Not the Monthly Post

An Unfamiliar World

Last month’s post on the future of warfare in the deindustrial era mentioned in passing one of the most significant factors changing the world we know to one that most of us have never even imagined. That factor is demographics: in particular, the immense shift now under way from growth to contraction in human numbers worldwide.  Nearly everyone alive today grew up hearing about the population boom; it requires a major shift in mental gears to adjust to the imminence of the population bust.

A twentieth century problem.

It fascinates me that so few people have grasped that this is happening, and even fewer have any sense of what it implies.  I still field comments tolerably often from readers who are convinced that overpopulation is the biggest threat our species faces. (Admittedly most of those readers belong to my generation, and we grew up in a media culture saturated with such ideas.)  That human population is near a peak and will be declining for centuries to come—not due to some sort of catastrophe, but for reasons of simple demographics—has not yet entered most people’s minds. It’s because the coming of population decline hasn’t yet shaped most people’s view of the future, in turn, that certain current events remain hopelessly misunderstood.

Let’s start with the demographic realities.  It requires a total fertility rate of 2.1 live births on average per woman to maintain population at any given level; this is called the replacement rate. (That .1 is needed to account for the children who die before they reach reproductive age themselves, or who never reproduce for some other reason.)  In 1970 the world’s total fertility rate was well above 5 live births per woman; now, it’s right around 2.3 and is falling steadily.  Africa still has a total fertility rate of 4.1, down from nearly double that in the mid-20th century and still falling; but Asia and Latin America both have fertility rates of 2.0, North America (including Mexico) is at 1.8, and Europe is down to 1.6 live births per woman.

Some of the biggest countries are surprisingly far down the curve. India, the world’s most populous nation these days, is at 2.0, below replacement rate; China, second most populous, is at a stunningly low 1.1 despite recent efforts by its government to encourage births. The United States, third most populous, is at 1.7, and Indonesia, fourth, is at 2.1. Only with the fifth, Pakistan, do you get a rate that will sustain population growth, 3.3, and only with the sixth, Nigeria, do you get the kind of fertility rate the whole world had half a century ago, 5.1. Only six countries on the planet have a higher fertility rate than Nigeria does, while 187 have a lower rate.  At the very bottom is South Korea, with a 0.8 fertility rate; if that stays unchanged, it will leave each generation not much more than a third the size of the generation before it.

A twenty-first century problem.

The world’s population is still edging upwards—there’s always a delay between changes in total fertility rate and changes in population, because children have to grow up and reach reproductive age themselves before their numbers begin influencing population growth. Sometime in the decade or two ahead of us, however, the world will reach its all-time peak human population and begin to see sustained year-over-year contractions.

That’s already happening in some places. China made headlines earlier this year when its population came in 3 million people lower than the year before.  Japan, Korea, and a fair number of European countries are already seeing population contraction so dramatic that it’s become a serious political issue.  In a slightly more roundabout sense, of course, demographic contraction has also become a serious political issue in Europe and North America, because certain highly influential political and economic interests have been frantically promoting illegal mass migration from various countries into the United States and most of the nations of the European Union.  There’s a very straightforward reason for this, which we’ll discuss in a bit.

Before we get to that, though, let’s talk about the basics.  Why is this happening?  Will it continue?  And what are its consequences?

There’s been a vast amount written over the last three quarters of a century or so about the factors that cause human population growth rates to rise and fall. Much of that literature is pretty clearly pushing political, economic, or cultural agendas of various kinds, using the whole range of gimmickry that’s given the phrase “replication crisis” so much prominence of late.  Thus it’s arguably more useful to come at it from a different angle:  that of population biology.

Rabbits in a meadow, trees in a forest, humans on a planet — carrying capacity governs how many there are.

We’ll start with some definitions.  For any species in any given environment or set of linked environments, there is a maximum permanently sustainable number, which is called the carrying capacity. This isn’t fixed—it varies up and down with changes in the environment—but it tends to be fairly stable except in unusual circumstances. When the population of a species is below the carrying capacity of its environment, the population has room to grow.  When it reaches the carrying capacity, the limits of the environment cut into further growth and tend to level it out.

That process isn’t always smooth. If the environment has a lot of variation, so that the carrying capacity rises and falls over the short to middle term, you very often see a boom-and-bust cycle in the living things in that environment. Animal populations in the ice-free portions of Greenland are a good example.  Small variations in weather cause sharp changes in how much plant matter grows during the short snow-free season; populations of herbivores rise and fall dramatically as their food supply varies, and this drives equally dramatic swings in the numbers of predators that can support themselves on the herbivores. So the populations of lemmings and arctic foxes are always rising and falling in a whiplash fashion.

Overshoot followed by crash and slow, unsteady recovery: it’s a familiar pattern to ecologists.

An even more dramatic version of this can happen when a species finds its way into an environment it had not previously reached.  In this case, very often the species reproduces so quickly that its population shoots up past the carrying capacity of the environment.  This is called overshoot, and it has two consequences.  The first is that once the peak is past, the population of the species tends to decline very quickly.  The second is that once it is in overshoot, the species tends to damage the environment and reduce carrying capacity below what it would otherwise be. In extreme cases this can send the species plunging straight to extinction; much more often, what it means is that population numbers drop steeply, level off at a small fraction of the peak, then gradually creep upwards again as carrying capacity regenerates.

As William R. Catton Jr. pointed out trenchantly many years ago in his book Overshoot, this is the situation the human population of Earth is in just now. The invention of fossil fuel-powered technologies and the breakneck extraction of fossil fuels that followed provided the industrial world with a resource base equivalent to ten spare planets. That was why population figures started rising in the nineteenth century and went into overdrive in the twentieth:  all those additional resources temporarily boosted the carrying capacity of the planet to levels never before reached, and allowed our species to experience an immense population boom.

One of the most important books of our time. Of course next to nobody was paying attention.

The crucial word in that last sentence, though, is “temporarily.” Technically speaking, fossil fuels aren’t actually nonrenewable resources—the Earth regenerates them from organic material buried in sediment—but the process takes tens of millions of years to go from dead fish to light sweet crude. In terms that mean anything to human history, in other words, once a bucket of coal, a barrel of oil, or a cubic foot of natural gas is burnt, it’s gone, and the time it’ll take for the Earth to produce another is on the same scale as the interval that separates us from the last dinosaurs. Since fossil fuels power the tractors, produce the fertilizer, fuel the trucks and ships, and provide energy and raw materials for nearly all of the food and other products that have allowed our planet’s population to balloon to between four and eight times the maximum figure for all earlier history, that’s not exactly a minor issue.

A long time ago, in what feels sometimes like a galaxy far, far away, I used to blog about this point quite a lot. This was in the heyday of the peak oil movement—the last sustained attempt to get people in the industrial world to pay attention to the fact that their lifestyles depend on finite resources and those resources are running up increasingly hard against supply constraints. The language of carrying capacity and overshoot was central to my blogging in those days.

Every time I talked about this, without exception, I fielded criticisms from two opposing viewpoints. On the one hand were the people who insisted that progress was invincible and surely sometime very soon, once the price of oil rose high enough, somebody would come up with some even more cheap and abundant source of energy to replace the ones we were wasting so extravagantly. On the other hand were the people who agreed that no substitute for oil would be found but insisted that the end of the fossil fuel era would be sudden and cataclysmic, a vast apocalyptic event that would crush industrial society in a matter of months if not days and cause instantaneous mass dieoff worldwide. It was somewhat odd, you have to admit, to find myself simultaneously denounced as a hopeless pessimist by one set of critics and a blind optimist by another set, but that was how it turned out.

I tend to think of this delusion — the notion that utopia and oblivion are the only two possible futures — as the Fuller Fallacy.

Nearly two decades have now passed since world conventional petroleum production peaked and began a ragged decline. In retrospect, it’s clear that my critics were wrong and I was right. The price of oil, which was around US$10 a barrel at the turn of the millennium, is now fluctuating between US$70 and $90 a barrel.  Countless attempted replacements for fossil fuels have been pushed onto the market; those that haven’t failed completely have become niche-market products making no noticeable dent in fossil fuel use. Meanwhile the great apocalyptic event that so many people loved to predict has pulled a no-show.

What happened instead is, ahem, what I predicted back in the day. As conventional petroleum reserves plateaued and began to lose ground, frantic efforts to find additional reserves were padded out by the breakneck extraction of inefficient, low-grade sources of liquid fuels—anything and everything that would keep fuel tanks filled, no matter what the cost or the consequences. That’s why the old technology of hydrofracturing was dusted off and applied to shale deposits across the United States, squeezing out a large but temporary burst of natural gas liquids and light oil, while Canada and Venezuela poured vast amounts of money and energy into digging up tar sands and extracting thick, high-sulfur gunk from them.

These were less useful than they seemed.  It takes energy to extract, refine, and ship fossil fuels. Light sweet crude from shallow wells and good hard anthracite coal from shallow mines take very little energy to extract.  In the case of the best grades of light sweet crude, this worked out to 1/3 of 1% of the energy in the oil having to be used to extract it—but those grades are rare now, because we pumped and burnt them all. The worse the grade, the more energy has to go into extracting and refining the crude oil, and the less energy is left over to do everything else that energy does in a civilization. While fossil fuel production has climbed steadily year after year, in other words, the availability of energy to society has faltered—and in lockstep, just as population ecology would predict, birthrates have fallen.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone. Deal.

They’ll continue falling, too, because there is no energy source within reach of our species that can replace fossil fuels at the rate we’re using them. At the beginning of the industrial revolution, the Earth’s fossil fuel deposits were the largest concentration of easily accessible, highly concentrated chemical energy in the known solar system. Our species used them with reckless abandon, and built a vast array of technologies specifically designed to make use of their properties.  Sure, it would have been possible to build an equally vast array of technologies to use some other resource, but we didn’t, and attempts to start making that happen in the 1970s ended up being scrapped in the decade that followed. So here we are.

The consequences of sustained population contraction are the stinger in the tail of our current predicament, because it wasn’t just our technologies that were designed around the short-term condition of rapid growth driven by abundant fossil fuel energy—so were our economies. It seems like simple common sense to most people nowadays that assets will on average increase in value, investments will yield a return, and businesses will make a profit. Stop and think about that for a minute, though. Why does this happen? Because the economy grows every quarter.  Why does the economy grow every quarter?  There are many reasons, but they all ultimately boil down to the fact that the population increases. With every passing year, there are more people joining the workforce, buying assets, making investments, and purchasing goods and services. Thus population growth is the engine behind economic growth.

The smaller the population, the smaller the economy.  Again, deal.

To see this more clearly, imagine for a moment that population contraction was already under way. In the neighborhood where you live, there are fewer people who need to buy or rent a home this year than there were last year; there are fewer people shopping at the neighborhood stores, using the services of the neighborhood banks, working at the shops and factories, and so on. What happens to housing prices, rents, business profits, local tax revenues, measures of gross productivity, and the like?  On average, they go down. Extrapolate that same process to your state or province, your country, and the world, and see how it works.

Now remember that housing prices, rents, business profits, local tax revenues, and the like don’t exist in a vacuum.  In today’s world, all of them are used to prop up a vast hyperleveraged structure of investment and debt which gives the privileged classes of the modern industrial world their wealth and their influence.  Your mortgage or rent payment, your purchases at the local grocery, and the sales tax the clerk adds to the bill are tiny bricks in a financial Tower of Babel soaring far beyond the dreams of skyscraper-builders—and it all depends on growth.

They’re frantically trying to get the world to do as it’s told. The world isn’t listening.

That’s why the global economy has been lurching and shuddering like a worn-out truck in recent years, and why the privileged classes of the modern industrial world have shed their former habit of remaining out of the limelight and are gathering at places like Davos to insist, in shrill and plaintive tones, that the world ought to do as it’s told.  It’s also why these same privileged classes, through a network of nongovernmental organizations they control, are luring as many people as possible to migrate illegally to Europe and Anglophone North America.  Why?  Because if it weren’t for the ongoing flood of illegal migration, western Europe, the United States, and Canada would already be deep into population contraction, and the entire structure of power and wealth that depends on economic growth in those areas would have come apart.

It’s a temporary gimmick at best, and not just because illegal mass migration is generating a forceful political backlash in western Europe and Anglophone North America.  The more potent issue is that birth rates are falling in the countries that until now have produced most of the immigrants. Mexico’s a good example.  Mexico’s fertility rate right now is around 2.0 live births per woman, below replacement level. As a result, these days, Mexico provides very few illegal migrants to the United States; most migrants pass through Mexico from points further south, from countries that still have a temporary population surplus.

A stopgap measure, doomed to fail by the pressure of raw demographics.

Exactly when there will no longer be enough migrants available to prop up the existing order of things is an interesting question. Doubtless frantic attempts will be made to get people to have more children; there have been plenty of attempts in that direction over the last century or so, and none of them has accomplished much, but I’m sure it will be tried again. Meanwhile demographic trends will keep sliding in the same direction because the forces driving them are not subject to political or cultural manipulation.

All this has consequences that are already being felt in various ways, and will be felt to a much greater extent in the years to come. If assets, investments, and businesses no longer yield a profit on average, the only people who will be interested in them are those who depend directly, in a nonfinancial sense, on those things: in an age of demographic contraction, the value of a house is that it gives you a place to live, the value of farmland is that you can grow food there, and so on. This is why, in the twilight years of every civilization, economic arrangements undergo radical simplification, refocusing away from the market economy and toward people producing goods and services for themselves and their neighbors.

It’s the transition from an obsolete economy of growth to the new economy of contraction that will likely generate the most colorful fireworks, though. We’ve already seen some of this by way of articles in the mainstream media shrieking that growing your own food is bad for the climate, and that people who take care of their own health instead of relying on a baroque and fantastically overpriced medical industry are evil conspiracy theorists. Notice the underlying tone of stark panic in these articles: it’s rooted in a cold realization that the process of radical simplification just mentioned is already picking up speed, and gently cutting the ground out from under the foundations of the existing order of society.

Welcome to the future. It’s much better stocked with homegrown tomatoes than with starships.

Disintermediation—the replacement of complex, overpriced webs of distribution by more direct exchanges between producers and consumers, or by labor in which the producer is also the consumer—is already shaping up to be an important trend, and it will become far more so in the years to come. Nor, I might add, will it be entirely voluntary.  The accelerating crapification of goods and services in the corporate economy makes a good measure of just how much strain the current system is under; it would not surprise me at all if a growing range of goods and services simply stop being available to most people in the years immediately ahead. Learning to do things for yourself and for your neighbors may thus be a crucial habit to cultivate in the years immediately ahead.

We are entering an unfamiliar world, and habits such as the one just suggested will be among the few options that will make it possible to thrive there. In later posts I plan on talking about some of the other requirements of life in an age of decline.


  1. Two major factors are always associated with declining birth rates…Urbanization and higher education of women…e.g.London’s death rate exceeded its birth rate even in the 19th century, and it depended on mass immigration from the still very fertile British countryside to grow…Teheran has an extremely low birth rate, despite high birth rates in the Iranian countryside, as its women are increasingly in university…In Germany, 40% of women with College degrees have no children at all…The wealthiest and highest IQ country in the world, Singapore, which is one large city, has a birth rate barely above. 1.0….
    So my point is that as the cities of the world become increasingly unsustainable, and the countryside more attractive, there will eventually be a return to appropriate population growth, to a level that can be sustained with the resources that exist…I would guess early 19th century America with a few add-ons….

  2. Greetings ADJMG!

    I live in Mississippi, a state whose population has been decreasing for decades. What happens is, rural areas and small cities disappear first, as young people migrate to the bigger cities both within the state and other states especially Texas looking for work. It’s a vicious cycle. If there are fewer customers tomorrow, so why hire new employees? My company has residual offices in a lot of small towns but today’s young managers won’t move there, even though the cost of living is low and their salaries are high enough, it’s because the lack of hospitals, recreational facilities and poor schools.

  3. This comment is off topic, if ok, but I wanted to share the following good personal news here, for the following reasons: I have received a tremendous amount of encouragement and good writing advice from you, John Michael Greer. I’ve also received a lot of encouragement from many of my fellows in the commentariat. I always look forward to reading this blog every week, and the comments. It’s not every blog I read many of the comments on, in fact, almost no others. This space has turned into a real community in as much as an online space can be a community, and it’s a privilege to participate.

    I am sure other writers here have heard the advice given by John Michael Greer that it is easier to get a book published in the world of non-fiction, than it is fiction, and that this is a viable way to get your foot in the door in the world of publishing. I took that advice to heart a number of years ago, and now my first book, published by a niche independent press is available for pre-order. I also attribute synchronicity and being in the right place at the right time to this book getting accepted for publication. Next week on Magic Monday I will give some further details about that in a “TSW” works post there. The other aspect relates to the joy of participating in some of the writing contests here. In time this has led me to writing the Cheap Thrills column for New Maps. All of these experiences have given me further strength to continue pushing towards the dream of getting a book published and that day is here now. I have others in the drawer, and I see this as a point, a beginning, from which other lines and trajectories will emerge.

    Last fall I’d been shopping around my first finished non-fiction book, and finally found the right home for it with the wonderful atelier of electronica, Velocity Press.

    Some of you may have read the original articles that make up this book in earlier forms here on my Sothis Medias where they had some of their first genesis, but this book has the additional benefit of several rewrites, the hand of a skilled editor, and much additional material not included in my original articles. It also has the bonus that anyone who pre-orders by March 14 will get their name printed in the book and receive it first in May for those of us in North America.

    The Radio Phonics Laboratory: Telecommunications, Speech Synthesis and the Birth of Electronic Music is due for release on June 14 but because the publisher is in England, it won’t be readily available in the US until late summer or early fall. They have to get the copies in from the printers and ship them to their distributor in California.

    For those interested you can find out more here:

    This book is the culmination of many seeds, some planted long ago when I first started checking out weird music from the library as a teenager and stumbled across the CD compilation Imaginary Landscapes: New Electronic Music and tuned in to radio shows like Art Damage. This is one culmination of that seed. Thanks to all of you in the commentariat who have encouraged either my writing or my radio activity and other creative efforts over the years of hanging out here.

    The Radio Phonics Laboratory explores the intersection of technology and creativity that shaped the sonic landscape of the 20th century. This fascinating story unravels the intricate threads of telecommunications, from the invention of the telephone to the advent of global communication networks.

    At the heart of the narrative is the evolution of speech synthesis, a groundbreaking innovation that not only revolutionised telecommunications but also birthed a new era in electronic music. Tracing the origins of synthetic speech and its applications in various fields, the book unveils the pivotal role it played in shaping the artistic vision of musicians and sound pioneers.

    The Radio Phonics Laboratory is the story of how electronic music came to be, told through the lens of the telecommunications scientists and composers who helped give birth to the bleeps and blips that have captured the imagination of musicians and dedicated listeners around the world. Featuring the likes of Leon Theremin, Hedy Lamarr, Max Matthews, Hal 9000, Robert Moog, Wendy Carlos, Claude Shannon, Halim El-Dabh, Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry, Francois Bayle, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbitt, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Edgar Varese & Laurie Spiegel.

    Personally, although we are definitely heading into an unfamiliar world, I hope that some of what these people have done can be saved. I don’t expect all the technology to be able to be come through in tact, but some of it can, and some it might find uses wholly alien to whatever we imagine now. Like all of us I have grown up in a Faustian world. This book is thus an expression of one of the circuits in the Faustian worldview that I have been tuned to and happen to resonate with.

    Thank you all.

  4. I have become recently aware of what you are discussing in this post, so I appreciate your willingness to take on the topic. One speculation I have made is that population numbers are decreasing because the vast number of people there are in the world today has made human labor much cheaper, so it is too expensive for very many married couples to have children. Is this assumption accurate, or did I miss the mark with that one? (The fact that the minimum wage hasn’t gone up for a long time has something to do with this speculation, but I realize that could be on account of a number of different factors including the torpid complacency of our political class.)

  5. why is no effort is made by europe and n. america to expand vetted legal immigration and tamp down the chaotic illegal immigration? Would be way better for everybody i think.

  6. Mr. Greer,

    Now that the world’s population has plateaued and started to contract, how do you figure that affects models of the future such as the World3 computer model used in the Limits to Growth which assumed exponential population growth of the Baby Boom years would continue well into the 21st Century?

  7. This is timely. A straw in the wind – I read in a local paper today that a nearby local authority had a council meeting yesterday evening and decided to close an infant school, 4-7 year olds and a junior school 8-12 year olds. The reason given was that they had around 800 unfilled places and needed to consolidate schools.

  8. Whilst migrations from Southern locales to more Northern ones will diminish over time as their populations drop so you think they might not spike even higher (at least for a while) due to their countries bearing the biggest brunt of climate change?

  9. At this link is the full list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    * * *
    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    May new mother Molly M recover quickly and completely from her recent stroke and the lingering loss of vision and slurred speech that ensued, and may newborn Lela and husband Austin be comforted and strengthened through this difficult time.

    May Trubujah/David’s shingles outbreak on his stomach be healed; may his discomfort and pain be eased, and the illness clear up quickly.

    May John Michael Greer’s wife Sara Greer, who passed away on February 20th, be blessed and soothed as she moves into the next stage of her spirit’s journey. And may John Michael Greer be blessed and lent strength in this most difficult time.

    May Timmy W. have the guidance, support, and strength he needs to overcome his PTSD, and may his mother, Rachel M., have the energy and wisdom to support him through it.

    May Erika’s partner James remain cancer free, and make a full return to robust health.

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk; may Mother and child be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May Just Another Green Rage Monster‘s father, who is dealing with Stage 4 Lymphoma, and mother, who is primary caregiver, be blessed, protected and healed.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.

