Population Decline Will Change the World for the Better

Article subtitle: 
A future with fewer people offers increased opportunity and a healthier environment
Article author: 
Stephanie Feldstein
Article publisher: 
Scientific American
Article date: 
10 May 2023
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

China's population has fallen after decades of sky-high growth. This major shift in the world's most populous country would be a big deal by itself, but China's hardly alone in its declining numbers: despite the momentous occasion of the global population surpassing eight billion late last year, the United Nations predicts dozens of countries will have shrinking populations by 2050. This is good news. Considering no other large animal's population has grown as much, as quickly or as devastatingly for other species as ours, we should all be celebrating population decline...

Where our current model of endless growth and short-term profits sacrifices vulnerable people and the planet's future, population decline could help create a future with more opportunity and a healthy, biologically rich world. We're at a crossroads—and we decide what happens next. We can maintain the economic status quo and continue to pursue infinite growth on a finite planet. Or we can heed the warning signs of a planet pushed to its limits, put the brakes on environmental catastrophe, and choose a different way to define prosperity that's grounded in equity and a thriving natural world...

As the human population has doubled over the past 50 years, wildlife populations have plummeted by an average of 69 percent. We've already altered at least 70 percent of Earth's land, with some reports putting that number at 97 percent...

For those more worried about economics than life on Earth, the World Bank estimates that ecosystem collapse could cost $2.7 trillion a year by 2030...

Population decline is only a threat to an economy based on growth. Shifting to a model based on degrowth and equity alongside lower fertility rates will help fight climate change and increase wealth and well-being.

If populations decline, some places will have to adapt to societal aging...

Meanwhile, immigration can help soften some of the demographic blows by bringing younger people into aging countries...


The author makes an irrefutable point: that infinite physical growth cannot be sustained on a finite planet - nor within the borders of finite nations.

However, the author falls into the Ponzi population trap of promoting mass immigration as a solution to demographic change.

American women voluntarily achieved replacement-level fertility in 1972. Yet because of government-mandated mass immigration, America's population will double within the lifetimes of children born today. 

In developed nations, mass immigration is the de facto cause of population growth. Promoting more of it runs counter to the author's fundamental thesis that population must be reduced and stabilized - in all nations.