A Glimpse of What Will Come

I got this in the body of an email from my dad, subject: “I was shocked by this.”

A frightening title for an email from one’s father. But I was less shocked by the content than he was. Mostly because I’ve been watching for it.

It’s crazy to think that when I was a freshman in college (not too long ago) this was pure mythology. You’d hear whispers of it here or there (the ones I listened for), only from the most well-informed. The common-sense of the time said quite the opposite.

In an abortion talk several years ago at my church I asked the question, “What do I say to my friends who are worried about the overpopulation of the planet?” to a stunned audience with no answer. It was still a valid question then. Now it’s laughable. Only, we won’t be laughing for long.

And yet, even now, when it’s a well-known and highly publicized global crises, sending tremors through the psyches of those wise (or educated) enough to understand the implications, it’s the old view of the world that reigns supreme in the mind(s) of the masses. Our modern fast-past world has out-paced our social conscience, our ability to perceive and adapt, and I fear we will be left in a cloud of dust, unaware till it’s too late to matter.

I sometimes like to ask the question—to, say, a Youth Ministry major— “What do you think of the idea that, throughout your entire career, there will always be more people older than you than younger than you?” Maybe there should be such a thing as a Caregiving Ministry major.

This is from the email, stats originally published in The Future Church: Ten Trends that are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, by John L. Allan Jr.:

“What we know for sure is that by the time today’s twenty-year-olds reach retirement age, the population of the world will be contracting. The decline will be most aggravated in Europe and parts of Asia, including China, which could lose 20 to 30 percent of its population every generation beginning around mid-century. Declining fertility, coupled with the aging of the “baby boom” generation, means the elderly will be the fastest-growing segment of the global population, leading to substantial increases in the median age in most countries …”

“It took the United States fifty years, from 1950 to 2000, to increase its median age by five years, from 30 to 35. In the first fifty years of the twenty-first century, by way of contrast, Algeria will go from a median age of 21.7 to 40, a jump of almost 18 years in the same span of time. In Egypt, by 2050 the elderly population will be growing twice as fast as the working-age population. In China, the ratio of elders to young people will swell by a factor of four, with 26 percent of the population 60 or older by 2040, meaning some 360 million people. Demographers describe China as facing a 4-2-1 problem: Each young adult will potentially be caring for two parents, plus four grandparents. Brazil is aging at a rate 2.1 times that of the United States and 3.1 times faster than Holland. By 2050, according to the UN numbers, one quarter of Brazil’s population will be over 60, a total of 63 million people …”

“How far and how fast population will drop remains to be seen. The UN’s “low scenario,” which assumes that fertility rates will stabilize at 1.85 and stay there, puts the global population in 2300 at 2.3 billion, which would be a stunning decline by more than three quarters from where population levels are estimated to peak in the second half of the twenty-first century, around 9 billion …”


One thought on “A Glimpse of What Will Come

  1. very interesting. the only time i remember someone talking about this and planning that needs to be done was in a PCC class (political science, i think) when we talked about Social Security benefits.

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