    * * *
    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  10. Thank you John Michael. This is a clear eyed and compelling observation. You have pointed out numerous times that humanity acts as though they are somehow separate from the rest of the world, the stewards of all the beasts of the field, and plants on the ground. Immune from the consequences of progress, if they think about it at all, and take progress as the natural order of things. It never occurs to them that the procession of events could possibly be out of their control. They “create their own reality.” And get mad when reality doesn’t conform.
    I’m just disappointed I will never live to see the industrial mindset broken. It is a pox on the world.

  11. Thank you, JMG, for doing what you do.

    > the immense shift now under way from growth to contraction in human numbers worldwide


    🧵After reading your essays for decades, with decline in mind, and incidentally at my age of 71, I decided it is time I put my money where my mouth is. Besides pattern-making/fitting in sewing (“slopers”), I wanted to do something else involving fibers. It had to be practical and scaled down to my level.

    I made a decision to learn weaving.

    Starting small (and intending to stay small), I bought a modest 4-shaft, rigid heddle table loom to make handwoven items on. I got some accoutrements too. The stuff will arrive within a month. I am starting from zilch.

    What am I, nuts? (I must be.)

    I know virtually nothing about weaving. I didn’t even know which was warp and which was weft. The terminology of weaving, today on my first day, is overwhelming. I found some learning resources (video courses and books), but alas, no in-person groups are around. I range from feeling incompetent to “I can do this.” Maybe if I call upon my ancestors,— one of whom HAD to be a weaver, maybe I will get through this act of insanity. I am returning to my peasant ancestral roots.

    I am looking to make a towel, shawl, shrug, throw-blanket, or potholder. I would love to do stripes and plaids.

    Industrial looms will falter in the next decades. I probably won’t be around though. But maybe some of my future weave-lings (woven-ings?) will rub off onto some peasant-youngster. Hand looms, I understand, are not far off. “Getting back to basics,” it is.

    Don’t get me started on the state of affairs of the current clothing industry which is both depressing and evil. There is nothing fashionable about it. I believe within ten years, the current ‘worldwide’ clothing culture will collapse, and my lot (Americans) will be running around naked and in rags. So at least on a hand-loom, I will be able to slap together a bunch of potholders to make a shirt.🤭

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🧵
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  12. I kept watching while reading for you to bring up the immigration debacle currently roiling in the U.S. Your essay didn’t have to bring up the political aspect of the illegal migrant issue, I suppose, because in the bigger picture the political ramifications are seemingly beside the point.

  13. Funny, I just posted on this on a substack yesterday. I brought up the subject of population swings in nature. I liken it to homeostasis, where (biochemical) levels that fluctuate within certain bounds. Homeostasis is not static.

    My concern is that we have depended on earth’s systems to clean up the toxic mess we’re creating with our “modern way of life”. There will be a point where its ability to “process” our mess is exceeded & earth becomes “incompatible with life.” Hopefully the industrialization that enabled this will die first.

    Personally I don’t expect to be here for it, but who knows…

  14. @JMG re: “The accelerating crapification of goods and services in the corporate economy makes a good measure of just how much strain the current system is under; it would not surprise me at all if a growing range of goods and services simply stop being available to most people in the years immediately ahead. ”

    Prime example of mainstream propaganda found yesterday in the guise of “decluttering.”Go through your things and get rid of everything you don’t immediately use or expect to use the rest of the season.” Unspoken is the hook in the bait, “when they wear out, you can always buy a replacement.” Uh, nope. Not when the last Gildan (once good quality) T-shirt I bought was the flimsy, coarse stuff on today’s market everywhere. (Though I still have hopes for Hanes’ Beefy and Hefty tees.) More to the point is the hippie-era “Champagne living on a beer budget,” advice, “If you have nice stuff, keep it.”

  15. Pyrrhus, correlation is not causation, and the fact that the two factors you’ve noted have happened at the same time as population growth has declined does not mean that they caused it. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about when I noted that all kinds of agendas have been heaped onto rates of population change. Paying attention to the realities of population biology seems like a better plan to me.

    Dashui, that’s the wave of the future all over the US, and elsewhere as well.

    Justin, huzzah! I’m delighted to hear this. I trust that you’re already hard at work on your second book. As for the survival of electronic music, well, I’ve argued more than once that shortwave radio is likely to be here for the long term, and I believe there are some electronic instruments — theremins come to mind — that are no more complex than a shortwave radio.

    Mister N, that’s one factor of many. The simple fact that the world is vastly overcrowded and so the law of supply and demand has driven up the cost of nearly everything is also a large part of the picture.

    Carlos, because one of the goals of the illegal immigration gimmick is to force down wages and benefits, thus driving up corporate profits. For what it’s worth, I agree with you; I think that legal immigration to the US should be relatively easy, for anyone who has a reasonable chance of supporting themselves, but illegal immigration should be stopped dead in its tracks. (Busting the NGOs that support it on racketeering and conspiracy charges would be a very good first step here.)

    Karl, it’s a perpetual source of astonishment to me how few people remember what the World3 model actually predicts. Here’s a graphic display of the standard run:

    Notice that global population peaks in the first half of the 21st century, just as I’ve suggested in this post.

    Andy, yep. That’s the wave of the future.

    Northern Badger, no, because it’s not the equatorial regions that are bearing the brunt of climate change. The most dramatic swings in temperature are taking place at the poles, as they usually do in periods of rapid climate change.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    John, just be sure you’ve broken out of it yourself, and then help other people who are breaking out of it to finish the job. I find that very rewarding!

    Northwind, delighted to hear it. Once you get good at it, I hope you’ll help others learn, because it won’t be that long before handweaving will be the best option for anyone who wants to have clothes at all…

    Mike, the political dimensions of illegal immigration are one small facet of a much more complex situation. I expect the whole issue to straighten out considerably in the years immediately ahead, for what it’s worth; either the US will stop illegal immigration (again, busting the NGOs that foster it is an easy way to do this), or the US will undergo an economic collapse serious enough that the flow of immigrants will drop off by itself — or both.

    Mary, oddly enough, my post two weeks from now will address that very issue.

    Patricia M, that’s an excellent example! If people abandon the throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one lifestyle, that’s another nail in the coffin of the current system.

  16. Thank you for this piece – a very succinct and sharp needle into the over-inflated balloon of liberal managerial ideology.

    Somewhat relevant: what do you make of the claims that oil/gas reserves have been discovered on Titan? I recently came across it, as some have been claiming that it vindicates the abiotic oil theory.

    Even if there is some merit to the abiotic oil theory, it strikes me that the timeframes involved are probably sufficiently immense as to make it basically irrelevant to our present energy crisis.

  17. OT: hangover from Open Post. But a near-throwaway line it the end of “Book of Haatan” clarified something about meditation that threw new light on it for me. “Like the patience and quietness needed in observing wild animals.” I’ll keep that in mind always.

  18. Given the increasing level of climate disruptions that are degrading the carrying capacity of the periphery, would migration to Europe and North America continue to offset population decline in North America, long after the ‘barbarians on the border’ have dropped below the replacement rate in their regions of origin?

    There appears to be a concerted political effort to amplify the divisions between the internal and external proletariat, indicating the political elites are well aware of how this arc usually ends.

  19. “My company has residual offices in a lot of small towns but today’s young managers won’t move there, even though the cost of living is low and their salaries are high enough, it’s because the lack of hospitals, recreational facilities and poor schools.”

    That is somewhat questionable. I’ll grant the hospital situation, but the outdoors is the recreational facility. Of course if you insist recreation is watching giants with hyperactive pituitary glands smash each other to goo over the location of a ball then you will likely be unhappy.

    As for the schools, here at least the rural schools do as well or better as the urban schools.

    On the other hand, I know of two engineers my former employer was trying to hire that declined the offers because the local shopping selection wasn’t up to their wive’s expectations. For that matter one engineer who did take the job soon found himself divorced as she couldn’t take life in a town of 20,000.

    Then there was a near neighbor who moved in from the Seattle suburbs and left in a panic over the gunfire during hunting season. She didn’t think much of the orchard fans firing up in the spring morning’s either.

  20. JMG:
    I was surprised when I went to look up the actual birth rate here in the US. I had it in my aged mind that the population was still going up here in the USA. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I decided to go and look things up.
    In 2021, the birth rate was 1.664 !!!
    So then I got curious and looked up the death rate. We are back up to 9.226/10K from a low of 8.124 in 2008. Essentially we are back to the 70’s
    Gotta chew on this for a while. Now that I think about it, it makes sense of a lot of what is going on, but I am always leery of my first thoughts on the presentation of new (to me) data.
    U.S. Death Rate 1950-2024. Retrieved 2024-03-06.,Female&hl=en

  21. John: Yes and yes. I have a second book finished in a third draft and am starting to sketch out and draft the rest of the third one. I also have a novella or short novel I wrote. One of my problems has always been trying to figure out what thing to work on next. I need to get back into the headspace I was in to revise that novella and hopefully find a fringeworthy publisher. I do juggle between texts. I hope to get better at that part as I go…

    A theremin would definitely be easy to make. A cheap homemade one can even be made by a bit of soldering on three AM radios. One of my hopes for this book, is that it will interest electronic music heads in radio technology, which might be useful for them in years to come. We’ll see. That part really isn’t up to me.

    As for population, what do you think about big families? Is that squarely a thing of mid-century America? Both my Mom and Dad came from families of six siblings. Things have contracted for sure since then. I suppose I always thought big families might return when people don’t have as easy access to birth control as they do now, and when there are many hands needed to do work.

  22. Hello Mr. Greer

    I’m very thankful that you post all these useful blogs. This is my first time posting. Before I had found these, I actually had depression and anxiety issues which appeared because of the Religion of Progress. The world is so insane due to technology and they were saying it’s going to get crazier! A sense of relief washed over me realizing that they were lying, that growth is never infinite, that Rome had 50000 people several hundred of years after it had 1 million. Being part of that Religion isn’t a matter of choice, you’re born in a world where 99% of people believe that “Line can only go up!” so it just sticks to you, that’s why people don’t want to let go, they don’t know anything but “More!” and “More!”.
    These days I remembered something from the Bible. That God, when He punished Israel by sending them into exile in Babylon, among other things, He said the reason was their over-exploitation of the land and now that the people have left, “the land will get it’s Sabbath rest” or 70 years of rest, 2 Chronicles 36:20-22. I think this is what will happen to us, to be exiled and separated from our riches so that the land may rest.
    When I first started reading your post, I accepted them because they simply made sense, something like “Duh! Of course growth isn’t infinite.” At one point things have to slow down then stop.
    My only issue is that I’ve talked with a few people online who believe that oil wells/fields/reservoirs do actually replenish somehow. No to downplay your work and studies, but have you searched high and low for data that show these things don’t replenish? I’ve read that sometimes companies return to wells/fields/reservoirs and they find more to extract. In some cases sometimes oil seeps in from neighbouring reservoirs apparently. The last claim is that oil can trickle up from deep within the Earth having constant replenishment, although I’m not sure if this has been practically proven; even if this happens, it has to be fast enough to keep up, I wonder what would that speed look like in bbl/day.
    Another reply that I got was that oil price is being kept artificially at a high price, but I’m not sure what to think about that claim.
    I know you read a lot of things and replies that people write online, so I apologize if I’m being repetitive.

    Please excuse the spelling mistakes,
    Thank you for all the hard work!

  23. Am I missing something? This is what the United Nations say:

    “The world’s population is more than three times larger than it was in the mid-twentieth century. The global human population reached 8.0 billion in mid-November 2022 from an estimated 2.5 billion people in 1950, adding 1 billion people since 2010 and 2 billion since 1998. The world’s population is expected to increase by nearly 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from the current 8 billion to 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 10.4 billion in the mid-2080s.”

  24. Justin Patrick Moore @3, congratulations on your forthcoming book. May I ask, did you use an agent to help you find a publisher?

    pyrrhus, allow me to suggest that increasing numbers of women in higher ed is a result of rational calculation on the part of young women who realize that if they expect to have good lives, they need credentials.

  25. Dear Northwind Grandma, I wish I could hang out with you! Slopers and now weaving? I was wanting to learn that, too.

  26. I have a few friends who are of the “Well, they will think of something” persuasion. I mentioned the population decline, and immediately got total denial. Then I pointed out where it’s already happining, even showing them the data. I got “That can’t be right, everyone says….” They go away unhappy.
    In the 2 articles referrenced about growing your own and doing ancient medical practices that the first totaly ignored the carbon impact of all the chemicals and machinery. Oh. right, mentioning that isn’t “fair”
    The second article struck me as unreadable machine generated jibber jabber and PMC handwaving. Both telling us that things the species has done for many thousands of years is just “badwrongevil”

  27. Hi JMG and Kommentariat,
    i once had a conversation with a guy who had spent basically all his professional life as foreman in a car factory in the heyday of car manufacturing (job was unionized and well paid, and came with the equvalent of a 401-k-plan). We discussed PEAK OIL. He immediatley understood the problem, but his steel-hard opinion was “It is so obvious this will happen, that buisness leaders and politicians must have already detailled plans ho to deal with all aspects.”
    He really believes the economies of whole countries are as organized and regimented as car factories.
    I didnt try to change his mind. What would you recommend to tell such a true believer ?
    His mate was even worse: he pointed to a shallow muddy slow flowing river next to the place, smiled and said: “here we could have as much hydropower as we want !”
    I just grabbed a beer.

    Luck and peace to everyone

  28. JMG, there is a new version of the standard run for the Limits to Growth model with updated data. Except for environmental pollution, which, according to the new model, will rise and stay high for a while, the curves didn’t change much. I mention this for the sake of completeness.

  29. A thougt of mine:
    in some way it is a consolidation that the word is ruled by the harsh but lawfull and just masters “physics” and “ecology”, not by the whimsical, arbitrarily und hubristic human spirit. So much more now as humas cry WAR and “gimme more” all the time…….
    At least they dont hate anybody, dont take bribes and dont enjoy hurting you.

  30. @Mary Bennet #25: Thank you! No, I did not use an agent to find a publisher. I used serendipity. I had a list of publishers I was aware of in mind, and was waiting to hear back from the one that was on the top of my list (I own several of their books and love their production value). I never heard back and was in the process of going to the next ones on my list when I had to catalog a book at work (I work in the catalog dpt of a library, so that helps) on the UK Rave scene. I thought the publisher looked pretty interesting and looked them up. They accepted unsolicited and un-agented proposals so off I went… The publisher Velocity Press lives up to their name. I sent my proposal late Sept. or early October. We had a meeting, I had signed a contract by November and was soon working with an editor, turning in the revised manuscript after two passes with the editor on Jan. 31st. It’s been a great ride so far.

  31. Re simplification and the new world

    Due to the twists and turns of life, planned and otherwise, I find myself having the opportunity to experiment in this direction–moving from a cohabitation situation in a house to solitary habitation of a small apartment. In that process, I have shed much in the way of material possessions. However, I look around my 600 square-foot space and realize that I have everything I need. It is not a self-sufficient lifestyle, but certainly a simpler one. Moreover, as my wife and I had cut out our TV some years ago, I decided to take the next step and when I moved into my apartment did not hook up with internet right away. Nearly two months later, I still haven’t.

    I am a “city hermit” of sorts, though in a small town rather than city. I cook small meals, hand-wash the few dishes each day, read, and live rather quietly. Recently, I received my first full month’s electric bill in the mail: twenty-nine days of service, only 62 kWh of usage. Not bad. Not bad at all.

  32. Bucky Fuller makes an appearance again! (Though this time without his beastly counterpart.) 😉

    Thank you for the post, it’s a helpful amalgamation of many thoughts preoccupying my mind these days.
    I find it interesting that many of the people I know who are up in arms about immigration are also also deeply devoted to economic growth and often reliant on retirements and other investment accounts.

    Since my family started co-housing with my in-laws last year, we have had many growing pains. One of the most significant was the amount of “stuff” my family has. We do have a ton of “stuff” …. and, it’s not all fancy, pretty, or all that well organized at the moment, so I can empathize with my in-laws being overwhelmed. On the other hand, we’ve had to gently explain multiple times that our “stuff” isn’t “junk.” We garden and raise animals, practice multiple forms of alternative medicine, repair our car and house, homeschool multiple children, repair our own clothes, all this among other “hobbies” like woodwork, homebrewing, and handmade gift-making. In a home like ours, there’s no margin for both formal dining and breakfast nook, at least one is going to be regularly repurposed into a schoolroom, sewing table, or canning workspace.

    For people used to outsourcing all this to society, it’s easy to have a lovely home, perfectly organized and sparingly decorated, with entire spaces dedicated to storing items used once a year; while the hospital, school, grocery store, and tradespeople take care of the business of living. In the past couple years, as the world and media have become more fearful and aware of impending troubles and contractions; it is getting easier to gently suggest that, perhaps, it would make more sense to keep the medicinal herbs, bulk food stores, and emergency gear at hand in the home, and move the crystal and holiday decorations to the attic and shed. A microcosm of our changing society.

  33. The huge superstructure built by the rich perverts who hold power is strangling the confidence of young people of child rearing age. Everything is expensive. Rent and housing bleeds us dry. We have to deal with a complex bureaucracy all the time and suffer tons of sneaky expenses. Wages are low, inflation is high. The long and short of it is that people in my generation are having less kids. Why would I have I a bunch of kids if I can’t even provide them with a decent life? In a way, it’s like voting with your genitals. If your system can’t provide me and my family with a decent life, I’m not going to birth more wage slaves to keep your machine going.

    Add in even more problems, like the social neurosis and isolation that is decreasing the amount of young people who actually date and fall in love. Add in the environmental contaminants that are decreasing fertility. Etc. Etc.

    Me and my wife are planning on having 2 kids, maximum. If we have problems conceiving we’re just going to accept it. We’re not going through expensive fertility treatments.

  34. Luke, there are unquestionably hydrocarbons on Titan, but that’s because it’s in the part of the solar system where most of the hydrogen didn’t get swept away by the solar wind in the early solar system, the way it did in the inner, rocky planets. Different conditions, different results–it’s the heavier elements that are harder to find out there. As for abiotic oil, every professional petroleum geologist I’ve ever spoken to on the subject chuckles at it — they use biochemical markers in petroleum deposits to identify the age and source of the deposits, and those markers are molecular fossils from ancient organisms.

    Patricia M, good. There’s going to be a lot of occult instruction casually passed on in those books.

    Harry, there are just as many climate disruptions degrading the carrying capacity of the core imperial regions, so I don’t expect that. The deliberate inflammation of the divisions between internal and external proletariats is certainly continuing, but it’s also beginning to break down — check out the way that the Hispanic vote is swinging toward Trump as a measure of that.

    Siliconguy, I wonder if your area is as depopulated as Dashui’s. I know places in this country where even some very basic services are becoming hard to get.

    Degringolade, yep. It really does involve a serious reset in worldview.

    Justin, delighted to hear this too. As for big families, oh, they’ll still exist — there will just be many fewer of them, and many more unmarried people and childless couples. It’s a matter of averages, not hard rules.

    Rafael, hmm! I didn’t remember that bit from the Bible, but of course you’re quite correct — and the earth needs a good long Sabbath rest at this point. As for the replenishment of oil reserves, that’s already been disproven. Do you remember in 2008, when the price of oil first shot up above US$100 a barrel? Thousands of old oil wells in various parts of the world, which had been drained down to the dregs and closed up, were opened up again in order to get what little oil was in them. Many of them had been shut down for 50 years or more. If oil reserves replenished, they would have been full of oil again — but they weren’t; they still had just the little trickle of oil they had when they were shut down. That’s how we know that once the oil is gone, it really is gone.

    Erika, I’d be good with that. It’s a lovely instrument.

    Julian, yes, you’re missing something. I encourage you to set aside politically motivated sources such as the UN and go look at actual fertility statistics; they’re quite readily available in many places online.

    Marlena13, exactly. I wish denial was just a river in Egypt!

    Petit, yeah, I’ve encountered the same sort of thinking more times than I like to remember. People will seek refuge in any evasion if it lets them avoid thinking about the gap between the future we’ve been promised and the one we’re getting. I don’t have anything to say to such people, as it’s a waste of breath. The only thing that comes to mind is quoting somebody I don’t usually cite: “I am not an anarchist in your sense of the word; your brain is too dense for any known explosive to affect it.”

    Booklover, oh, I know. It’s just that most people want to talk about the original version, which is why I use the old standard run graph.

    Petit, it’s a source of real consolation!

    David, sorry to hear about the disruption! That being said, there’s much to be learned from that. I’m living alone right now in a space about twice the size of yours, a good half of which I don’t need, and my electricity usage is about the same as yours.

    Eddie, of course you’re quite correct; I’ve amended the post.

    Hearthculture, I really do need to do a post on Fuller one of these days. I’ve been doing a lot of purging of “stuff” over the last week or so, but yeah, there’s a lot of practical gear I still need to have room for.

    Enjoyer, and those are among the reasons for the demographic shift under way.

  35. JMG
    Just wanted to say thank you for this well presented post. I am currently a part time raw milk dairy farmer and part time theology teacher at a Catholic school. The teaching position is frustrating to say the least. Apathy towards core subjects and a complete lack of desire to pursue any spirituality among the student body is the standard order of business. Even though I’m an open minded christian that tries hard to bridge the gap among the very serious and highly relevant applications of the religions in this world I get almost zero traction among these affluent suburban students. In short, nowhere is evidence of the decline in our civilization more profound than in our aging school institutions (I was a public school science teacher before this). Its especially frustrating how I’m constantly asked to pretend that it’s all fine when college bound seniors can’t write a paragraph much less accept that there is more to reality than the material cult of progress they fall into lock-step from an early age.

    Anyways, I’ve been nervous to take a complete leap into farming despite our current success selling raw milk farm direct. We deal with all the age old farmer issues: access to land, fear of debt, weather, fickle customers…you name it. But what you presented here gives me hope that the response towards our product is not simply a fad but rather something that will have staying power throughout the rest of my life.

