed against you.


  • Dave Gardner
    Dave Gardner Friday, 24 January 2014

    More insanity - another "crisis" imagined, in Azerbaijan: http://abc.az/eng/news_24_01_2014_78923.html

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