Will the world run out of people?


But, this was a fascinating interview about how the standard UN predictions for population may be much too high.  And largely because they completely fail to account for one of the key drivers in fertility rates: women’s education.  Very interesting stuff here:

 By 2100, that number will balloon to 11 billion, pushing society into a Soylent Green scenario. Such dire population predictions aren’t the stuff of sci-fi; those numbers come from one of the most trusted world authorities, the United Nations.

But what if they’re wrong? Not like, off by a rounding error, but like totally, completely goofed?

That’s the conclusion Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrell Bricker come to in their newest book, Empty Planet, due out February 5th. After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. “In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline,” they write. “Once that decline begins, it will never end.”…

DB: So, the UN forecasting model inputs three things: fertility rates, migration rates, and death rates. It doesn’t take into account the expansion of education for females or the speed of urbanization (which are in some ways linked). The UN says they’re already baked into the numbers. But when I went and interviewed [the demographer] Wolfgang Lutz in Vienna, which was one of the first things we did, he walked me through his projections, and I walked out of the room gobsmacked. All he was doing was adding one new variable to the forecast: the level of improvement in female education. And he comes up with a much lower number for global population in 2100, somewhere between 8 billion and 9 billion.

JI: Lutz has this saying that the most important reproductive organ for human beings is your mind. That if you change how someone thinks about reproduction, you change everything. Based on his analysis, the single biggest effect on fertility is the education of women. The UN has a grim view of Africa. It doesn’t predict much change in terms of fertility over the first quarter of the century. But large parts of African are urbanizing at two times the rate of the global average. If you go to Kenya today, women have the same elementary education levels as men. As many girls as boys are sitting for graduation exams. So we’re not prepared to predict that Africa will stagnate in rural poverty for the rest of the century.

DB: And that’s just one cultural variable. So you can say that the old models always worked in the past, but what if the past is not prologue? What if we’re moving into a different cultural moment? What if it’s accelerating? And what if that cultural moment really is about the personal decisions women make about their lives?

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Republicans want to make it easier for you steal a gun

Seriously.  Kind of.

The New Yorker with a terrific photo essay on the lives of stolen guns and (largely failed) efforts to make gun theft harder.

in recent years, burglaries at gun shops and other federal firearms licensees have increased, from three hundred and seventy-seven, in 2012, to five hundred and seventy-seven, in 2017. This is partly because guns are so readily available. There are some sixty-three thousand licensed gun dealers in America—more than twice the number of McDonald’s and Starbucks locations combined. These retailers operate out of storefronts, pawnshops, and homes. (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives doesn’t specify how many dealers are based in homes, but officials say that the majority of thefts occur in brick-and-mortar stores.) Federal regulators have set strict security protocols for other businesses that deal in dangerous products. Pharmacies must lock opioids and other controlled substances in fortified cabinets. Explosives makers have to keep volatile materials in boxes or rooms capable of withstanding explosions. Banks, in order to maintain federal deposit insurance, have to hire security officers. But there are no such requirements for gun stores, and criminals are taking advantage. [emphases mine] Between 2012 and 2017, burglars stole more than thirty-two thousand firearms from gun dealers. “Lost and stolen firearms pose a substantial threat to public safety and to law enforcement,” the A.T.F. wrote, in a 2012 report. “Those that steal firearms commit violent crimes with stolen guns, transfer stolen firearms to others who commit crimes, and create an unregulated secondary market.”…

Efforts to expand such requirements to other states have succumbed to stiff opposition from gun-rights groups and their Republican allies.

On the bright side, it’s not like one of these stolen guns ever killed anybody, since guns don’t kill people.  Only people do.

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