  36. I think Canada is a canary in the coal mine on this issue. Even with a massive influx of immigration mostly based around a foreign student scam it’s still not enough to keep this economy afloat and the attempt is creating all kinds of other problems like a ridiculous housing crisis. There was a viral video a while back featuring some recent immigrants from India on the streets of Toronto saying how they regret coming here and are advising all the people back home not to come.

  37. JMG, thank you for another sobering yet settling big picture article. I appreciate understanding the “temporary gimmick” of illegal immigration from an economic perspective.

    Part of the lemonade out of the lemon of the Covid “pandemic” is that I see so many more people taking responsibility for their healthcare in ways unimaginable even 10 years ago. I heard Dr. Pierre Kory say on a Zoom call 2 years ago that he never would have imagined recommending an herb for anything. Just earlier this week Naomi Wolf described fully embracing herbal medicine and throwing away her toxic hair care products and then polling her Substack readers if they want to hear more about natural remeidies (994 comments on that post as of this minute). I expect another push to make natural remedies illegal in the US. I find this shift towards health very encouraging as part of the approach to this population contraction.

    What an interesting time to be alive!

  38. Thank you for an interesting article. I have not come across anyone else talking about the real reason behind mass migration. Here in Sweden where I live it has gone farther than many other places, 2 million immigrants in twenty years which is a fifth of the total population. They are almost all funneled into low wage jobs such as taxi companies and nursing homes, so the underlying thought of all of this is pretty obvious.
    Many are worried that they will change the demographics of the country totally but I am not so sure. Most of the ones coming are young to middle aged men who wont have any children because of the cultural divide between both them and the Swedes but also between them and other immigrants since they are from all sorts of cultures. My guess is that as the economies of Europe and America start to contract, many of them will in time actually return or go somewhere else. What do you think?

  39. The latest Hail Mary on the energy front seems to be “gold” (naturally occurring, subterranean) hydrogen. Some does exist but so far we are in the stage of wild speculation and unfounded assertions (about amounts, locations, ease of mining, etc.)

  40. Thank you very much for this essay! Anybody living within travelling distance from an Eastern European country in the 1990s, including the former GDR, will be familiar with what you are describing. When I lived in Leipzig, formerly the second largest city in Germany, population was (and it still is) lower than it had been in the 1930s. In less attractive places, mayors and councils deliberately shrunk their city by literally imploding part of the housing, removing streets and sewer networks and regreening the free space. Leipzig was culturally attractive enough that investors from other parts of Germany thought they could earn money from building and renovating there. I think they lost their investments – the upside for me and my colleagues were plentiful, cheap and large apartments.

    Of course, when the whole world is undergoing population contraction, there are no outside investors to be fleeced.

    When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, fertility in the state was already below replacement level. It was very hard to get that into people’s minds. They would say “oh, sure, among educated couples, but look at that woman begging for money with her five children”. Then I would say “no, it’s the overall fertility, for the entire population”. They would never believe me. The thing is, you can’t tell that an adult walking across the street is childless. You only see the ones accompanied by children. It gnawed at me, the tragedy of wasting so many children’s lives in abysmally bad public schools, when the country would need every single one of those children to become a productive worker in the future.

    Here in Canada, as others have remarked, the loss of control over immigration has suddenly become the hot issue of the moment. The Québec government, which prides itself on being called “right-wing” and “pro-business”, screams about the numbers of asylum seekers, on the one hand, and permanent immigrants, on the other hand, but is dead silent about the fact that it has removed most restrictions on importing temporary workers, whose numbers consequently dwarf those of the other groups. Temporary workers can’t leave their employer, can’t negotiate pay raises and can hardly refuse dangerous work for fear of being fired and deported. The employers love it, and since temporary workers need to live somewhere like everybody else does, real estate speculators and landlords love it, too.

    It does seem as if these arrangements are coming to an end.

  41. Most of my neighbors are H1B type immigrants from India, China, Korea and Iran. They nearly all have some type of PHD and work at one of the nearby Intel plants. I used to think this was just a scheme to hold down wages for Americans with advanced science and engineering degrees. But most of these H1B folks live full upper middle class American lives with 2 cars, new 2500 square foot houses, etc.
    As time has gone on I realized this was also a response to the declining number of Americans graduating with these types of degrees. Of course some of it is self-fulfilling because if there were no immigrants, salaries would be very high and more people would be used in to these fields. But our school systems have been so hollowed out that most American School Children could not hack the education needed, even if they saw lush salaries when they were deciding on careers as high school graduates.
    So I guess that is how it will go for a while in the heart of an empire in decline in both economics, geopolitical power and population. Ilegal immigrants to garden for the elites and H1B immigrents to keep the tech industries afloat for a few more years.

  42. Greetings!
    (1) JMG wrote: “I hope you’ll help others learn, because it won’t be that long before handweaving will be the best option for anyone who wants to have clothes at all…”
    This really does imply a very short term (approx 5 years or so?) before the globalised textile and garments industry begins to unravel. Is that not too precipitous?
    (2) As population growth grinds to a halt and reverses and population level begins to drop, it will free both resources and physical capital for others, could that not mitigate further drops in numbers so that we get a very ragged curve, instead of a smooth population curve, that may level off to a lower level but more or less sustainable over the long term?
    I am thinking of the deer population graph you showed in your essay. Clearly there could be a level to which the world population could oscillate around.
    (3) In other words, how low do you think the population can drop to over the decades to come?

  43. re: immigration in Canada – I actually think that illegal immigration is less of an issue right now than legal. The liberals threw open the flood gates so wide that the Canadian population has increased from 37.9 million at the beginning of 2020 to 40.5 million at the end of 2023

    The GDP of the country as a whole is now (end 2023) barely increasing, and per person it is dropping. A surprising proportion of the incoming the last year has been a giant bubble in post-secondary students, which is now bursting. There’s a lot of complaints that there is too much immigration and that it is worsening problems like a) housing especially rental prices being sky-high in cost and very hard to find and b) the medical system is hard to access due to too little supply and too much demand.

    Possible reasons for our government to be pursuing high immigration when it’s causing problems and is increasingly unpopular: preventing an aging population and the financial problems that come with that, putting off population decline, propping up the housing market, lining the pockets of MPs etc by propping up the housing market, back in 2022 filling vacant job positions in a hot job market. The job market is no longer hot, but the government has not stepped back much on trying to grab new people by the bucketload.

    The troubles with high immigration as a solution: what happens when you can’t get more immigrants – this is a temporary solution at best, it worsens the birth dearth locally by increasing housing scarcity because it isn’t physically possible to build more housing stock fast enough to keep up with the current immigration rate (at least according to . Not to mention that the new housing is more expensive and that a lot of people can’t afford it, leading to tent encampments on a larger and more frequent scale than even a few years ago. Also, unless the immigrants imported are doctors/nurses etc. it worsens the burden on a creaky and dysfunctional healthcare system. And if the immigrants kids decide they can’t afford children when they grow up, you’re right back where you started, with higher housing prices and a further above carrying capacity population.

    I should probably be clear that the housing bubble in some areas far pre-exists the current skyrocket in immigration, and there’s other causes including speculators both local and foreign, money laundering, long periods of low interest rates etc. But adding this many new people has drastically worsened the situation, especially for renters who are competing directly with many of the new additions and who usually have the fewest resources with which to compete.

  44. About four years ago I had a brief flirtation with becoming an economist. When a professor of my PhD program asked me about my interests I said, “I’m interested in the economics of contraction.” He said, “there is no such thing, you will never stop growth.” And I said, “it’s already happening in Japan.”

    Anyway, now I’m a potter.

    It’s always been clear to me: our present economic system is a Ponzi scheme.

  45. Re: population “fixes” I have noted that fertility legislation such as Dobbs overturning Roe vs. Wade, popped up as population declines. I expect we will see legislation to prevent women’s access to birth control (such as that in effect during my college years in the 1970’s) will soon resurface. Also more draconian punishment of non-reproductive LGBTQ lifestyles. Although, as a friend pointed out in her law class at U Penn in 1976 the argument against “gay marriage” was that they didn’t reproduce. She replied that Lesbians should have even more right to marry as they could reproduce twice as much.

  46. I wonder how many trolls or utopian/apocalypse posts this one will get? You could always start a betting pool and make it interesting, while clicking delete as well. Russia just proposed a million rubles for a second child. It’s not as much in dollars, and won’t work long term but it’s an interesting short term tweak. Pass on surplus to the peasants. Speaking of peasants it occurs to me that the biblical prophecies of God laying waste the nation so the land could rest it’s Sabbath’s, could be read esoterically as rest for the peasants too. Aren’t they all regarded as resources? In the castes they are the human land the others are supposed to manage well.

  47. @hearthculture, I know what you mean. Some of my hobby stuff isn’t actively useful – the lizard, pet shrimp etc, but all the gardening equipment and young seedlings sure are. Then there’s the sewing machine, loom, spinning wheel, hard carders, pins needles, and way to much yarn. And the musical instruments, extra music stand and sheet music are due to me teaching recorder to friends, and studying recorder and voice as hard as I can with the idea of doing music professionally. I honestly don’t know if that will go anywhere though… but the music does act as a decent antidepressant at a similar price to counselling, and gives me a skill.

    Though the pets are sort of a holdover from when I worked as a petstore employee, too…. and I ran my own jewelry making business for a while, hence I still have a lot of that lying around, and quite a bit of my jewelry I made myself. I have a lot more jewelry than I really wear that I either made or people gave to me. Art supplies aren’t obviously useful… except that I save money every year with it by making Christmas cards.

  48. I have a list of books that includes some unique DIY/sustainability titles that I lend out for free from my Athena Reader’s Club (ARC) Library:
    I will mail the books to anyone in the continental US at my own expense, maximum 3 at a time. I ask that people return the books via mail in 2-3 months.
    Someday when commercial real estate isn’t completely unaffordable, my dream is to turn my occult and sustainability library into a physical space. I am hoping this happens before I turn 80 (I’m 50 now) but at this point it looks like it is off the table. Commercial rents around here are INSANE. It’s nearly $4000 a month before utilities to rent a small suite of rooms with a single bathroom in an office building built in the 80s on a commercial strip near my far western suburban house. The lowest commercial rent I could possibly get would exceed $2000 a month, and the space would be studio-apartment tiny. I rented commercial space in Naperville from the years 2008-2021. The hysteria of 2020-2022 crushed my business and left me in thousands of dollars of debt to my former landlord. Fortunately, my lease naturally expired in 2021, so I closed down the commercial incarnation of my business, which was absolutely heartbreaking. I have only recently finished paying off the credit my landlord extended to me during the shutdowns. I have been able to rebuild my business via a combination of guerrilla strategies, however, renting a commercial space would consume what little overhead I have been able to squeeze out. Don’t cry for me — I have landed on my feet and I have the necessary wealth to survive. That said, I welcome prayers to the Divine for my library to one day manifest on the physical plane and to create a place where important knowledge can be preserved for future generations who will need it.

  49. The economy is dead! Long live the economy! (raises glass)

    Still waiting to see if the necessary (inevitable?) land redistribution will happen peacefully, or the other way.

    @Justin: congratulations!

  50. Dear JMG,
    I have read and enjoyed every one of your posts since the beginning. Thank you.
    Some time ago, you wrote a series of posts on the subject of writing. You made the point that anyone could write a book. I took you at your word and wrote The Grinding, under the pen name Reef Hains. It’s free on Kindle Unlimited. I hope you find time to take a look and enjoy it if you decide to read it.
    Again, thank you.
    PS Overshoot is a terrifying read.

  51. The thing, I think, with things like the UN models is that they still assume that the rest of the world will become more and more like Western Europe over time, that “developing” nations will eventually finish their “development”, that backsliding is impossible, and that things like widespread famines etc. are forever a thing of the past that will be mitigated by new technology. The figures might be corrected for “aberrations” (e.g. the Russia-Ukraine war) as they happen, but they still operate under certain assumptions that might not be true.

    There already seem to be several hints of things breaking down from demographic contraction – the recent profusion, for example, of “help wanted (but not really)”, automation-driven displacements in jobs that don’t seem to actually be doing as much as you’d expect in the way of displacing workers, etc., even the increase in rent-seeking behavior (the owner class, unable to rely on the organic growth of before, has to squeeze on existing tenants – who for the time being, can still technically afford the increases – to maintain, let alone increase, profits). It wouldn’t surprise me if actual world population right now is as much as a hundred million less than what’s officially being reported.

  52. JMG – thanks for the post. Hope you’re getting along well enough.

    The word crapification reminded me of something I read recently about “ens***ification” – sorry if that’s too profane for here. I was noticing a few weeks ago that a certain type of ointment that I buy that historically came in a 12 oz tube and cost $17USD now comes in what appears to be an 8 to 10 oz tube and costs $22USD. Not only that, the qualify of said ointment has become oily and frankly stinks like a paper mill on a hot summer day. It’s medicinal, so it wasn’t meant to smell like roses, but the quality of the product has been reduced so much that I’m phasing out my use of it and trading it in for something with similar benefits but made in my own kitchen. The future really is now, I guess.

    Thanks again for the post.

  53. If only Canada could have the problems of a declining population. The government has given up trying to measure our population in any serious way, as it knows that the real population growth numbers are so high that if the general public heard them they would hit the roof. They now obfuscate our real growth numbers by referring to all these various categories of immigrants, refugees, international students, and temporary foreign workers, without ever giving us a clear total of how much real population increase has transpired. We have the growth rate of a sub-Saharan African country with ’80s infrastructure. It seems they’ve given up on new measures to encourage births, recognizing that their flood of all categories of newcomers have destroyed the prospect of starting a family for all but the wealthy. We’re becoming a second world country like the Soviet Union, where people share cramped accommodation, rather than living with first-world dignity. They instead prefer to just import working age young people. Unfortunately, they’re so stupid that they’re importing Uber deliverymen and Tim Horton’s workers instead of uranium miners working out of northern Saskatchewan. So our GDP is still going up, but our GDP per capita is dropping like a rock. We already had rock-bottom productivity, due to under-investment in capital and poor work ethics in some parts of the country, now we’re heading for whatever level of productivity is below rock-bottom.

  54. Have you seen anything about Yanis Varoufakis’s Technofeudalism? He talks about how the big Internet companies are now becoming like feudal lords, exacting heavy cuts as middlemen. Their data centers consume massive amounts of energy, and would be cast aside as we run out of fossil fuels.

  55. Your explanation of the reason for the flooding of Europe with immigrants is logical, which is why it’s wrong. In Germany’s case, the illegal immigrants aren’t joining the work force; they’re living entirely on welfare, which increases the strain on the working population, which is – in addition to the much higher crime rate of these immigrants – the biggest source of the rising resentment towards them and the government. If those immigrants tried to learn the language and find work, nobody would bat an eye about their presence. But it’s just woke madness all over again.

    As for peak oil, guess what, NASA has found a new, limitless source. Sure, it’s on Titan, but that will only be a new stimulus for our various space programs, right?

  56. That our whole economic house of cards is based on growth, that’s clear. But profit and return on investment are not fundamentally connected to growth, at least to community growth. A community is formed of many individuals at varying stages of life. Profit or return on investment, that is fundamental to life. A tree invests in a new branch, in hopes of a return, in hopes of the leaves finding new sunlight. The older established members of the community invest in the new growing members.
    The shrinking of the population and economy will certainly be massively disruptive. It’ll change how people invest. But putting seeds in the ground in the spring is hoping for a return on that investment with the fall harvest, that more seeds will emerge than one had planted.

  57. Mr. Greer,

    My apologies, it has been several years since I read the Limits to Growth so I didn’t remember the exact details of the model. It has been several centuries since western Civilization saw a population collapse with the last two incidents of it being in the 17th Century in what historians Geoffrey Parker and Eric Hobsbawm called the General Crisis. The other occurred in the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages which saw the combination of the Great Famine of 1315–1317, the Black Death and the One Hundred Years War knock out around half of Europe’s population. These two eras were also a time of fairly rapid climate change with the end of the Medieval Warm Period and the start of the Little Ice Age.

  58. In addition to the other economic ills resulting from population decline running headlong into diminishing corporate rpofits, etrc. is the fact that our monetary system is almost wholly debt-based. That is, most money in circulation is actually in the form of credit and its accompanying debt. The problem here is that the principal is created when loans, etc. are originated, but money needed to pay the interest is not. It must be created via future loans. A contracting economy thus has devastating consequences for such a debt-based monetary system. Our public officials will do literally anything to prevent this situation from developing.

  59. This is completely anecdotal, but I have a 40 year old daughter and used to work at a private middle school in California. Of her and her friends and any of my ex students that I have kept track of, I can only think of a couple that have more than two kids. Zero is a lot more common than three, and many have one or two. My daughter, for instance, has none. There are many reasons, but one prominent one is that they can’t afford to. She would lose her house if she didn’t work full time. Many feel that they can’t afford to raise them properly. There is a sort of nebulous apprehension about the future, though not as focused as most of us here at ecosophia. Most of the young adults I am thinking of are college educated and would expect that for their children. Most of them haven’t quite figured out
    that the children would be better off training for a skilled trade and not racking up a huge college debt. Their fears don’t seem focused, or are often, to me, misdirected, such as this or that political party or green growth, but remind me of Macbeth’s” ………….not loud but deep, which the poor heart feign would deny but dare not”

  60. Speaking of driving up the cost, inflation has several manifestations.
    The company raises prices: standard inflation
    The company reduces quantity: shrinkflation
    The company reduces quality or service: crapification
    In all cases the COST of the product has gone up even if the nominal price has stayed the same.
    Shrinkflation and crapification are ways to work around the fact that you can’t charge more than the market is willing to pay. So you get nominal prices up as far as you can then shave off value on the back end.
    At some point availability issues start to arise as there isn’t enough profit to justify expanding production. So your product is at max market price, you’ve shrunk the quantity and compromised on quality, you can make X but demand is X*2, but your profit margin doesn’t afford you the ability to increase production. You are at max market price because if you increase prices further, demand will fall off a cliff, making expansion pointless.
    So the decrease in industrial production is not a result of pure inability but a result of a lack of affordability. Just as a decrease in energy availability is not a result of pure inability but a lack of affordability.
    And the decrease in population is not because people can’t have kids. It’s a lack of affordability.
    Bringing in migrants doesn’t fix the problem, it increases demand – leading to additional inflation and more unavailability of products. Especially since these migrants are poor and quickly become the marginal consumer and start to dictate what max market price is for a wide range of items.
    The government shovels money their way but all this helicopter money increases inflation. It’s why interest rates have to stay up. The US Federal Reserve is using monetary policy to counteract the fiscal policy of the US Government, and all their handouts.

  61. First off, please accept my sincerest condolences on the loss of your wife. Your tribute to her was quite moving.

    Back in the 1980s, a friend of mine, who was an environmentalist with a lifestyle close to subsistence level (rare for many environmentalists, I fear), handed me a book. “Here,” he said” you need to read this.” It was Overshoot by William Catton. I remember two significant alterations to my worldview. The first was “Wow, you mean humanity is subject to ecological processes?” The second was (although I used a more scatological expression) “Uh-oh.” Thanks for reminding us of that important book. If anyone in this community hasn’t read it, I recommend they do so. I am also working my way through John McPhee’s excellent “Annals of the Former World” which reminds me that Earth experiences processes with timelines far beyond human comprehension, and which will still be churning along far after our species has shuffled down the road.

    Anyway, as usual your post has stirred a large nest of issues for me: resource depletion, population dynamics, immigration, reproductive rights.

    My on-the-ground experience here in the Pacific Northwest tells me that our current economy needs migration, legal or otherwise. Most of the hard labor in our region — construction, agricultural work (even in the bougie wine industry), food service, forestry, etc. — is done by Spanish-speaking workers. I remember Anthony Bourdain remarking that without immigrants the US restaurant industry would collapse. I see the same process in Europe. In my visits to Germany it seems to me that many of the working-class jobs are now taken by Turks and Eastern Europeans.

    I have a friend, a white male now in his 60s, who grew up in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, and as a kid earned money in the summertime picking beans in the nearby farm fields. At the same age, I (a member of the same demographic as my friend) earned money washing dishes in a cafeteria. At the risk of stereotyping it is difficult to imagine white kids in the current economy occupying or wanting those jobs. Which is why the “they’re coming to take our jobs” rhetoric rings hollow to me. Maybe that’s why the rhetoric has pivoted to “they” are now all rapists and criminals. With diseases, to boot.

    I also find it fascinating that Mexico’s replacement rate has fallen so far. I agree that must be why so many current immigrants are from other countries in Central and South America. If I may be allowed another anecdote, I have a friend who immigrated (legally) from Mexico in the 1980s. He worked very hard at multiple jobs for years, raised a family, paid taxes, volunteered in the community. In short, a model citizen. He is now building a house for himself. Back in Mexico.

    So we have a nativist movement in the US using immigration as a rallying cry, an economy dependent on cheap immigrant labor, a resource and climate crisis pushing immigration from the global south to the north, a dramatic dip in the replacement rate in most countries of the world. All of this makes me wonder at the current immigrant-bashing in US politics and its relationship to the attack (from the same quarters) on women’s reproductive rights. What is your take on this?

  62. >why is no effort is made by europe and n. america to expand vetted legal immigration and tamp down the chaotic illegal immigration? Would be way better for everybody i think.

    And there you would be wrong. It’s very advantageous to the elites to have a second class citizen workforce that has no real rights and won’t ever complain or demand better pay or unionize.

    >There are many reasons, but one prominent one is that they can’t afford to. She would lose her house if she didn’t work full time. Many feel that they can’t afford to raise them properly. There is a sort of nebulous apprehension about the future,

    BINGO. No faith in the future. Usually caused by too much perceived economic volatility. If all you can plan out ahead is 3 months into the future, you’ll get a lot of “I’m focusing on my career right now and maybe someday (over the rainbow) I’ll think about these other things when the skies are blue”.

    I suppose you could try tricking people into thinking the economy is better than it actually is but at some level, people know the real score even if they can’t vocalize it or enumerate their thinking. And it’s very hard to get people to do something as opposed to stopping them from doing something.

  63. Mr. Greer, thank you for your response!

    While it is true that the extremes of Utopia and Apocalypse are futures that we will never get. I still think you are a bit too optimistic. Someone also mentioned this above. The curve of our inevitable decline won’t be so smooth, it will be a semi-Apocalypse, I expect plenty of ugly shocks to that curve in the next four decades. People will not part peacefully with their fantasy of infinite growth and will produce even more devastation in an effort to preserve their lifestyle. I get sick to my stomach just thinking at what the Chinese fishing fleets are doing to the oceans. And in pursuit of more oil …
    The rate of destruction/consumption will increase until there’s nothing more to destroy.

  64. I live most of the year in Mexico. I fear they are just now happily settling in to the last available cabins on the Titanic. These are rough figures, but lets say that 50 years ago the population was 80 o/o rural. 20 o/o urban, and is now the opposite. Family size in the village i live in is usually 2 or 3 kids, as opposed to lots more years ago, probably less in the cities. So many people have fancy new cars and trucks bought with easy credit. The main industry in my village is tourism and retirees, from either US and Canada or Guadalajara, so they are very vulnerable to economic fluctuations in the above places. Through misguided denuding of the arroyo and extreme runoff after heavy rain, coupled with some major storms and hurricanes, the beach has turned to rocks. That and a shark attack ,which was much publicised in Gaudalajara, has brought working and lower middle class Mexican tourism way down. Prices have gone up so much that even retirees from Canada and US are finding it hard to afford. Most hotels and restaurants are keeping their prices up to pre covid levels and hoping the tourism will come back to that level. Granted prices on everything have gone up, but the expectation amongst most locals and expats is that growth and prosperity will continue upwards. That it won’t is a very hard thing for most people to accept. I think this is a good time to be an old man

  65. @Northwind Grandma

    Congrats! Never too late to learn a new skill. I started with Chickens last year. Just now I pulled egg number 661 from the coop box.

    as I am sure you well know, it is the journey and not the destination, but your family will enjoy the blanket(s), as mine enjoys fresh eggs!


  66. @Justin Patrick
    Congratulations on publishing your book! The cover looks awesome. I love electronic music so I can say I will be purchasing a copy asap.

  67. >The accelerating crapification of goods and services in the corporate economy makes a good measure of just how much strain the current system is under; it would not surprise me at all if a growing range of goods and services simply stop being available to most people in the years immediately ahead.

    The harder it is to repair, the more likely it is to go away. What will survive to see 2070 will be easy to repair.

  68. Many have tried to explain low birth rates in modern world. I think Oswald Spengler’s theories about civilization cycles is one of the best explanation.

    We don’t need infinite population growth, but rapid decline will challenge the current societies and economic systems.

    Combined with cultural decay, dishonest elites and shrinking economy we will live interesting time as the Chinese would say. Moderns societies will transform better or worse.

  69. Reading Dashui’s comment, a lightbulb went off. That is the exact pattern I saw in Japan where I lived from 2005-2012. First, all the young people living in rural areas migrate to the main capital cities within the prefecture, and then, as even those populations start to decline, all the young people to the main cities within the country (namely Tokyo in Japan’s case).

    Those cities stagnate in an amazing way as very little new gets built, and slowly all the shops die off one-by-one, creating a vicious cycle. Nothing the government does stops the flow from the rural areas to the cities, and I’m not sure what can be done. The worst part is, the movement from rural to urban further exacerbates the childbirth problem, as the urban areas actually see increasing population growth and do not see a reduced cost of living that would actually encourage family formation.

  70. Nick, you’re most welcome. No question, American education is dead, and it’ll take some very hard times to bring about its rebirth. In the meantime, your farm work is probably a much better option for the near to middle future.

    Douglas, no surprises there. Canada is a bit of an outlier in that its mass immigration is legal rather than illegal, as it is down here; that won’t prevent negative consequences, of course, but they’ll be different consequences.

    Angelica, so do I. It makes up to some extent for the incredibly dispiriting way in which so many people who claimed to be into natural healing and insisted they were skeptical about the pharmaceutical industry fell into mindless lockstep with the corporate media once the Covid business was ramped up.

    Frederik, that seems likely to me. During the Trump presidency quite a few of our immigrants went back home, so once conditions get too difficult in Sweden, the same is likely to be true.

    Isaac, of course. I expect even more ludicrous claims to be extracted from various backsides as we proceed.

    Aldarion, that’s exactly the sort of thing I expect to see everywhere in the industrial world as this proceeds — including the fleecing of investors. In an age of economic contraction, anyone who claims to be able to offer a profit will be swamped with what money remains.

    Clay, yep. Then the money runs short, the guest workers go home, and nobody remembers how to do their jobs any more. It’s an old story.

    Karim, oh, there will still be cloth being made in factories five years from now. It’s anyone’s guess whether ordinary Americans will be able to afford to buy any of it, though. As for population levels, it’s normal in the aftermath of a civilizational collapse for population levels to drop to 5% or so of their precollapse high — in this case, that would mean somewhere around 400 million people — still a pretty considerable global population — before rising gradually again to between 1 and 1.5 billion or so.

    Pygmycory, thanks for the data points. Yeah, Canada’s trying a somewhat different version of the same gimmick. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, but in any case it’ll be a mess.

    Brandi, a very sensible career choice! You’re quite correct, of course, about the economic system.

    Susan, I’m sorry to say that in some areas, at least, that’s likely to happen, at least for a while.

    Celadon, nah, though I may put through some of the sillier exampes so I can poke fun at them.

    Methylethyl, (clink). Heck of a good question.

    Kendo, delighted to hear it. I’ll see if it’s compatible with my (very old) Kindle.

    Brendhelm, granted. Factor in groupthink, ideology, and jockeying for political advantage, and what comes out of international organizations such as the US is going to be a complete dog’s breakfast.

    Christina, yes, it’s too profane for here, thus the bit of editing I did. I use the term “crapification” as a slightly more polite version. Yes, I’ve seen the same thing happen to a great many products!

    Merle, oh, you have a declining population all right, if you set aside mass immigration. That’s exactly my point — and declining GDP per person is exactly what the rich want, since that’s a measure of how far wages and benefits are being driven down, thus producing higher corporate profits.

    Bradley, I have indeed. I have a somewhat different term for it, which will be discussed in detail in a later post.

    Althaia, when you go to a corner store or a fast food place, are the people behind the counter native Germans? In most of Europe at this point, they’re from elsewhere…

    Jim, and where would be be without the true believers among us? In case you haven’t noticed, trees don’t keep on growing forever; they reach a maximum point of growth and then begin losing branches, putting out fewer leaves each year, and eventually die. The same is true of economies. In an age of contraction, the return on investment is less than the investment. I know that’s almost impossible for people raised in the current way of thinking to understand, but there are plenty of historical examples — and you’ll be seeing another in the not too distant future if you live long enough.

    Karl, exactly — and it’s a matter of blind and pious faith among most modern people that such things can never happen again. Of course they’re already happening — the ongoing expansion of notional wealth is covering up an ongoing contraction in real, nonfinancial wealth already.

    Helix, exactly. Exactly. But they won’t be able to keep up the pretense forever.

    Stephen, anecdotal or not, it’s something I’ve heard from many other sources.

    DT, nicely summarized; thank you.

    Scotlyn, if I wore tee shirts I’d buy one!

    Friction, I ran into Catton’s book in the student bookstore at Western Washington University in the fall of 1980, and it rocked my world good and hard. As for your question, that’s a very complex issue which I’ll need to discuss in a later post — it’ll take at least one full essay to explore.

    Rafael, some people have been telling me for years that I’m too optimistic; others insist with equal heat that I’m too pessimistic. Oddly enough, my predictions tend to be much more accurate than those of either side, so you know what? I’m going to keep on calling it as I see it.

    Stephen, interesting. Thank you for the data points!

  71. @Ian Duncombe: Thank you! I was able to create a “mood board” of images for the cover designer to use to work off of, and then after they banged out a bunch of versions, I picked the one I like the best. The publisher said they liked to operate more as an indie record label, in some areas, than the traditional way where authors get no say in the book cover. I was very happy with the way it looks too. Thanks for your support.

  72. Yeah, they are among the reasons. But all of them are just symptoms of overshoot, as you correctly point out in this post. This trend is far beyond the control of the bureaucracy and elite, but that won’t stop them from trying social engineering to fix the problem. They’ll only make it worse.

    As for gimmicks to increase the population, could the crusade against abortion and birth control be one? I guess it would be the right-wing equivalent to mass illegal immigration as a solution.

  73. @Pyrrhus,

    I will second your argument re falling birth rates mostly being a matter of urbanization and women’s education.

    If the coming population contraction was caused (as our host is arguing) by resource shortfalls, then shouldn’t it hit the hardest in the poorest countries? And yet sub-Saharan Africa is the only part of the world that still has consistently high birthrates. Meanwhile the demographic collapse is furthest along in East Asia, followed by Europe – two relatively prosperous regions. (It is also worth noting that population contraction these days is mainly due to women voluntarily choosing to have fewer children – starvation, poor medical care, and other things associated with poverty/scarcity are not a significant factor at the moment.)

    Nor does anybody really know what the earth’s carrying capacity actually is. Concepts like that are obviously more flexible for humans than for most animals, since different cultures are able to produce very different amounts of food from the same amount of land – just compare the dense, sustainable farming methods of traditional Chinese and Japanese agriculture, with the less efficient techniques of medieval and early modern Europe. And hunter-gatherer societies also put very different burdens on their ecosystems, as do seminomadic slash-and-burn farmers… the key takeaway is that nobody really knows how many people the Earth could support if every society simultaneously started using the best possible long-term farming techniques for its particular environment

  74. @Jim #58
    Yes as population declines there will still be the opportunity to plant a seed and wait for your ” investment” in planting to yield the outcome of some food. But what there won’t be is financial investment where person A gives businessperson B and amount of money (X) and expects to get back X+1 in the future.
    If the Baker normally bakes 1000 loaves of bread a year and just makes enough money for his wages ( return to labor) and overhead ( rent, supplies, energy) it will not work if Sir Top Hat gives him $1000 and expects him to give him back $1100 in a years time. Normally that extra $100 would be paid for by the profits from making 1200 loaves while keeping expenses the same. But the problem is that in a negative growth environment the baker will only make 950 loaves the next year so he will have no profit from which to pay back the investment to Sir Top Hat.
    The only way to make a profit from which to pay back Sir Top Hat is to invest the money in a gun and then go shoot your closest competitor. Then you can make many more loaves that next year and pay back Sir Top Hat. But that amounts to banditry or piracy and since it is really the only way to make a profit in a negative growth environment such things become common on the way down.
    The US economy has had no real organic growth for about 20 years. That is why most big companies grow by taking over other companies ( a kind of banditry) to be able to show a profit to their investors. In a truly dynamic economy such as the auto industry in the 1920’s or even the wood stove business in the 1970’s there are more business’s popping up everyday and not fewer.

  75. Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Greer. I suppose you are right. Someone who knows history will eventually predict it as well. The line between historian and prophet is a bit blurry.

  76. the lower fertility rates thing:
    apart from all the chemical contamination and whatnot, there are just some financial and regulatory realities, in the US at least, that can’t be got around. Probably similar in other countries. Stagnating wages and rising cost of necessities like food and housing plays into it of course, but you could argue that people are still having many kids in countries very much poorer than ours.

    Most of the things people do to raise those large families in poor countries are illegal here, from child labor to unsupervised children to carting kids around on motorbikes, to everybody sleeping in the same room, to building your own house out of sticks and clay, scrap metal and bamboo. Poor in the US generally rent, and fire safety rules dictate no more than two people per bedroom, including kids. So while a family of eight can live in a mud hut or a two-room apartment somewhere else… they’d need to find a four-bedroom house to rent here. Have you looked for an affordable four-bedroom rental lately? They can squeeze five people on a motorbike and actually have baby seats that fit on vespas back in SE Asia. Here, you have to have a hulking van with one seatbelt per person. There are some good and some so-so reasons for all those things, but yes, the math is different when you live in a rich country, and while there’s always a contingent of the squalid poor who throw caution to the wind… most people really do make rational decisions about it.

    It’ll be interesting to see if and how those calculations change, as things fall apart. I suspect child welfare concerns will become less important and there’ll be at least a small resurgence in fertility rates– along with a creeping of mortality rates back toward the historical norm.

  77. Delightful essay, JMG – brings back many memories!

    The first thing that came to my mind was some dumb course I had to take in high school: World Issues or something of that ilk. The only thing I remember about the course was some lurid gruesome paintings of a world which was so brimming full of humans that everywhere it was “standing room only” and our teacher warned us in apocalyptic tones that this would be our future if we don’t stop the “population bomb”. I took it to be 5% truth and 95% propaganda. Seemed kind of extreme news being given to kids living in a country with a population of 25 million and an area of 10 million square kilometres. At that time Canada was accepting 100,000 immigrants (or less) per year. What also came to mind was the film Soylent Green, in which the lurid illustrations described above were projected onto USA circa 2021. And also the episode of Star Trek (circa 1968) in which a planet is ‘cursed’ with no human illness and death and needed an infective agent, via the crew of the USS Enterprise, to break the curse of a planet brimming full of people.

    At the time that I watched that episode of Star Trek and sat through the idiotic high school course, nearly all of my friends came from families that had 3 or 4 children. And in my parents’ generation most families had 5 children. My parents (married in 1938) wanted to have a family of 8 kids but didn’t quite achieve that ambition. I’m not sure if there was anything similar phenomenon in the USA, but in Canada during the 1920s through 1940s there was a strong social and government push to have big families. I think there was even a national competition (with a big cash reward) for the family with the most kids. Those were the days when immigration to the country was very low and carefully scrutinized: no Blacks, nor Asians, nor Jews welcome; even Mediterranean Europeans were frowned upon (not considered to be ‘white’ enough). Even in the 1950s, immigration was mostly via a sponsorship process: my father personally sponsored quite a few families from war-ravaged Netherlands to our peaceful country. There were some exceptions to the rules, of course: the government of Canada secretly imported a whole whack of SS Waffen Galicia Division folks (and other ‘not-sees’) who promptly dominated the existing ethnic Ukrainian population and set up monuments to Stepan Bandera on our soil! So, looking back over time some things change (e.g., the ideal family size) while others do not (e.g., government shenanigans regarding immigration).

    It will be interesting to see how the migrant machine plays out and eventually peters out here in the West. I know that the situation in the USA is horrendous, but in Canada it is insane, with more than 1 million people pouring in each year lately, as if our government has little time to achieve its inscrutable (but likely unsavoury) objectives. The vast majority of the illegal immigrants are fit, fighting-age males, which has our war veterans and retired cops practically ripping their hair out and screaming at the top of their lungs. Tent cities (‘Trudeauvilles’ we are calling them) occupied by a mix of new immigrants from tropical countries and down-and-out Canadian families are popping up everywhere. Many of the immigrants hate it here but cannot save enough money to leave. Nor are there jobs available: recently 1,200 people applied for a single dishwasher job at some greasy spoon joint in Nova Scotia! But eventually the flood will turn into a trickle and then stop. The questions are ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘why’.
    Funny how some people – including the so-called highly educated — simply can’t ‘get it’ regarding simple things such as peak oil, carrying capacity and overshoot. I pretty much gave up talking to anyone outside my family about these things after 2007. I even used easy-to-relate-to analogies. It doesn’t matter where the listener is on the political spectrum; they just sing different songs loudly while they plug their ears and look at me wide-eyed as if I am pointing a hunting knife at them. SIGH.

    If the past is a guide to the future, no doubt there will be some things we can learn from the early stages of the collapse of the Roman Empire and empires in general because inevitably they all end up in ‘overshoot’ territory.

  78. John there’s an error at the start of the article, you said Malaysia was the fourth most populous country when it should be Indonesia. The sentence in question reads: “ United States, third most populous, is at 1.7, and Malaysia, fourth, is at 1.8.”

  79. One thing I’d like to point out is a detail about the populations that are still reproducing above fertility rate: they are artificially propped up compared to the actual ecological situation. I mean, if Kenya had to rely entirely on its own food production, do you think they would still have a 5.1 TFR? I doubt it.

    The imbalance is only partially direct aid (almost all food aid goes to high TFR countries). It is also partially caused by developed nations dumping the excess of their subsidy and fossil-fuel soaked ag industry on the global south. For obvious humanitarian reasons, we can only hope the imbalance is allowed to taper off slowly, and not cut off quickly.

    Of course, we in the developed world are flirting with disaster, so not much chance of that. The average farmer is in their late 50s in North America. Which means half of them are older than that. Do we have enough new talent in the pipeline to replace them? How in the name of Ceres and Vesta can new generations buy in, with land overvalued as it is? Of course they can’t; in North America, we’re collectivizing agriculture. History shows us how well that works… unless you think a corporation will do so better over the long run on illegal immigrant labour than a kolkhozy did with impressed pesants or a latifundium did with slaves?

    Given datcha gardening is the only thing that kept the Soviet Union from starvation in some years, it is absolutely insane that the wannabe-Stalins behind the Great Reset are trying to push against home gardens now. Well, maybe we’re all wrong and they don’t want to be Stalin; maybe they want to be Mao. What’s the difference between a Reset and a Leap Forward, after all? They both sound Great!

    All this to say– I don’t think African populations will continue to grow for as long as the UN is predicting, and if you think the migrant crisis is bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

  80. John I wonder if you are familiar with the scientist Dr Bill Reese. He has been interviewed on many YouTube videos and he has been insisting that the planet is already in overshoot and that a lot of our problems were having in the world today are because of the overshoot. He insists that we are past the point of no return and advocates what you say is that we just need to adjust to the new reality of contracting resources.

  81. I once had a conversation with my parents, both self-employed business owners, about the nature of profit and where it came from. The default answer was “well, it comes from charging a profit margin on whatever you’re selling.” My answer was “well yes, but WHERE does that profit margin come from? Where does the space, so to speak, come from so that profit margins aren’t just a form of wealth transfer?” That’s where the conversation ended.
    I took the time to read Catton’s Overshoot, and hoo boy, was it a good, and somewhat terrifying, read. I recognized a lot of his ideas from your ADR blogs, having read your blog first many years ago. What astounded me most, perhaps, was his argument that the discovery of the Americas by European settlers was the equivalent of discovering a whole other Earth, and thus a sudden and massive increase in the carrying capacity of European people using European methods of food and resource production.
    Finally, I often argue with my father-n-law about the overpopulation thing. As you say, he’s in that generation where the warning of overpopulation was hammered over his head his whole life. I’m not concerned about changing his mind, but I can’t help but smile ruefully as he goes on about how everyone needs to stop having children right now to save the planet.

  82. Hi JMG,
    A question (sorry if that was asked already, please feel free to disregard – I won’t have time to read the comments till tomorrow) .

    What is the signal mechanism between the availability of oil and women deciding how many babies to have? That is, how exactly the former affects the latter? Availability of resources for raising kids would be a neat answer but, unless I miss something, so far it’s people who have plenty of resources (urban, educated,upper-middle class) that have the least kids. Moreover, every time income per capita in a country goes up, the birthrate usually goes down.


  83. JMG, I enjoy telling people that the smartest man I know of keeps correctly predicting the things that happen and then telling them about his current predictions. They are sceptical at best, rude at worst. But, I am retired, in a paid off home, no outstanding loans, and a have full pantry, lots of beans and rice. I just smile and go my way. Thanks for all the good work and writing.

  84. @JMG
    David Fischer in his book “The Great Wave” sort of supports your point about smooth population decline.
    He studied the history of inflation spikes in Western Europe (I suppose you can treat them as localised overshoots). He did a detailed study of four: fourteenth century spike, seventeenth, nineteenth and our current twentieth century one.
    What he did notice was that while every single “return to normal” after an inflation spike was accompanied by a population contraction with every successive cycle these contractions became more and more smooth.

  85. @Karl Grant #59 – thanks for the data points. I knew the eras you pinpointed were what I call Megacrises, after which nothing was the same, but hadn’t thought of the climate changes of those periods.
    @Stephen Pearson #61: my younger daughter’s son has dropped out of college to become a firefighter, and she’s fine with that. She’s also fine with someone entering the skilled trades if that’s their thing. Some background: Connor has always been a hands-on boy, but could not get into engineering school because there’s a 4-year waiting list to even apply. He dropped back into Computer Security and said “It’s nothing but coding and that’s not me.” I heartily applauded his choice. Meanwhile, his cousin Caden, who I always figured for a tech geek, wants to study Politics, Economics, and (I think) Diplomacy. The 3 fields the most full of nonsense. I kept my mouth shut; arguing with my older daughter is like butting my head against an aggressive stone wall.
    @DT #62: Step 4: the company reduces both service and quality to a rock-bottom minimum. Step 5 it goes out of business.

  86. Hi John,
    I agree with most of what you’ve said. And a good portion of my agreement comes from having followed you through the decades.

    However, I think there is a very large gap in your logic chain right here: “While fossil fuel production has climbed steadily year after year, in other words, the availability of energy to society has faltered—and in lockstep, JUST AS POPULATION ECOLOGY WOULD PREDICT, BIRTHRATES HAVE FALLEN.” (emphasis added).

    The facts simply don’t support your argument in the case of the most advanced economies. In particular, they don’t fit in the case of the United States and Western Europe. The population density has been, and remains, extremely low in North America, in particular, while availability of hydrocarbons, other natural resources, and food has generally increased. So there is nothing particularly in accord with “population ecology” to explain the most advanced and prosperous countries suffering, generally, the most calamitous collapses in reproduction. Indeed, the opposite of what population ecology would predict has happened: the places where energy and food were the LEAST of an issue have suffered the worst collapses. “Starvation” for physical food has had nothing to do with it.

    And then there is the calamitous collapse of sperm motility across the world which you will need to address head on to make your argument:


    I’m looking for more precise, country by country, statistics. But it appears that the countries with the most “modern” economies — where food and energy availability CANNOT be the limiting factor — have suffered the WORST declines in reproductive rates.

    There are doubtless many other factors to be considered: certainly including easy access to “choice” (contraceptives and safe abortion) and the cultivation of social changes advocating women putting off having children in favor of having careers. But I think, in particular, digging more into the explosion of inability to have conceive needs to be brought under the microscope. And although I may be making too large a leap. Many animals and, certainly, insects, seem to be having problems in parallel with humans. Very curious.

  87. Dear JMG,
    That was so refreshing! I loved that article. I know you did not have space to list all the reasons for the decline in fertility but you must know that human fertility has dropped by about 50% in the last 50 years and the rate of descent is now over 2% a year. It is all these damned hormone-mimicking chemicals that are at fault.

    I am not tec savvy, and somehow, I have got onto a Roman Catholic group on the internet. One of the posts said they are a married Catholic couple who has had lots of enthusiastic sex for the past 3 years with no pregnancy resulting. They asked if anyone else was having similar trouble. All the people who responded said yes. One person even said Doctors are not even willing to admit there is a problem until 4 years have gone by with no pregnancy.

    I spoke with an old friend who is RC and is 74 years old. He said it never took him but one shot to get his wife pregnant. Other friends around the same age say the same thing. Usually a little regretfully. I think they would have liked more attempts before success.

    So, all around the world, human fertility is dropping. I see this as a very good thing for the world an even for humans. We have really trashed this planet since I was a little girl.

  88. Papa– re theramins, i’m agreeing with you! i think theramin music should be piped in on the elevators and take over for music hold because everyone’s on music hold! i really think theramin music should take over for the bluegrass renaissance.

    theramin banjo music. now that is something i’d love to hear.

    or bluegrass bands WITH theramins! now THAT is perfect for this age. we are living the soundtrack for a 50s sci fi movie mashup with a Democratic “Deliverance” vibe and it’d be so perfect it’d make me GIGGLE.

  89. “Athaia, when you go to a corner store or a fast food place, are the people behind the counter native Germans? In most of Europe at this point, they’re from elsewhere…”

    Those would be 3rd generation Turks, whose grandparents came to Germany in the sixties and stayed here. What I was talking about are the young men from Africa who are being “rescued” from their little boats in the Mediterranean. And most Ukrainian refugees also don’t work, because they get Bürgergeld (we have the lowest rate of working Ukrainian refugees in all of the EU because here, they get their money without having to do anything for it).

  90. My spouse & I don’t have kids. My only sibling also does not. My spouse’s only sibling wants kids but is saying she only wants one. I have two cousins: neither have kids. Some of my spouse’s cousins have kids but overall not at the replacement rate. The population contraction is very real! And this is in a blended family of working class & middle class, some bachelors degrees but mostly associates or just training.

  91. Enjoyer, yes, that’s one of several things driving the swing in the popular mood against abortion.

    Thrown, you might want to read Methylethyl’s comment at #79, and Tyler A.’s at #84. It’s simplistic, not to say simple-minded, to insist that resource scarcity can only take the shape of outright starvation. Soaring costs and declining incomes can have a dramatic effect on population fertility even if everyone can more or less get enough food to eat. As for those Third World countries, do look up sometime how much free food they get from the industrial world, as part of the mechanisms of imperial control…

    Travis, from the perspective of deep time, yes, exactly. It’s just that being here at this moment in history has some downsides.

    Ron, I well remember Soylent Green. I did a little fast math, and noted that in order to keep the human population supplied with protein using human bodies as the source, you’d have to harvest so many human bodies that the population would drop like a rock!

    Dan, already corrected.

    Tyler, that’s a very good point, of course.

    Mark, no, I wasn’t — thank you for the heads up!

    Tim, I’ve had plenty of conversations like that. It’s embarrassing that so few people can get their heads around the idea that economic growth depends on population growth.

    Peevish, it’s not a simple thing. It’s a hypercomplex process involving changes in job availability, the cost of living, and dozens of other factors, many of which have a disproportionate effect on people in urban industrial settings — not least because urban industrial settings involve more energy per capita than most other contexts.

    Mac, thank you for the vote of confidence.

    Vlad, interesting. I’ll take a look at that book as time permits.

    Gnat, you’re drastically oversimplifying the situation. First of all, population density in North America is low only if you ignore the fact that very large parts of the continent aren’t fit for more than scattered human habitation. Second, you’re ignoring the fact, which I discussed in the post, that availability of hydrocarbons in the abstract doesn’t factor in the energy cost of energy extraction, which is soaring. Third, since energy availability is at issue, it makes perfect sense that societies that have become more dependent on high energy use would show a disproportionate impact. Finally, er, show me where I included “‘starvation’ for physical food” in my analysis — that’s a straw man, and an unusually limp one.

    Maxine, human fertility has certainly declined, and no doubt pharmaceutical pollution is part of it. I wonder, though, if there are also biological controls among humans, as there are among so many other animals, that shut off fertility as population levels become excessive.

    Erika, you make me want to learn to play the theremin! Maybe I will; I could use a new hobby or two.

    Athaia, interesting. That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case all over Europe — Fredrik at #40 notes that immigrants have taken all the bottom level jobs in Sweden. You doubtless know your government better than I do; why do you think they’re bringing in so many immigrants?

    Cs2, I hear this sort of thing all the time.

  92. Thanks for coming back to this topic. It explains a lot of what’s going on that otherwise would make no sense at all.

    I wonder what you think of this Substack article in which (TL,DR) the author argues that reducing global population has been a long-running goal of the ruling class. And specifically his description of intentional actions taken on the part of governments, international organizations, and large corporations to achieve that goal. He was led to look into said actions out of his concerns as a physician that the COVID shots would have the effect of reducing fertility. 

    From your post, I anticipate you would consider such influences negligible at best, but maybe I’m wrong.

    From what I can gather, there seems to be a tension among the elites between the desire to reduce global population to free up more resources for themselves, on one hand, and to juice the economy through population growth, on the other hand.

    Perhaps their reconciliation of the two would be to depopulate the third world and move them all to the first world, thus pumping up economies in first world cities while turning third world nations and all non-urban areas into glorified mining camps?

    (If you do want to take a look) “The History of Population Control is Important for Understanding COVID-19”

  93. I know it is no longer the open post, JMG, but I want to post an update on Monika’s saga if that’s allowed. She got checked out at a hospital once she got back to civilization, and is waiting for a flight home. Her pain is supposedly very bad gastric reflux– possibly caused by a combination of the post-nasal drip of the sinus infection, the antibiotics she was prescribed, and of course the whole ‘pregnancy’ thing. She’s a bit doubtful of this diagnosis, but was discharged from the hospital regardless. (At 3AM, alone in a strange city– the system shows it cares.) There’s supposed to be room on an overnight flight tonight, so we will be reunited tomorrow.

    Prayers, positive energy and essene healing still welcome, of course. Thank you to anyone who contributed prayers or energy, and as always to Quin for organizing the prayer list.

  94. Hi JMG,

    Do you think that there is a non-human (super-human?) intelligence involved into the population growth/decline? I mean, OK, it’s easy to imagine a casual link with population declining when people are living as densely as they are in Japan, South Korea, or large cities in China. I am thinking here more of other factors that are harder to explain away. Some 20 years ago I read a study on how the rate of twins and triplet births went noticeably up after the WWII in Soviet Union. The first decade after the war was hard and not particularly conducive for higher birth rates so the nature seems to have compensated by popping out more kids per birth than usual. I don’t think there can be an easy materialistic or psychological explanation to this. There is some collective phenomena at work here which almost begs for some sort of intelligence behind it.

  95. To a large extent the senility ( and short term greed) of the elites play a large role in to population decline though it is not in their long term best interest to do so ( kind of a corollary to the hairball theory of empire).
    If one wanted to reduce population you would do the following things 🙁 sound familiar)
    1). make childbirth expensive and require professional assistance
    2) require elaborate gear to transport children by car
    3) pass laws to prevent children from being unattended so expensive childcare is required.
    4) pass child labor laws so children can not work and contribute income to the family
    5) make child support laws that are draconian and scary for would-be fathers
    6) Make college very expensive, instead of the low cost state schools of yesteryear
    7) Make housing very expensive so many young adults live with parents.
    8) make housing expensive so enough room for kids is prohibitive.
    9) destroy the family structure so kids can not be counted on to take of parents in old age.
    10) drive down wages so 2 wage earners are required to support a basic lifestyle.
    You can go on forever.

  96. @Thrown, JMG
    Aye! I say that as someone who has fewer kids than I really wanted, and has waded through rather a lot of religious guilt propaganda about it (not from my church thankfully). I keep going over the fact that my grandmother had ten siblings, they all grew up to be wonderful people, and they did it with one adult wage-earner working part-time during the Great Depression. Tarpaper shack, four kids to a bed, ate possum and frogs to supplement protein, no shoes in summer, treated snakebite at home with tobacco and turpentine, kids worked from age 11, and the 12 yo drove the younger ones to school in the family jalopy– when it bogged down in the sand, they’d all get out and push… on the one hand, dang, if they could do it, we can do it, right? They all survived. On the other hand, if we tried that we’d have a hostile social worker on our doorstep in a hot minute. Most of that’s not legal anymore, and the rest will still cost you a lawyer to fight your local DCS.

  97. Luke@16 and all

    I seem to recall reading that the abiotic oil concept was originally formulated from chemists in the Soviet Union during the Lysenkoist period. Essentially an up-to-date (1930’s) version of Charle’s Foruier’s “And then under socialism the seas will become lemonade”. The USSR could never run out of oil; the advent of socialism meant that scarcity was over, so said the Party. From there some western chemists grabbed on to it and there it sits, taken seriously by some chemists. Geologists never seem convinced of it though.

    I find this trend of older communist ideas repurposed for the modern age very interesting because you see it tolerably often these days. I think it’s because socialism is the only permitted alternative to the status quo in popular discourse, so old Comintern era ideas have to be spit shined and presented as new.


  98. Another major impact on demographics that hasn’t been mentioned yet: having kids has gone from being an “opt out” situation to an “opt in” situation. We’re so used to effective, affordable contraception that we’ve forgotten that for all of human history up until 2-3 generations ago*, you pretty much had to choose between parenthood and celibacy. Babies just kind of happened to people and they muddled along as best they could. Nowadays most people have to decide that having a baby is a good idea. Regardless of background conditions, that changes everything.

    *There would have been no Sexual Revolution without The Pill. It was a huge controversy at the time and now we’re seeing that the naysayers had a point.

  99. John, I’ve been thinking of your post for a little bit. I noticed that 1st world developed countries are the ones who are experiencing the biggest losses in fertility rate, despite having the most resources and wealth overall.

    Could this be because the human ecology in the 1st world is more dependent on oil energy than the human ecologies in the 3rd world? So problems with energy would affect the 1st world’s fertility rates more than it would for the 3rd world?

  100. JMG (#96) you assert that “ urban industrial settings involve more energy per capita than most other contexts.”

    I beg to differ, vehemently. For a given level of services, rural living consumes more energy per capita – heating single family homes is less efficient than heating apartments, linear infrastructure (roads, water pipes, sewer, electric) has to be longer per capita when people are more spread out, rural folks have to travel further to access jobs, hospitals, etc. Where I am. this means among other things that rural towns cannot maintain their roads without extensive state help – there are too many lane miles per capita.

  101. The whole population problem confuses me. I am also of the age, like you, who grew up being told that overpopulation was the biggest problem and we had to do our part ( I am about to turn 63) ! So, I had exactly as many children as was considered responsible, one per adult involved who all grew up to adulthood. It seems to me that myself and the other women of my generations did not have this few kids due to our college educations, which I and my peers have, but due to being told it would be irresponsible for a couple to have more than 2 children. Now, I bet that being in this college educated class may be the difference to other demographics or other locations in the world who were having more than 2 children, part of our “PMC” mindset of the time to have that many children. And, I never saw one thing back in the day referring to any problems we would have from reduced population, no one mentioned economic issues or anything, supposedly we were doing our kids a favor by there being more resources to go around

    Fast forward to today, my adult children cannot buy a house, have trouble finding good jobs, there is alot of job competition…..Well, if there are too many people for the amount of houses and jobs…. we did not cause that. As shown by the birth demographics you have quoted. ( I am in the USA) Now maybe there is still an issue with older folks still being alive and in houses, the last of the baby boom hump. Maybe a small part is that — Id say not much of it. The demographics in this part of California are very different than they used to be. The over crowding is extreme.

    You mention that unchecked subsidized immigration is to grow the economy for large corporate forces ? certainly around here this is not holding wages down, that used to be the case, but not in the last 10 years, or 5 certainly. We’ve got young peoplewho grew up in the USA killing themselves on teh streets with drugs, living in tents, who dispair of how to live and support themselves, it is not a “disease” that causes them to do this, they dont know how to handle what the world here is right now and dont care and check out. Jobs are preferentially given to non-native english speakers, preferentially, not for less money, just in general. This area I am in is low on housing for the amount of people, and nobody says we are full and somehow new people to the country with no skills somehow are housed and working ? I truly do not understand all this.

    I guess if I look at what is happening — hm, there are 4 or 5 very large apartment housing multistory infill projects being built in the county, and this would be being done by large companies. There are some jobs being created to “service” the new population, teachers, social workers, government workers, managers. Not alot realy and all of them have to be native spanish speakers. As well as the new tellers at teh bank and hte new cashiers at the stores and the paint deartment at home depot, etc…. SO, I guess those companies are making money with the new native spanish speaking employees ? But, south county which is agricultural and used to be a low cost place to live now has housing prices out of this world too ( 1950’s tract homes that were previous to the last couple years bought by immigrant population now selling for $900,000… seriously) So, I just dont see how this is sustainable or is realy helping the economy ?

    I guess the current generation of childbearing age native population ( millenials, gen z) are the squeeze generation that will have it the worst in this transition — lack of housing and jobs — but if I understand what you are saying, if they manage to have kids, their kids will have a ton of abandoned homes to choose from if they have somehow learned how to do repair and simple living. I would love to be the grandma to teach them how, just have to figure out how to convince young people to have kids with no stable prospects of continual housing

  102. Gnat makes some good points – sperm counts are down, and birth control and abortion are also factors in reproductive rates. Studies of states where abortion has been further restricted in the last few years shows (unsurprisingly) that the birth rate has gone up, by 2-3%. NGOs in Africa in particular have focused on sex education and birth control specifically because when women can control when they get pregnant, they have fewer children.

    Few phenomena are monocausal. We should not expect population growth rates to be determined by only one driver.

  103. Patricia Matthews,
    Glad to hear about your daughter and her support of her son’s choice. I think it was a good one. The realization of skilled trades and things like firefighting being better choices than dead end degree tracks is beginning to soak in. In my day there was so much snobbery and class consciousness around a degree. i guess as the economic benefits decline and the cost increases, the prestige of the degree diminishes.

  104. Methylethyl, how do you treat snakebite with tobacco and turpentine? Snakebite care in a hospital now costs an insane amount of money.

  105. Responding to a comment here, and I still hear this from some clueless people of my ggeneration in real ife locally.

    In this area we are WAY past the point that the jobs illegal immigrants are taken are undesirable to anyone born here. I would say, 5% or less of the jobs arent able to be done by born residents here, as they say you have to be born into farming work to know how to do farming work. The other 95% of the jobs would willingly be done, and were done, up to a recently as the last few years. Construction and tree work is very well paid. Office jobs are out of the weather, most jobs here are jobs inside and out of the weather. Contractors and handymen can call their own shots, and it takes about just a few months for an immigrant working for someone else using a hammer to just cut out the middleman and give out his own phone number, so they are not being exploited, I have had quotes from an unlicensed illegal immigrant of $85, $120 whatever an hour to do handyman type construction work, no doesnt take much english either.

    Some local young people have been figuring it out to go into the trades to make a good living I am happy to say, which is fine when putting out their own shingle. But, the big crews for road and tree crews have a … well a few reasons why the demographics mean few local born are hired. Part is specific initiatives to train new immigrants and incentives for companies to hire them, quotas even. Of course it is more lucrative to work on their own, so that is happening. The inside desk or store jobs are harder for the locally born young people as they are not native spanish speakers. I have seen people specifially wait to be waited on by another spanish speaker, so then that reinforces that to the stores. While my peers who dont have a wide enough lens to see the trends, or their older so their kids already moved away, they will also seek out that employee to happily do the PMC cool thing and practice their spanish or gush on in embarissing ways to make them welcome, and these companies also have the same innitiatives on hiring they have to do. I read the one for our county bus system, when they subcontract out jobs, they have to prioritize hiring a woman owned or minority or immigrant owned business, and x percent had better be this. So it is hard to be a local young person in this environment, although they may not know why it seems hard.

    I do worry that eventually there could be clashes, although evrything seems fine right now

  106. A timely topic, JMG, and looking forward to more!

    In Japan, I have been seeing schools close and consolidate because there are just too few children. Ten years ago, the class size in the elementary school in the town of about 1,000 people we were living in was about 10 children, from a peak of about 40. The last I heard is the classes number about three, and so students of different ages are taught together–actually quite good for everyone involved. This is happening throughout rural Japan. Part of it is due to younger people moving away to look for jobs. The result is these areas are full of grandmas and grandpas, with an occasional bachelor farmer, and there appears to be less and less inclination for family to visit them.

    During BOVID, we saw people move out of the cities a bit. Someone immediately moved into our rat-infested farmhouse, but moved out less than a year later, unable to cope, especially with the rats, but they also faced other physical hardships they were not anticipating (begging the everyone in town to lend them a heater) and a lot of hostility (self-defeating, obviously, and based apparently on sour grapes) to people making the “U-turn” as the exodus from the cities was being called. We are now facing that hostility in my husband’s home town. Someone seems to have sprayed our soil with Round Up–Shinobu’s planted seeds sprout and immediately die. It is a typical means of harassing neighbors in these areas–really, the product should be banned.

    Regarding the local people, I have no idea what the issue is. In November, I found myself completely shut out of a festival the head priest had invited me to. In December, Shinobu’s elder brother was given the wrong date for clean-up activities at our local shrine. Shinobu thinks it is a very old family dispute. Their response is to snub the locals in return, which I don’t think is a very good idea.

    How did I get side-tracked? Along with fewer young students, I am noticing a sense of hopelessness among them. Part of that is the isolation they faced for four years, being required to stay indoors, away from dangerous strangers. But even before that, when I had eight initially highly motivated junior high school students, who lost their motivation after being given smartphones, they told me their hope in life was to win the lottery (boys) or marry (girls).

    Regarding that marriage hope, it’s becoming about as likely as the lottery hope, which is to say it is possible but not very impressive, except for a very lucky few.

  107. I was chatting to some folks at work the other day and the talk turned to interstate/international travel. Slowly it dawned on some of them that it may never happen again simply because they couldn’t afford it. Some with older kids were also grateful that they don’t have to raise them nowadays simply due to price factors. Some people do understand the issue, they just haven’t acknowledged the consequences of it it to themselves.

    I saw petrol price hit $2.31 a litre ($6.08 US a gallon – adjusted) in Australia yesterday. Potato chips now also cost $5 for an ever shrinking bag… but that’s unrelated right? 😉

  108. I tried to take theremin lessons, but the teacher only had hand-waving excuses.

    If you write Return to Retrotopia, I nominate the theremin as the national instrument of Retrotopia. All homes have one proudly displayed near the wood stove. Family members play it as a great form of evening entertainment, while others pedal an exercise bike to top off the battery on days without enough solar input.

    Designing and building a theremin is rite of passage at age twelve. The gestures to play the National Anthem are also the most formal kind of salute. Retrotopians can recognize each other anywhere. When one does what the locals think is random weird arm-waving, walking down the street, a fellow visitor from home joins right in!

    I wonder if you’ll find that some historic magic rituals make beautiful melodies when performed next to a theremin.

  109. Hey Silicon Guy,

    Concerning outdoor recreation.

    Eastern Tennessee is still growing in population one reason is easy access to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, however, ,

    East of the Mississippi River there is very little public wilderness, most of the land is privately owned. If you have several hundred thousand dollars you can join a hunting club the largest in Mississippi having 6000 acres., small potatoes for what I could get for free out west. We do have the ocean but ocean going boats are also megabucks.

    I jealous of you westerners who have all those great blm and national parks land to explore.

  110. JMG, in one of your responses to Maxine you wrote, “I wonder, though, if there are also biological controls among humans, as there are among so many other animals, that shut off fertility as population levels become excessive.”

    It made me think of how so many people believe that humans are immune to any biological imperative or limit that applies to other animals. Whether the immunity is granted by divinity, or by our own cleverness, there is a pervasive and insistent belief that we are separate (read “above”) nature. I bet you dollars to doughnuts that if I brought up that thought up among any of my friends, they would be left dumbstruck… I might just have to do that!

  111. Can you comment on why some people claim that the elite (WEF and such) are trying to depopulate the Earth? To me this seems to be against growth economics and makes no sense.

  112. @Ron M. : My grand uncle, a professor of mathematics, had four daughters (whose names followed a mathematical sequence…). When he was very old, he said that if he had known how birth rates would fall, he would have had another one “for Germany”. I don’t know his wife’s opinion!

    Where are those Trudeauvilles? Here in Montreal, I haven’t noted an excess of young male immigrants, legal or illegal…

    @Athaia: anecdote for anecdote, I will mention the team of four apprentices born in Afghanistan who put solar cells on my parents’ roof in a small town in Niedersachsen, and got the job done very well in one day.

    @JMG and others: I think one can have economic growth in the absence of population growth if access to energy expands rapidly. That is irrelevant at this point because our access to energy is also falling.

  113. Blue Sun, I’ll put the essay on my get-to list. I don’t claim to have any inside information on what the elite classes are thinking, though, so trying to make claims about their intentions is not something I do.

    Tyler, glad to hear it.

    Ganesh, or maybe it’s just that human reproduction, like that of most animals, responds to variations in population. In Russia after the Great Patriotic War, as they call it, so many people had died that there was fairly significant underpopulation — that may well have set off bioligical triggers.

    Clay, thank you for this. Yes, exactly.

    Travis, or perhaps FUBAR!

    Sawdust, and yet fertility levels have gone down steeply in places (such as conservative Muslim countries) where access to birth control is quite difficult for women.

    Enjoyer, exactly.

    Isaac, but we’re not talking a given level of services. The urban and suburban middle classes are dependent on a much higher level of services than the average rural dweller.

    Atmospheric, in 1980 there were some 300 million people in the United States; now there are well over 400 million. Most of that increase is the result of immigration. Of course there are other factors involved, but adding a third again to the population of a country is going to drive up prices on real estate and much more!

    Isaac, of course there are many causes, but the fact that human population is following exactly the curve one would expect on the basis of population biology suggests that the latter is certainly an important factor.

    Patricia, the flight from the countryside into the cities is a very common event in the twilight of a civilization. The thing to watch for now is whether people from somewhere else begin quietly filtering in.

    Michael, it takes a long time to reality to seep in past all the propaganda. I’m recalling Roman writers of the late empire, who couldn’t grasp that their civilization was falling apart around them even though they described all the symptoms.

    Christopher, nope — theremins only function in Tier 4 or 5 counties. Anywhere else, electricity is either too expensive or basically unavailable. I’m pretty sure there is no one national instrument in the Lakeland Republic; in the hill country you hear a lot of banjos and dulcimers, in the cities you hear a lot of pianos and, well, all the classical and jazz instruments, and in between it’s whatever people like to play. I don’t doubt that there are theremin concerts now and then in the cities, though. As for rituals, why, I once did a working at a Pagan convention using a Hieronymus machine with theremin accompaniment. Afterwards one of the old hippies present said that it was the cleanest acid he’d ever experienced.

    Tim, oh, dear gods, yes. The number of people who don’t seem to have grasped that we’re ordinary social mammals with an unusually developed cerebrum is embarrassing.

    Clark, no, it doesn’t make much sense. I wonder whether it’s simply that people have bought into the fallacy of elite omnipotence, and assume that whatever is happening, the elite must have intended it.

    Aldarion, that’s a valid point — but if access to energy goes up, you can probably bet that the population will start booming shortly thereafter.

  114. John and Company,
    Another real Impressive addition to this subject! It always helps to have illustrative graphics, I don’t know how you do it so consistently! The Scariest one (for Me) was the WEF Davos annual. You are absolutely correct in that they no longer allow the curtain to obscure their Motives / Agendas, and shrill shrieking voices. How visible would you say they are to the average person in the street? I certainly hope that (as you say) the world is Not listening to their Bogu$ litany. Some of the forces at play at this time are indeed exceedingly insidious. Of course they’ve always been here, but until relatively recently behind the curtain. Wasn’t the “Wizard of Oz” truly prophetic? What did L. Frank Baum Know? Did he really believe Jane/John Q. Citizen would pick up on his message? Simply elegant political commentary wrapped up in a children’s fantasy, Wow!

    Q.) In your opinion/s what can the Druid, Magician, Witch/Wizard, Sorcerer, Acolyte and Apprentice, Singly and/or in Concert, do at This time to mitigate and mold the fabric in preparation for that time when the bottom has “fallen out”, decline is Here Now, no longer Coming? I’m not suggesting at all that the Muggle friends and family be excluded either! It’s going to take a Lot to “Change” (I Like that Word) Consensus Reality. There’s Lots of Bad Folks and Stuff out there, Some of it has an Agenda. I’m vaguely aware that I’m “rambling on” here! ;^)

  115. Hello JMG thanks for this piece on population. It seems like on top of the birth rate decline Western countries are also seeing a big drop in average age. An example is the province of Saskatchewan (pop. roughly 1 million, North of Dakotas) seeing a two year drop in average life expectancy over the four years from 2017 – 2021


    Seems like a population double whammy to me, less people living shorter lives.

    Combined with peak fossil fuels the World3 graph looks more and more clairvoyant.

  116. @ Bradley #56 “Their data centres consume massive amounts of energy, and would be cast aside as we run out of fossil fuels.”

    To get an idea of the scale of these things. Look up companies that run data centres. Most of them measure their capabilities not in processor speed or rack space but in Megawatts. You see things like “Data Centre #6 is a 150MW capable centre for doing this, that and blah blah blah…”.

    Near where I work, you can pick these things out easily as they tower over the nearby docks and their shipping containers. Giant buildings that have no windows and huge ventilation systems on the side with a power substation or two to run these things.

    I will say this about the techno feudalists. It is fun watching them fight each other like toddlers snatching toys from each other. It is a shame about the mess they make for the innocent on the way down.

    @DT #62 “At some point availability issues start to arise as there isn’t enough profit to justify expanding production. ”

    Here in Australia, for the last 3 years there has been an on/off shortage of CO2 for soft drinks. Lack of investment in the infrastructure, possibly for the reasons you mentioned. Each time the shortages last a little longer. Hits the lower end products currently but hasn’t lasted long enough to get coke knocked off the shelf so far. Maybe in 50 years Pepsi will only be sold in boutique stores for $100 a bottle, kind of like a fine wine today.

  117. @Aldarion – interesting to hear about the lack of Trudeauvilles in Montréal, especially since the city was the first stop for the illegals who crossed the border at Roxham Road. I’m not sure if the fact that His Vileness’s riding is Papineau and therefore doesn’t want the city to get slummed up is the explanation. I do know that in Montréal migrants are being accommodated in seniors homes and the seniors (including First Nations and veterans for Gods’ sakes!) are being turfed out. There are Trudeauvilles throughout much of Ontario (even small cities now), Alberta and the BC interior. I’m not sure about the Maritimes. I know that a lot of illegal immigrants are being accommodated in hotels at the public’s expense and suspect that most of the immigrants in these tent cities are of the ‘legal’ variety.

  118. I can see lots of no-electricity instruments remaining popular, as you mention.
    Theremin invented his instrument in the 1920s. I don’t remember which level that is in Retrotopia. The antenna assembly only takes 2 watts. Trivial for solo practice with headphones.
    An amplified speaker for chamber music at home could do fine with only 20 watts. Not much electricity needed for an evening of shared music. This sems feasible with even the most basic off-grid generator and battery setup.
    If my comment needs to be rewritten to apply only to “high tech allowed” areas, using off-grid electric supply technology that wasn’t invented until later years, so be it.

    Back to today’s essay:

    My first reaction to these ideas a few years ago was hooray, more elbow room, and plenty of affordable everything. But them I thought, room and affordability like in Detroit… At best, a society that stays polite during demographic decline, like Japan. I see articles now and then about rural Japanese areas offering bonuses for families who will move in. That doesn’t seem to stop the lure of the big city.

    I had a college class on the demographic transition, explained this way. In traditional cultures there are high birth rates but also high death rates. Having lots of surviving kids is good for a family. With sanitation, medicine, etc. death rates fall but birth rates stay high because culture changes slowly. This makes a boom in the population, and a very young population.
    Eventually birth rates fall too. After the transition population growth slows way down.
    Factors involved are mentioned by some other commenters. Giant trends like urbanization, both parents working outside the home, enforced long adolescence making kids an expense instead of an economic blessing to the family.
    The class mentioned how the timing of this transition swept around the world, from earliest to later development: Europe, then Asia and Latin America, then eventually Africa. But it didn’t mention that population growth could not just slow, but could drop below zero to global population decline.
    I wonder if this would be a good topic for a follow up essay in this series.

    I like a lot of what Bucky Fuller said. At least, the parts I understood. He hammered on the point that oil is a limited resource, that it would be smart for humanity to overcome dependence on it. He said like a bird that pokes its beak out of the shell right when it uses up the stored food supply inside the egg, we should use fossil fuel as a one-time boost to get us poking our beaks out of dependency on it. The hatched bird finds food beyond its shell, and we should move into sustainable ways of living.

    But I also remember reading his warning that if humanity didn’t get our collective act together by the time I was a child, everything would be kablooey by the time I was reading his dire prophecy! I remember thinking, lucky for me he got that wrong.
    As amazing as his nonlinear thinking was, sometimes he got stuck on a narrow little track of black and white thinking. Sometimes he went off the deep end saying that things have to be exactly one way only he figured out, with everyone enjoying his ultimate perfect house and car, etc. or else they’re totally terrible and we’re all doomed.

  119. @Mary: I don’t recommend it! I never got the specifics on that treatment. The problem was that it was two days to the nearest hospital, and they couldn’t afford it anyway. I think their mother just used whatever she had in the house, and prayed a lot. It was a pygmy rattler bit my uncle, when he was only five. Whole arm swelled up and turned black, but he pulled through somehow. The hand was OK too.

  120. @Atmospheric: re: housing shortage
    From what I’ve read, and experienced out there, we don’t actually have a housing shortage in the US. The problem is a weird confluence of investing frenzy (results in a surprising number of empty dwellings), the rise of short-term-vacation rentals (i.e. houses that nobody is living in), and mortgage financing rules that no longer make sense in the current market.– there are a lot of houses out there that nobody can actually afford, but the prices aren’t coming down. Yet.

    Throw in enough migrants, and maybe there will *also* be a housing shortage. I’m sure the big investing companies are all over the migrant thing, to keep the value of their holdings inflated.

  121. I think we need to discuss the difference between profit in manufacturing or retail and profit in the financial sector. If I decide to support myself by knitting sweaters, I need an initial investment in supplies and tools. Having purchased some knitting needles, tape measure, etc., and yarn I knit a sweater. I have to charge the cost of the yarn, some anticipated cost of maintaining and replacing tools and some price on my labor which must be enough to feed, clothe and shelter me. That labor cost is my profit in this scenario. Obviously very simplified. If I decided to run a sweater shop it would be similar except I would be buying the sweaters, renting a shop and paying myself for the time and labor of running the shop, rather than for the labor of knitting.

    Suppose that instead of spending my investment fund on tools and supplies I loan the money to my neighbor who wishes to support herself by baking pies. She must buy an oven, bowls, pie tins, etc. and flour, apples, sugar, and spices. She must sell the pies for enough to maintain her tools, pay for supplies (including fuel for the oven), give herself a living wage _and_ pay back my loan plus interest. So her labor cost is her profit and the interest on the loan is my profit. The loan is producing X dollars in actual goods and labor costs, but X dollars + Y dollars in interest must be paid back–so where did that Y dollars come from? This is where economist handwaving seems to start. I must admit that I am not entirely clear on how economic growth produces the Y, except perhaps by economies of scale in production, but clearly if the economy is shrinking and neighbor will be selling fewer pies, I would be foolish to lend money to the business.

    Crapification really rears its ugly head in women’s clothing. I have two pair of shoes from the same maker, of very similar style (canvas deck shoe). One pair is about 10 years older. The heel has a band of padding covered with lining material. That material is completely worn away for about 2 inches on the newer pair, exposing the padding material. The wear took less than a year. The older pair has a similar amount of wear. Bah, and furthermore, humbug. I would further note that the trend for more casual wear increases the turnover of clothing. A well-made man’s suit, properly fitted and cared for, will last for years–even be passed down to a son. A thrifty businessman could function with 2 or 3 suits in materials and colors that never went out of style, several shirts, shoes, and accessories. But the t-shirts and jeans, polo shirts, track suits, etc. of the casual Friday culture will wear out or become unfashionable and need replacing on a regular basis. This has been true of women’s work wear for decades, but men are getting the same pressures now.

    It is definitely true that the cost of rearing children in poor and/or rural areas is less because of different standards of what constitutes adequate care. Even in the US some allowance has to be made when the standards simply can’t be met. Managing apartments in San Francisco in 2000 the company had 2 tenants sharing studio apartments intended for one. We could allow 2 persons in each room that was not a kitchen or bath–so a 2-bedroom apt. could have 6 tenants with the assumption that 2 slept in the living room. When my children were small, I had to find a three-bedroom house because I had 2 girls and a boy. The boy could not share a room with his sisters and none of them could share with me under the county regulations. But I was living in a county with more housing so they could be more strict. I know that my father, one of a large family, shared a bed with his brothers as a child. That would be unacceptable for most families in Western culture these days, except on vacation or other exceptional circumstance.

    Of my three children the oldest daughter has two sons and a daughter. Neither son, both adults, express an intention of having children. Admittedly that could change. The girl is only 11, so no opinions yet. My younger daughter has one son, who will probably not reproduce as he is on the autism spectrum and has some sensory conditions that may make it difficult for him to be self-supporting. My son is not married and has no children. Their father has 4 other children–Two of them had one child each, one has 3 (I think) and one has none. But they are enough older than my children to be almost a different generation.

    A radio talk show was discussing the low birth rate of S. Korea the other day. Wondering about the situation with exclamations about the wealth and comfort of the country and what the result was going to be. I think we can predict that if US troops are withdrawn there will be a wave of poor N. Korean cousins coming down to share the wealth. I was surprised to learn that despite the large US bases in S. K. the military does not house military dependents there. If you are stationed in Germany, for example, you can have spouse and kids with you, but not in Korea. The reason is that the border is so close to the population centers and the bases that evacuating US families in case of attack would be a logistic nightmare. At least that is what my US Army son-in-law told me when he was reassigned there.


  122. Here in a very Red State corner of the Midwest, wondering why the elites hate us so much is a popular pastime. Thank you so much for a cogent – and hopeful – explanation of one of the forces driving their madness.

  123. Pyrrhus, correlation is not causation, and the fact that the two factors you’ve noted have happened at the same time as population growth has declined does not mean that they caused it. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about when I noted that all kinds of agendas have been heaped onto rates of population change. Paying attention to the realities of population biology seems like a better plan to me.

    There is good reason for thinking there is at least some causation going on. Educating women increases what economists term the opportunity cost of having children – basically, because women are able to pursue other high-paying careers, taking time off to raise a family becomes relatively more expensive. Hence fewer children.

    The other thing is the rise of twentieth century social welfare – in particular, old age pensions. In countries without a social safety net, having children is your retirement plan. You raise them, and they look after you in your old age. No children means no-one to look after you.

  124. Isaac #106
    For a given level of service, lifestyle,etc I think you are right about the relative energy use between urban and rural. I don’t know if any of you remember who Toby Hemenway was. He was a well known permaculture teacher and writer. I think he died about 10 years ago. When he moved from rural southern Oregon to or back to Portland, he wrote a very good article about how much less his energy use was and how much less infrastructure he required. There were things like the amount of infrastructure required in rural areas for water and electricity, having to drive his kids anywhere they needed to go.If one lived in an urban neighborhood with compatible neighbors, a lot of things could be shared. For instance one person could have an apple tree, one a pear tree, one a plum, etc. David Holmgren has also written extensively about retrofitting older Australian inner suburbs this way, especially those that are on rail and bus lines, even tearing down the back fences on a whole suburban block to make A large garden, orchard space.
    I am not unaware of the difficulties human nature places on such arrangements, or the fact that today’s realestate prices probably render many such ideas irrelevant for the moment.

  125. I was going to add that I think a lot of rural dwellers have become dependent on or used to much the same level of services as urban dwellers. It is probably one reason so many of them move when the services disappear.

  126. @Methylethyl, JMG,

    Those are some good points re different societies having different costs to raise a child. It’s certainly true that a modern American family can’t get away with doing a lot of the things that a large family in present-day Nigeria (or right here in America during the depression) has to do to get by! No putting eight kids in a two or three or even four-room house! No sending them into the labor market when they’re twelve! And so forth.

    At the same time, I still can’t accept a monocausal explanation for population decline that blames it all on scarcity and leaves out the role of urbanization, and changing cultural attitudes toward whether women should work in all the same jobs as men, whether children are owed a college education, etc. etc. After all, the laws against feeding your kids possum in a tarpaper shack were not somehow caused by oil depletion. Nor does the overpopulation model account for places like Russia – a sparsely populated, oil-rich country with a lot of untapped agricultural potential which has still had well-below-replacement birth rates for several decades by now.

    So I continue to believe that human ecology is a more complex subject than you are giving it credit for, and that there are far more factors at work here than a straightforward collision between a rising population and a fixed (or falling) carrying capacity.

  127. JMG,
    Perhaps I’m not understanding your argument. But when you started leaning heavily on “carrying capacity”, and showing idealized animal growth and die-off curves from population vs resource (usually food) studies, I assumed you were saying we have a fairly classic overpopulation problem. It seemed important to point out that there is nothing classic about it; otherwise the population collapse should have started in the most impoverished countries first — and correlated with energy/food impoverishment. Instead, it strikes FIRST in the most affluent countries, where food and fuel are not limiting factors?

    I’m sure you have read John Brunner’s 1969 novel, _Stand_on_Zanzibar_? Here is a link to a brief synopsis of the novel and it’s uncannily accurate predictions of pretty much exactly the current world: Everyone should really take a look at that list of plot elements/predictions: including a “President Obomi “.

    If you mentioned, as part of your essay, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone…’ (Matthew 4:4) or maybe cited _Future_Shock_, I think your great essay would be even stronger. It is pretty well known that human women, at least, factor uncertainty (war, etc.) into their decisions to have children. I thought you would appreciate my citing the ample documentation the precipitous decline in human sperm motility and insect implosion (I imagine both you and I know there is something very, very wrong when we can remember blankets of insects at night, and now there are, usually, notably few).

    Personally, I feel we fouled our nest — on many levels. We didn’t just foul it with physical poison, but also spiritual, and social poison. Humanity probably will face major energy and general resource restrictions, in the decade or three ahead, as we get further past “peak oil”. Maybe even literal starvation. Probably even here, in the US. The “leaders” of our nation must know that preferentially importing welfare cases, by the millions, is not going to “grow the economy”. I think that is, also, a weak argument.

  128. A quibble – 1980 population in USA 226,000,000, now 340,000,000 or so, a 50% increase. Unless you have a source better than my simple Googling.

  129. To Friction Shift (post #64),

    What exactly is wrong with being a nativist?
    Is it somehow better or more noble to be an alienist?

  130. Hello Northwind Grandma,
    How exciting that you ordered a loom! I just wanted to suggest Learning to Weave, by Deborah Chandler. It was incredibly helpful for me several decades ago when I got a floor loom, especially with the warping. And I encourage you to just borrow books from the library and go for it!! Especially since you sew and know pattern making, your mind already works along those lines. I am completely self taught in weaving, and natural dyeing, and almost in spinning. With spinning I spent an hour with a spinning friend then went home and sat at my wheel with some wool and just started to do it. I was also incredibly lucky to have my mother as my mother because she sewed all our clothes (4 girls) and knit us mittens and sweaters. So I’ve been sewing since I was 4 and learned to knit when I was 10. I now sew clothes and even a coat for my grandchildren and knit them hats, sweaters, and socks, lots of socks!! My point is only if you can read you can learn. I never took classes because we were too broke, what with our 4 kids, and I’m pretty introverted, I really enjoy being alone and figuring it all out by myself, or with a few fiber craft friends. Plus I hate being told what to do, hence my home births, I didn’t was doctor or nurses telling me what to do. Anyway, I don’t have a loom right now, long story. That’s one reason I’m so excited for you!! And 71 isn’t old, one of my grandmothers took up yoga at the age of 90!! She was 97 when she died, as were my mother and 2 of my mom’s sisters. Her youngest sister is still alive at 99!! We don’t know how long the good Lord has given us, might as well keep learning and kicking while we still are able!! I hope you can keep us informed about your weaving progress . Oh, and checks and plaids are easy to weave, there are so many good books out there to help. Maybe Kimberley Steele has some in her lending library, which, BTW, I think is a totally fab idea.
    Good luck and many blessings to you on your exciting new venture!!! And please know, weaving is wonderful, I truly miss not having a loom right now.
    From one grandmother to another,

  131. I still remember back during the peak oil days trying to explain how limited Earth’s hydrocarbons were, and being told, by someone who sounded far too smug, that I was forgetting about Titan’s hydrocarbons. The moron refused to listen to an actual rocket scientist who tried to explain that the hydrocarbons on Titan are effectively worthless: it would take too much energy to get them back to Earth for them to be useful for anything at all. (This is also ignoring the problem of getting the equipment there in the first place) Some of the arguments people used (and still use) to ignore the net energy problem are frankly insane….

  132. China recently had the fastest increase in wealth of any nation, ever. I think this is partly due to the one-child policy. Money that would be used to feed, clothe, house, and educate children, an investment that would only earn a return in twenty or thirty years, could now be deployed in modernizing the economy and improving the built environment.

    Of course there are massive social problems, like who will take care of all the old people, and in China’s case a shortage of marriage-age females, but the capital destruction caused by the abandonment of underused buildings and factories is a lesser problem. People adapt.

  133. As to ecological carrying capacity. It is not the starvation that does the population in.
    Looking at nature there are examples of other factors. Alpine chamois population for instance must be carefully monitored, and their environment left intrusion free in winter, because a) if their population reaches a certain level the lowered food supply and stress (they are a shy species) will affect their immune systems, resulting in parasitic epidemics, that will cull the population.
    b) stress due to habitat disturbance in winter dormancy can rapidly deplete their fat-reserves and leave them at the mercy of the cold.
    Lions are another example, the males fight for their harems, and it is a known behavior, that a winning rival tries to kill the previous males kids. Here you can have an ample supply of food, but if the lion density is high enough, that due to not enough separation between harems, the males fight several times per year, and each winner tries to purge the young every time. Well like my ecology teacher said: “nothing will bring down a population like that which affects the young”
    Alpine capricorns hold down their population not due to lack of food, but due to inter species stress due to proximity.
    Every population has a limiting factor, but it is species and region specific. In Kenya for instance it was food supply that keept human population down. Space they have. And when removed it causes expansion.
    In Western countries we have no food shortage, not by a long shot, but human being a social animal, we have inter species stress causing pressure on the ability of the young to rear children. It takes about 20 years with a lot of social factors for a human to reach reproductive age.
    Overwork due to the need to compete, woke culture, self-image problems due to suggestion, child rearing mandates and costs… All affect the ability of the young to raise the kids.

    Best regards,

  134. On the subject of books, I was delighted to sign my own contract recently on a book about historical cycles. I’m awaiting proofs with nervous anticipation. I’m also casually casting around for translators into German, French, and Hebrew but so far no luck. Would anyone here like to give it a go? Research is ongoing on the subjects of reincarnation and modular carpentry. Not the same book of course.

    As for population; I had a single child late in life and for much of his life it was a huge financial struggle to keep him sheltered and fed properly. We never got the point of missing meals to keep him going but we came close regularly enough. From the perspective of a father it was a terrifying experience. I can fully understand the reluctance of young couples facing an even more uncertain future. In fact, quite a lot of the young people I work with (young to me is anyone under 40) don’t seem to be forming couples at all.

  135. Humans used to be such a scarce and valuable resource, that victorious armies of the ancient Mediterranean used to enslave hundreds of the defeated side’s people and transport them back home to farm unused land.

    At West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village, Suffolk, the displays show the way people used to live. There was the village, then the fields around as much as people could farm and then … nothing. Just wild forest for twenty miles or so until the next village with its fields, also limited by how much land people could farm. Imagine there being unpopulated forest between towns, because there just weren’t enough people to use it!

    Our world used to be a much emptier place.

  136. It’s ironic that free and unllimited illegal immigration are one of the core and sacred taboos on the liberal/Left in Western Europe and USA, but according your provocative post, JMG, it helps to the Big Business schemes. However, far right say that inmigrants are the bogey-man, but they are pro-capitalism full time.

  137. Your comment on crapification lead to my imagination coming up with a Garage Rock band name that I’ve heard you collect assiduously for future use : The Shoddies. I checked on a music database (Discogs) and it’d seem no record has ever been issued using that name.

  138. JMG, can you give me a concrete example of how energy-demanding services are higher at a per capita level in an urban vs rural community, where the two communities are in the same state (and ideally the same county)? (comparing Mississippi to NY would not be fair).

    My experience has been that roads, electricity, and water are all provided at similar levels around here. Sewer varies – rural properties are more likely to be on septic systems. Police and fire seem similar but have longer response times due to rural areas being so spread out. School facilities seem not to vary much in physical condition by degree of urbanization. And rural / exurban / suburban dwellers seem to burn a lot more gasoline per capita driving between all these dispersed locations.

  139. @Erika: It sounds like you might like the ambient country genre. Check out the band SUSS sometime. They don’t have theremin, but use a lot of pedal steel and synth to create instrumental music steeped with the vibes of the western deserts and plains.

    Here is an ambient country guide on bandcamp:

    & the band SUSS

    I think bluegrass with theremin would be awesome! Southwest Ohio is a hotspot for bluegrass. In 2023 we went saw Ricky Skaggs. It was awesome. I can listen to stuff like that back to back with the electronica.

  140. I am certain that our overlords are much more aware of this process than is generally reported in the mass media. That is exactly why we see this big push towards Central Bank Digital Currencies: money that is programmable, that is, has a limited spending time and can be limited to what it is spend on, can be the way that the status quo is kept up for a while. If the money must be spend, or it loses its value, people will be forced to spend it on something, keeping the prices up and the economy going for just a little longer.

    There is already talk of banning the repair of gasoline powered cars in Europe, which, if enacted, would typical be the kind of policy enacted by a civilization in decline, trying to hold up the power structures just a little bit longer, at the expense of everyone else, of course.

  141. Sorry, my question wasn’t very clear. What I was driving at was more about whether you thought the organized efforts to reduce population were a major or minor factor. You have already answered that in your response to Isaac’s comment #108 (“…the fact that human population is following exactly the curve one would expect on the basis of population biology…”), so thank you.

    By the way, I do wonder what the Davos crowd is thinking, or whether they are even united in purpose, because the various aims we learn about from time to time don’t seem to align. (Some don’t even make sense on their face— the one that stumps me the most is how George Soros believes he profits by investing money to install district attorneys who do not prosecute crimes in major American cities.)

  142. We have done many stupid things as a country and as an empire. I think that history will show that one of the stupidest was our agricultural and economic policies that shifted most food production from small scale family farms to agribusiness. The huge problem is that these agribusiness ( investment based) business’s require a financial profit ( along with investment) and energy and financial subsidies to operate and produce food. Once the demographic decline really sets in these profit based enterprises will quickly start going broke and shutting down. This will cause a huge increase in population decline as starvation sets in.
    I think the thing ordinary people can do ( in addition to growing as much food at home as possible) is figure out how to buy grains, meat and produce from small local family farms. There are many ways to do this but they take work and diligence to be sure you are buying from that type of place that will survive the collapse in profit. There is nothing more important than doing what we can to insure that as many small ( return to labor based, not profit based) farms survive and thrive as possible.
    Other countries like Italy and Japan have done a better job than us of preserving small farms ( at least until demographics get them) through national policy, but our government is much to corrupt and senile to every sensibly deal with this so it is up to us.

  143. Theremins? Okay, but don’t forget the low-tech version called the “musical saw.” I should find a sound sample to link.

  144. Thanks to JMG for this post and for the comments following it.

    In the parable of the grasshopper and the ant, I was the grasshopper. In my 70’s, I’m still working. I find it very difficult to focus, but my work is at a highly skilled office task, complying with complex forms and regulations that differ with every situation, requiring informed judgment. When I’m alert enough to do my job, I do it well. Another reason I’m allowed to work, aside from disability and age discrimination and union limitations, is that it’s very difficult to find people who are qualified and have the temperament to do what I do and my coworkers do.

    So, while there may be too many people available for some forms of work, there are too few for what I’m doing. I suspect this is true for other forms of skilled work. I know it’s true for engineering, farming and manufacturing sectors. Who’s going to keep our electrical grid working if we don’t have qualified electricians to maintain them? Talking a ragged cliff down on that front, if not perhaps in the immediate future, certainly in the lives of people a generation younger than me, in their 50’s. Maybe even for folks in their 60’s. Almost none of my peers had more than two children, many had none. The situation you describe is very real, and it’s good to be able to talk about it.

  145. Also, BTW, the musical saw is not as off-topic as it may seem because you have to hold it between your legs with the teeth toward your body.

  146. It’s interesting to see the discussion of all the proximate causes of population decline here, as though that is counter to our host’s thesis. The fact is, we don’t know how ecological pressures act to effect the group soul of humanity. We aren’t even sure why it works the way it does with rodents. (Nobody can explain exactly why mice acted as they did in the famous ‘Mouse Utopia’ study.) Everyone here could very well be correct!

    It is certainly interesting that, wealthy, food-secure South Korea has the lowest birth rate on the planet, and the same Ethiopia who famously knew famine in living memory has a TFR of almost 4. Why should that be? Yes, the Ethiopians aren’t starving right now, thanks to food aide and cheap imports. Yet shouldn’t the group soul of Ethiopia be feeling the ecological pressure in a more immediate fashion than the group soul of South Korea? I certainly cannot explain it. JMG, do you have any idea?

    What Ron M calls “Trudeauvilles” are homeless encampments, and if you haven’t seen them in Montreal you just haven’t been paying attention. That you aren’t seeing the masses of foreign-born young men Ron is, however, does not surprise. Quebec sets its own immigration targets, and they are tiny compared to the rest of the country. Look at this page from your goverment:
    The targets are in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands. And then there’s the family reunification spat currently ongoing between Ottawa and Quebec City.

    You’d think with free movement within Canada it would not matter, but the people who come to the rest of Canada quickly pick up Anglo-Canadian attitudes towards Quebec: “Those people don’t like us, and whatever economic benefit there might be in moving to PQ, it’s not worth dealing with the frogs”. Even francophones outside Quebec sometimes have that attitude. (I’m bilingual myself, and from my experience I can say that many Quebecois are happier to deal with someone speaking English than speaking French with an accent they don’t like, so I don’t blame them.) You may not find that attitude realistic, but you should be thankful for it, since it’s helping insulate you from some of the idiocy that is ruining Canada.

  147. One of the shortish-term consequences of these demographic changes in the West – and already noted by many in the UK where the population is growing due to immigration, most of which is legal – is that older people make up a larger proportion of the electorate. In practice their importance is even greater than raw numbers suggest as a bigger proportion of them actually bother to vote compared to the under-30s, something widely lamented by Remainers after the UK’s Brexit referendum.
    One result is that all major parties do all they can to protect the over-60s from the ill effects of bad economic times, often at the expense of the young. One example is our Triple-Lock policy on state pensions which virtually guarantees its value will increase year-on-year regardless of economic performance. With an election due this year, both Labour and Tories have pledged to keep it in place. It will be interesting – perhaps in the Chinese sense – to see how tensions between young and old play out over issues like this in an era of economic contraction.

  148. @Nick #37
    Have you considered getting into cheesemaking? It seems like a logical companion project and will help deal with fluctuations in demand since cheeses can have very long shelf life and don’t even need refrigeration. Perfectly suited to the long descent as the technology required is also minimal and you probably have a lot of it already on hand. Also suitable to internet sales unlike more perishable products. Living in an area with large Latino populations, I believe raw milk cheeses are also very popular. Best wishes for your excellent endeavor, we used to have a raw milk producer who would distribute glass bottle pasteurized milk in our local grocery stores about 10 years ago, but I guess the time just wasn’t ready for it. To get the raw milk you had to go out to the farm and say it was for animal usage only. One thing he didn’t get into was the specific herds that made the older type of milk I can’t recall right now but that was also something I wish he would have tried. Holsteins don’t produce it, only older breeds. Best wishes for your excellent endeavor!!

  149. @Sawdust #104

    “…we’ve forgotten that for all of human history up until 2-3 generations ago*, you pretty much had to choose between parenthood and celibacy. Babies just kind of happened to people…”

    Just to play devil’s advocate here, I have been reading a fascinating book lately, called “Eve’s Herbs” which is making the plausible* case that a different demographic crisis in history (specifically post-Black Death depopulated Europe) led to so much elite panic about people having, and using, the capacity to regulate and plan their families, and therefore reproducing too slowly to serve the needs of the elite, that they conceived and prosecuted a campaign of obscuring and erasing birth control knowledge which has come to be known to history as the witchhunts of the late medieval era.

    The book goes into two specific themes in detail. One of them is a listing of herbs known to have contraceptive and/or abortifacient properties, along with historical enquiry into how widespread their availability, and knowledge of their properties, and their usage, were in different times and places. The second is a close analysis of works such as “maleus maleficarum” and other witchhunting manuals, and the language in which they described the works of the devil – much of it plausibly* (although possibly needing more work) translating to the alleged elite panic about sex that did not result in births.

    * I am not entirely certain that the book’s case is entirely airtight, and it is leaving me with many unanswered questions, but it certainly provides a great deal of support to the notion that planning, regulating and limiting births is not one more of those “gifts of Progress”, but has actually been a perennially practiced, if variably trending, human activity, sometimes aided and abetted by those with more knowledge, more power and/or more wealth, and sometimes countered and impeded by same.

  150. Ripped from the headlines! From the Columbus Dispatch via USA Today to the G’ville Sun:
    “Study: Migrants have net positive economic impact.”

    Clipping will end up in the coming envelope/tipjar check.

  151. Wizard, L. Frank Baum was an occultist — he was a member of the Theosophical Society, and his mother-in-law Matilda Joslyn Gage (the model for Glinda the good witch) was a very important figure in the invention of modern witchcraft. He knew exactly what the score was. As for what mages and occultists can do at this time, why, the most important step is to keep working hard on your own spiritual development; the most effective form of leadership is always leading by example, and as you free your own mind it becomes easier to see the gaps in the curtain hiding the little man working the Great and Powerful (Zard)Oz…

    Doug, yes, life expectancy is sliding hard, for a variety of reasons. That’s the other end of the demographic crisis: births are down, deaths are up, and the population bust is on its way.

    Christopher, 1920 is the base date for tier 4, which is why I specified tiers 4 and 5 for the theremin. As for Bucky, he was both a pompous blowhard and a genuinely creative thinker; that is to say, he had some good ideas in there with a lot of bad ones.

    Rita, yes, that’s a factor. Now imagine that in an era of economic decline, you could not expect to make back your initial outlay, even for needles and yarn. Why would you knit? Only because you wanted sweaters for you and your family. That’s exactly the situation that’s coming toward us — a contracting economy in which every investment of every kind, including nonfinancial investments, loses money on average, and the only reason to make an investment then becomes because you want or need the output enough to put up with the loss.

    Rhydlyd, I’ll discuss another part of that two weeks from now.

    Strda, as I said, there’s a lot of spin doctoring going on, and “opportunity cost” is a convenient venue for that. I’ve read “opportunity cost” analyses of home cooking that insist that it’s much more expensive than dining out, because the time you put into cooking could supposedly have been used in some more economically productive way! That said, I’m not claiming that population biology is the only factor, just that it appears to be a dominant factor.

    Thrown, I’m not suggesting a monocausal explanation. I’m suggesting that population biology offers a more useful model for what’s obviously happening around us right now than the other models being brandished around these days.

    Gnat, I have indeed read Stand On Zanzibar, and most of Brunner’s other fiction — the guy was really remarkably prescient. Do you recall The Shockwave Rider and its uncannily accurate prediction of the internet? As for my model, you missed the central point, which is that fossil fuels are the resource running short, and therefore the people who are being affected most significantly are those whose lifestyles are most dependent on fossil fuels. They’re most subject to the direct and indirect impacts of rising prices of fossil fuels and everything made with or from them.

    BeardTree, thanks for this! The point stands either way, of course.

    Anonymous, oh, yes, I remember those claims also. People will believe the most absurd things if those allow them to keep believing that the gravy train won’t run out.

    Martin, it’s partly due to the one-child policy, but it’s even more due to China’s emergence as the world’s dominant industrial nation and its systematic undercutting of a US-led world order that funneled unearned wealth to the US and its inner circle of allies.

    Marko, exactly. Many thanks for this useful summary of ecological facts.

    Andy, congratulations! Who’s the publisher? When will it be out? And would you like a cover blurb?

    Kfish, and it will be again. That’s the reality of depopulation in the twilight of a civilization.

    Chuaquin, we’ll see how long that lasts. As for the left-right divide, these days the left supports multinational corporate capitalism, while the right tends to support smaller-scale entrepreneurial capitalism.

    Peter, thanks for this.

    Thibault, hmm! That sounds like an English garage band; I’ll see if they can be induced to come play some gigs in South Adocentyn. 😉

    Isaac, comparing New York to Mississippi is exactly the comparison that’s needed, because it draws the important distinction between urban-peripheral regions and deep rural regions.

    Han, oh, granted, the whole point of CBDCs is fine-tuned financial manipulation, and also social control — shutting down dissidents becomes easy once the central bank can just delete their money at will. The question is whether they’re doing it with an eye toward decline, or whether they’re just doing it in an attempt to maximize their own power and wealth.

    Blue Sun, oh, that’s easy. The Soros district attorneys are there to drive down real estate prices in big cities. You can bet that once the commercial real estate market collapses and Soros and his fellow kleptocrats move in to pick up properties for a tiny fraction of their value, the pro-crime DAs will be thrown out and new “tough on crime” policies will be enacted to let real estate values rise again.

    Clay, oh, no question, it’s stupid, but it’s a very common stupidity of civilizations in decline; the Romans did it nearly as obsessively as we did. Your suggestions are sensible ones, btw.

    Phutatorius, there’s that!

    Clarke, yep. I foresee a lot of discontinuities and a lot of lost knowledge as we proceed.

    Phutatorius, I suppose that’s one approach to do-it-yourself gender confirmation surgery… 😉

    Tyler, like Isaac Newton, I feign no hypotheses. All I know is that human beings appear to be responding to declines in the net energy from fossil fuels according to the standard model of population overshoot and decline.

    Robert, and that’s also a huge issue, of course. One of the reasons the US government is so heavily stocked with senile gerontocrats is that the retiree bloc is so huge an influence in elections.

    Patricia M, ha! I should have expected that. “And up is down and sideways is straight ahead.”

  152. Regarding the Tree metaphor – I’ve always been taught that trees don’t necessarily have an inherent maximum age. Eventually they grow too big, get unlucky and catch a disease, lightning strikes, or they catch too much wind, limbs break and get infected, etc.

    Hence well-maintained bonsai can become very, very old – but this requires periodically trimming back the branches, and the roots, and keeping them outside to experience the elements.
    The longest-lived “wild” trees we know of are also typically found in isolated, remote and harsh regions, and hence often limited in size.

    Similarly, some monasteries have been continuously inhabited for well over a millennium, and are required to be largely self-sufficient…

    I wonder if we’ll ever accept a steady-state economy, and will voluntarily let go of excess, in order for longer-term prosperity and avoiding boom and bust cycles. I recall an article stating that the periodic offerings of amassed wealth (weapons, coins, jewelry etc.) by sinking them into marshes and lakes (by the ancient Celts among others), probably had a similar stabilizing effect on the economies of some pre-Christian societies.

    Wishing you all the blessings of the season.

  153. Data points from the past:
    My mother [New England] was one of three children. Uncle Ralph never married; Aunt Lucile & Uncle Leonard had a long marriage with no children. My father [Western Pennsylvania] was one of several children, but as far as I know, all my cousins died a lot earlier than the rest of us. I know I have none living now.
    Mom and Dad had three children, all of whom married and had children. I had two daughters; my sister had two sons; my brother had one of each. His daughter has no children; his son has 2. My sister’s older son has one daughter; her younger son has 3. The third generation are college-age or younger. For what it’s worth. The math works out to “holding our own.” But my daughter’s older son is gay, so he’s out of the equation.
    For what it’s worth. BTW, I’m the only one of the family who didn’t make it into the PMC, except for 10 years working for the University of New Mexico while they still had good benefits. (Grandmothered in; younger employees is comparable positions have a lot fewer benefits. )

  154. Dmitry Mendeleev and the Abiotic Oil Theory *

    Here’s what Wikipedia says about it (and I trust it in this instance):
    The abiogenic petroleum origin hypothesis proposes that most of earth’s petroleum and natural gas deposits were formed inorganically, commonly known as abiotic oil… An abiogenic hypothesis was first proposed by Georgius Agricola in the 16th century and various additional abiogenic hypotheses were proposed in the 19th century, most notably by Prussian geographer Alexander von Humboldt (1804), the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev (1877) and the French chemist Marcellin Berthelot. Abiogenic hypotheses were revived in the last half of the 20th century by Soviet scientists who had little influence outside the Soviet Union because most of their research was published in Russian. The hypothesis was re-defined and made popular in the West by Thomas Gold, who developed his theories from 1979 to 1998 and published his research in English.

    Dmitri Mendeleev was a brilliant scientist; he invented the periodic table of elements. But of course, he lived in the 19th century, and they simply didn’t have the data about oil that scientists have now. Mendeleev also recognized the importance of petroleum as a feedstock for petrochemicals. He is credited with saying that burning petroleum as a fuel would be akin to firing up a stove with bank notes. Mendeleev also had a number of quaint ideas. For instance, it is well known that he believed excessive horse manure on city streets to be the future’s most prominent ecological problem. Due to everyone getting richer and owning a horse, of course. The invention of the automobile changed that. Mendeleev was also an extreme far-right nationalist. He’d be wearing a MAGA hat and waving a Confederate flag if he was a US citizen today.

    Also, Mendeleev was the youngest of 17 siblings, of whom only 14 stayed alive to be baptized… meaning the others died soon after their birth. So that’s a point about demographics. In the 1990s, birth rates in Russia cratered (1.1 children). In 2007, the Russian government started the Maternal Capital program to support families with children. The birth rate went from 1.3 in 2006 to 1.7 in 2015. It started decreasing again in 2016; by 2020, the birth rate was 1.495. So almost where it started and below replacement level. With demographics like that, people shouldn’t be afraid of Russia conquering the whole world, or even Europe, for that matter.

    * – This sounds like a title from the Harry Potter series.

  155. @Andy #140: Congratulations on your book contract! I’ll look forward to the details here when it is the right time I hope.

    @Phutatorius, JMG, Erika: Yes, I was thinking of musical saws too, after the theremin discussion. My friend Owen Knight, one of the first druids I met, and member of the fringe rock bands Bitter Blood Street Theater and Blacklight Braille, is a first rate saw player. Great poet as well. They released a series of Arthurian related concept albums and are beloved in Cincinnati’s fading pagan scene… in any case, you can see a picture of him playing the saw there on the right at the following page.

    One of the drummers in the picture above is Louis Martine, who published the Cincinnati Journal of Ceremonial Magic in the 70s/ early 80s… and is the author of the New Orleans Voodoo Tarot among other titles, proprietor of Black Moon Publishing. Owen is in his 90s now. A Korean war vet, he walked everywhere and never owned a car. Worked as an orderly at the hospital and put a lot of energy into local druidic, heathen, pagan subcultures, his writing and music. Amazing dude, a modern bard.

    This is one of my favorite pieces of poetry / music from Blacklight Braille, The Moon to Poolesville:

  156. @Clay Dennis:
    College education is vastly cheaper where the H1B population comes from. Yes they might complete Doctorates over here, but everything else was had for cheap.

  157. “Atmospheric, in 1980 there were some 300 million people in the United States; now there are well over 400 million.”

    JMG, how did you come to the figure of 400 million? The US Census website currently states 336 million as the population of the US.

  158. One thing you all are forgetting in a world of demographc decay is the mosquito. As houses are abandoned they become breeding grounds for these pests and then the inevitable dengue/zika/malaria/yellow fever epidemics. Many cities will become malaria hells as the population numbers fall and be suddenly abandoned. Mosquitoes are a big deal, as Toynbee noted when talking about the mosquito infested ruins of Ceylon and the italian Campania, onde a core part of the early Roman Empire, that became malaria hell until Mussolini drained the swamps.

  159. Chaquin @ 143, if I may opine here, I think both left and right are lying. Through their teeth. Or, perhaps, the left is delusional and the right is spouting pro-business propaganda. Take that back, the left says what its’ supporting foundations tell it to say. Not to mention that both factions rely on imported third world domestic help. I would be interested to know when Adam Schiff last washed his own auto and when Rep. Marjory Green swept her own floors.

  160. Scotlyn
    I can’t quote a particular source, but agree with your point that contraceptive and abortificant medicines were more widely known and used prior to the late middle ages and in other cultures throughout the world. One sees passing references to it in various books. Another glaring example of encouraging population growth was in Nazi Germany where aryan women were encouraged to have as many children as possible, married or not to produce future soldiers for the reich.

  161. >I’ve read “opportunity cost” analyses of home cooking that insist that it’s much more expensive than dining out, because the time you put into cooking could supposedly have been used in some more economically productive way!

    That kind of thinking is very common in places like Wall Street and with other megacity type dwellers. And it makes sense – in their environment. You do one thing, you do it maniacally well and you pay the rate of whoever to do all the other things for you. At the extreme, you literally pay other people to live your life for you, so that you can spend even MOAR time making MOAR money (personal assistants, also see: The Devil Wears Prada). And if you run the numbers, you come out ahead. It works – BUT only in that particular environment.

    The problem is those kinds of people think that because it works for them, it must work for everyone else. What? Someone would rather do it themselves and sacrifice that sweet opportunity cost? Insanity!

    Although (and this is something that I think has started to enter their darkest dreams) what happens if money becomes worthless and you run the numbers – and you’re not ahead anymore?

    Instead you’re horribly behind. So far behind. Maybe that’s why Screaming Bluehair Today is screaming about rural dwellers and why they hate them so much.

    Maybe one day we can get back to one trick ponies being Teh Best! at what they do and them coming out ahead? But not for a while, I think.

  162. There are factors that you may not have discussed. They tend to be on the woowoo side of things but are probably worth mentioning. The difficulty with dealing with only physical evidence when determining effects, is that the causes are not physical. If one believes the Cosmic Doctrine, then one is left knowing that there are many evolutions proceeding on this planet and the planet itself is evolving. While it is safe to say that the higher up the planes one goes, the slower things tend to move, but still they shouldn’t be ignored. One could say that the Israeli conflict and all the others are atavistic in nature. The left handedness of the actions is obvious when one sees a man enjoying all the benefits of a modern society while bringing to bear the actions of a less evolved state. Warfare is less evolved. If humanity is evolving towards love and unity, then actions which engender hatred and separation are left hand path. There are reasons to think that the planet is in the process of evolving, and in the near term (geologically speaking), the current swarms which will not evolve will be cast off this planet, to continue their evolution elsewhere.

  163. This is something of a tangent, but pertinent I think:

    In Bad Cat’s column today, March 7, “Causing Prosperity”, there is a comment at the top of the comment stream that runs “Surely another ‘basic pillar upon which the emergence of plenty rests’ is cheap energy”

    Bad Cat responds: “i suspect that ‘cheap energy’ is an emergent effect of scientific method, free markets, property rights, and modern capital structures rather than a starting requirement.

    no one starts with cheap energy. you get it because it’s something a thriving economy requires and therefore pursues through innovation and resource allocation.

    in most meaningful ways, the ability to produce and consume energy IS prosperity.”

    This floors me. He actually believes ‘cheap energy’ is an emergent phenomenon of properly adjusted social variables. That’s not far removed from believing in ‘Free Energy’. At the very least, this suggests he has no real background in the physical sciences. That even an extremely smart cat can be this delusional is sobering. He can’t be alone. No doubt this corresponds to elite thinking, and not just in regards to cheap energy.


    —Lunar Apprentice.

  164. @methylethyl

    This varies for around the country, wether the USA as a whole has “enough” housing, that would be counting small towns, urban decayed parts of detroit etc… or areas with wlot of room by them.

    BUt, in my area there is realy not enough housing, in my eldests’ part of Oregon, there is realy not enough housing. ( my offspring is doing fine, but tells me how bad it is in general for the others same age knows there)

    My area; First, my area is commuting distance into Silicon Valley ( San Jose, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, MountainView) we refer to them as “over the hill” . Second, we are effectively landlocked. Ocean on one side, state and county parks on 2 sides, and on the other we host the richest agricultural, truck farming and Berry growing in the nation, this is where your strawberries come from in your grocery stores, brussel sprouts, and alot of the salad and green vegetables. Third, we have a major University in the Univeristy of California, UC system. Fourth, we are a beach/vacation destination for inland areas of California as well as out of state/International esp as we are a short drive from San Francisco, the vacation rentals now have to have a permit to do business on Air BNB etc… and the number of those allowed is curtailed. Fifth, the regulations and permit costs are out of this world for a single family home to navigate thru and be built if one were to buy one of the few empty lots not already slated for corporate apartments to go up. And last, but not least, we are a destination for illegal immigration as we are a sanctuary county and have all the support in place, non profit as well as governmental, as well as familiar existing population for comfort levels or whatever. The prices here reflect supply and demand, but even I was surprised as one of my offspring is looking for housing at the moment as to how much worse it has gotten post-covid. ( mine has what would be considered a well paying PMC job, so they will not end up unhoused, but the on the ground realities are shocking) .

    My view point has been for some time that not everyone can or should live in the exact same spot on earth, that we are full in this area. The state of California looks at demographic trands and mandates that we build mre housing, which ends up being corporate funded and built dense houing, like the 3 5 story apartment buildings just being finished, infilled in a downtown here and the old drive in movie lot is slated for the same. We are going to build a new bus station and library by them that will for some inexplicable reason also have housing in the upper stories. All this multistory dense housing is very different and new here and disliked by many. I note that the roads are the same width and traffic will be more terrible as the result. People of course would rather live in a house, so the houses for rent or purchase are not going down in price as a result of the apartments, and the percentag of illegal immigrants in the population keeps increasing.

    My eldests’ area of Oregon. Harder to see reasons for their shortage of housing. Small, rural, coastal, far from Portland and hwy 5. One important part is that alot of people are figuring it out that not everyone can or should live in one area of the country, and are dispursing. SO, retirees or others with money come to that county and buy a house with cash, to live in. This bumped up tremendously during COVID. They do have empty lots in town and empty land around it, but not alot gets built due to the low incomes of the actual people working there and the costs of the vacant lots and the costs to have a house built. The industry of the area is fishing and logging. So people who grew up there cant find housing. Obviously, to some degree they are by having multiple generations sharing a house or a trailer on the parents driveway or land. And, of course, commuting an hour from an even smaller town in the hills to their job.

    In both cases what you get is young couples deferring having children as they feel very constrained on room.

    And, they are correct on the current risks to picking up and moving. I am a boomer but alot of my peers just think oif when we were young and dont see the current situation. When I was getting out of high school age and getting out of college age, it was so, so easy to just go to a new part of the country or of the state. You knew that you could pick up any random job and find some derilict place to rent to start out there, a studio apartment or something. This is not the way it is now, a young couple cant just save up enough gas money to drive to a different place and find a job in a week with enough income to put a roof of some type over their heads. Times are very different, so they are stuck where they are for the most part and there is truly not enough housing in many of their areas.

  165. >wondering why the elites hate us so much

    They always have. They have just started saying the quiet parts out loud. The cracks in Murican society have always been there (see the beginning of SLC Punk where the punks and the rednecks are at war with each other) but the stresses and strains of the past 15 or so years have led to visible fractures to the point where things are starting the break down and malfunction.

  166. I have endometriosis, and have shown symptoms of it since I was 14. I also have aspergers, probably, and fibromyalgia, and there’s some interesting stuff in my family which isn’t my story to tell. I have come to the conclusion I or one of my immediate ancestors was probably poisoned with endocrine disrupting chemicals or something else, and that this is likely a source of at least some of my problems.

    If someone has a condition that is notorious for causing infertility and has multiple health issues prevent them working enough to support themselves in an environment like current Canada, it should be no surprise when they have no children.

    On a related note a) among those of my friends from university who I’m still in contact with, there’s a noticeable presence of health issues plus a noticeable lack of children.

    b) my new church had to put out a call for a baby to play baby Jesus, as for the first time in memory, there wasn’t a baby of the right age available among the congregation.

  167. Re: Trudeauvilles: I haven’t heard the local tent encampments called that, but they’ve been a presence in Victoria since before I moved here in the early 2010s. It has gotten worse since the pandemic – there’s now a lot more small groups of tents in what seems like every park that has a bathroom, plus there’s still a few large encampments as well. Notably the one on Pandora st. near the music conservatory. That area is a mess. Since the decriminalization of hard drugs, there’s now also a lot more open drug use and people obviously high downtown, and it feels a lot nastier.

    When you say Trudeauville, I assume you mean the tent encampments?

  168. Recently I’ve been reading about a book by Dewey and Dakin, “Cycles: The Science of Prediction,” and the associated web site, Foundation for the Study of Cycles ( Thought about you as I kearn more.

  169. “For a given level of services, rural living consumes more energy per capita – heating single family homes is less efficient than heating apartments, linear infrastructure (roads, water pipes, sewer, electric) has to be longer per capita when people are more spread out, rural folks have to travel further”

    It’s a mixed bag. My septic tank uses no power at all. I’m on a group water system, but if I had my own well, that length of pipe would be quite short. The one I’m on isn’t all that long. Apartments are easier to keep warm, but harder to cool. When you live in a heat island you can’t just open the windows at sundown. (Example, I used the heat pump in AC mode for part of 19 days last year, it is in heat mode continuously for all of five months and part of two more.)

    Power lines are longer in the country, as are roads, but you may have noticed the power lines run from the country to the cities, not the reverse. The roads carry traffic both ways. And although I probably drove more miles, I spent less time on the road for those miles. 28 miles each way, 35 minutes. Much less time idling at one of the four stoplights, and no time in traffic jams.

    The biggest problems I’ve had are the lack of electronics stores, but Amazon and a few other e-commerce sites covers that (including eBay, as many PCs from a few years ago are quite usable) and shoes. Payless going away was a blow, and it took quite a while for a replacement to show up.

    Healthcare is an issue too, though happily not for me. If you do need near continuous medical support you have no choice but to move not just to town, but to a major city. Even for a minor outpatient surgery issue I had to go to a hospital 65 miles away. And of course you can’t drive yourself back from that either so you need someone else.

  170. Having decamped from an urban to rural situation, I can tell you that there are far fewer costs to rural life. First, the time you spend in the car is the same – in rural areas you may drive farther , but in cities you’ll spend the same amount of time in the car, idling at traffic lights, or heaven forbid you need milk during rush hour when everyone else does.

    Just using cost of living as a sort of resource benchmark, taxation in cities is consistently higher, not because you are getting more, but because there is more government and administrative cost built in. Since homes cost more in a city and are more likely to get broken into, the insurance you pay on your house is higher. Car insurance is higher in a city because you’re statistically more likely to be hit there.

    Public services are NOT better in cities, unless there is some regional difference involved. My husband and I were baffled by walking into the local department of motor vehicles and walking out with licenses fifteen minutes later. Do you have any idea how hard that process is in Los Angeles? It’s so hard there are now brokers who you can pay to stand in line for you. My local library may not have as big a back catalogue, but they have inter-library loans and the chairs are not occupied by homeless drug addicts . . . don’t get me started, I guess.

    M Carole

  171. @Phutatorius
    The Vietnamese one-string instrument called a dan bau, also plays music that sounds oddly like the theremin, also without any electricity.

    Here’s what it looks/sounds like:

  172. @JMG,
    Thanks for the info on L. Frank Baum!!! Most definitely evident in the nuances all through That Book / Film, glad they didn’t lose too much
    in the 1939 media adaptation! I like the reference to “Zardoz”?

    I’d like to add one thing to the discussion though. Even though there is growing awareness of the insidious ambitions of the “elite” from
    some surprising quarters, It seems to me that it would be remiss to dismiss them lightly. I don’t think they’re omnipotent or always successful
    in their Centuries old attempts show everyone it’s Their way or the Highway. But, after all, their stated goal is that They Make Policy. They have
    slipped lots under the radar, just look at the wonderful concept of the “Central Bank!”, to name only One of Their Bright Ideas! Pretty Cagey, huh, for not even being Elected! Of course we Know how they manage to circumvent That! Some of Them have even managed to get themselves elected, from time to time. They will never ever stop, kind of like an android, only More Dedicated! Even androids don’t Always succeed
    though, darn, too bad! Best to Always be on Guard, but That’s the Price of Freedom isn’t it!

  173. re: birthrates
    I was under the impression that Liberalism, especially late-stage Liberalism, was responsible for low birth-rates. I read a substack article making the case that the West is using the Mithridates Strategy, in which you build up a resistance to poison, and then toxify everyone including yourself — not because you’re immune, but because it will harm your enemies that much more. This explains why the GAE client-state of South Korea has such a catastrophically low birth-rate, since they have no built-in resistance to Liberalism, analogous to the effect of smallpox on Native Americans. Of course, this strategy would only work if the West can successfully infect BRICS, particularly Russia/China/Iran, as they’ve been ardently attempting to do. Should they fail, then I expect Liberalism to fall on its own sword, for cultural & economic reasons.

    re: decline
    In some ways, it’s kind of a relief. For all the great things about modern life, this is also a time of decadence, obesity, and meaningless drift. I see a definite correlation between the current state of managerial Liberalism and the epidemic of mental health issues and other chronic dysfunctions. Don’t get me wrong, decline will be challenging, but I think it’ll also burn away deadwood and have an invigorating effect. Certainly, I’d much rather take on that challenge then live through Fukuyama’s End of History, which thankfully was a mirage, a product of the 90s. In fact, that was the thesis of one of my favorite books: Origins of the Medieval World by William Carroll Bark, which eloquently makes the case that the Fall of the Western Roman Empire was not all bad, and allowed a new & better medieval society to grow out of its ashes. Perhaps we can look forward to another cycle of renewal via destroy & rebuild.

  174. Just a general comment on the matter of population size. It is, of course, a matter of changes happening not in one, but in two variables. Birth rates AND death rates. Even if birth rates are low, population will not necessarily contract – in a noticeable way – until death rates begin to increase. Likewise, even if birth rates are high, population will not necessarily increase – in a noticeable way – until death rates begin to decrease.

    OTOH, I find that when elites decide *they* are going to produce either increases or decreases to suit themselves, they ignore (or ride roughshod right over?) BOTH the autonomy of individuals AND the operations of other forces well outside the control of any of us.

  175. “For that matter one engineer who did take the job soon found himself divorced as she couldn’t take life in a town of 20,000.”
    Ha ha. We live in a small cow town, population short of 3000 humans. My sister in law declined our invite to visit us. There’s nothing to do in your town, was her reason. Something to do meant shopping, restaurants, bars in her world.
    One visitor said, let’s go to a bar. We said, there is no bar. She said, there’s gotta be a bar. We said no, there is no bar. Not sure she believed us.

  176. Don’t get me wrong, I find almoat everything you have to say incredibly stimulating and insightful. I recently discovered this blog and it is a real breath of fresh air…that I can’t get enough of. And when I think through what you say, I mostly find that I agree, or at least that you are proposing very plausible hypotheses. And your analysis of the economic impact of shrinking population seems spot on. But it seems to me there is one flaw in your argument: you note that population decline occurs when an environment reachew or exceeds carrying capacity. But though we may be approaching carrying capacity (and you make the very good point that this is a long term process.) has the world REACHED it? I don’t think so, and your apparently accurate account of the state of fossil fuel production does not seem to indicate that it has either. Isn’t the more or less standard explanation still valid, namely that very high birth rates in the past went along with very high death rates, that fewer children are needed by families as workers in modern urban environments (in contrast to preindustrial.societies overwhelmingly populated by peasants), that recently individuals and families have more control over reproduction, that some states (China) impose draconian policies、that abortion is widely accepted and available (mayne a third of pregnancies). Maybe the claim can be made that prices have risen, leading to more working women leading to fewer children. That is one factor but is that the only or even decisive one? My core queation being: is the fact that fuel prices have been rising due to higher extraction costs the only or even a major factor in falling birth rates across the world so far?

  177. Another issue with population contraction will be the permanent loss of manufacturing capability. The next thing the boomers are going to do is die. It’s not going to make a lot of sense to buy a new toaster/car/house when they’ll be going for bargain prices at estate sales. By the time the stock of used items is gone, the businesses making the new ones will be gone as well.

  178. By the way, the illegal immigrants that are processed by the border patrol these days can legally work, they are considered as applying for asylum and are given provisional paperwork that they can use to legally work and apply for benefits while they theoretically await their court date. My understanding is that there is one part that do not show up in the years from now court date, and others that do, well, the argument goes that they are now fully part of their community and such so should be allowed to stay…. California pays for full medical care, equivalent to medicaid, but paid for by the state of California for them, and has actually floated a proposal to not discriminate on the basis of immigration status for people applying for downpayment assistance to buy a home, assistance for up to 150,000 for downpayment closing costs, no payments needed until house is sold, then repaid out of proceeds. This may not pass, hard to tell, but every other assistance program not only has that wording but goes even farther as to state that to prioritize who gets into the program ( lets say to buy a hybrid car or solar panels with large grants applied) ok, so what the general public hears is that priority will go to disadvantaged communities. So far so good, but when that law got implemented by the department here is what happened, they take census data for zip codes and have 5 criteria, and the zip codes with the most points get priority for the funds. The last 2 criteria are the deciding factors between the areas and these are – not having a USA high school diploma – not having english as first language. So, that means not born here, not grew up here, so the priority is to the illegal immigrant communities to get heavily subsidized cars and solar on houses, etc….

    I am just letting you know that what some people have noticed and gotten upset about is not made up, it is real, even if it hasnt happened in your area yet.

    So far not enough people have noticed to have a backlash or any social issues about it, but it worries me on what we are setting up.

    The language used by the state beaurocracy is – disadvantaged communities as we defined using US census data – we need to not discriminate based on immigration status – we need to prioritize our hiring and contracts and zero interest loans to start businesses to give opportunties to traditionally suppressed women and minority owned businesses ( and remember we must not discriminate based on immigration status when doing this also applies but is not said….) So older people mostly vote as mentioned and here these things separatly and think, well and good, see we passed help for our disadvantaged, but do not know the details of how that gets implemented.

  179. Hello JMG,
    I remember you have touched on the topic of reincarnation before. Given the population decline in the coming years, what is your take on what happens to the souls that do not have a body to come back to?

  180. @Ron M., @Tyler: Myself, I have seen one tent near my daughter’s school with two young men sleeping in it, who were very discreet – the tent vanished during the day. The way they dressed when leaving the tent suggested they held down regular jobs. I see homeless people sleeping in and near the metro stations, which is already (or ought to be) a cause of shame for the authorities. I have searched for, but haven’t found news stories about encampments in Montreal from this past winter. Apparently, municipalities here so far have more power to dissolve encampments than in other provinces.

    @all: I agree with Marko and Tyler that we don’t know the exact mechanisms of population regulation in any species, much less in humans. It does seem to me that the most important signal is not absolute income, but changes in income and in personal space. When people feel things are getting better and there is enough space, they may decide to have more children (baby boom in the 1950s). When they feel things are getting financially better, but space is very crowded, they may have less children (East Asia today). When they know they are earning less than their parents did, and at the same time have to live under crowded circumstances, they most certainly will have less children. That holds true even though all of us in North America and Europe are financially better off than child-rich families in Africa.

    The trend towards urbanization will on its own increase the sensation of crowdedness and reduce natality. This happened in earlier times even when women’s education had not increased, e.g. in imperial Rome.

  181. Brigyn, it really depends on the species, if I understand correctly.

    Patricia M, thanks for these.

    Ecosophian, yep. Here again, though, the existence of molecular biomarkers in oil deposits makes Mendeleev’s theory obsolete. To be fair to him, he didn’t know about those.

    Blue Sun, I was mistaken; someone already corrected me.

    Luciano, that’s a good point, and one example of a broader point: as infrastructure collapses, a lot of public health issues kept under control at present will come boiling back up.

    Other Owen, exactly. Of course it’s also a good gimmick if you want to talk people into doing something against their own best interests.

    Ben, well, there we disagree. As I understand it, individual souls are passing through their own course of spiritual evolution, and some of them are at the human level right now; over time, as they work through their karma and learn the hard lessons of self-knowledge and self-mastery, those who are currently in human incarnation will pass on to other things, while other souls just reaching this level will incarnate as human beings. At the human level, war and other forms of conflict are a constant presence; that’s one of the challenges we face and must overcome as individuals. Thus war will remain as long as human beings do, even though your soul and mine will pass beyond that level in due time.

    Lunar, I know. It’s really sad to see intelligent people who can’t grasp that material reality imposes hard limits that economics can’t overcome.

    Pygmycory, many thanks for the data points.

    Isaac, no doubt. I’m sure if you work at it you can find more statistics to cherrypick, too, but as they’re veering ever further from the point of this post, I’d encourage you not to do so. You might find posts #178 and 179 relevant, however.

    Cobo, I used to read their magazine in university libraries years ago. Thank you for a blast from the past!

    Methylethyl, thanks for this! The dan bau, the Vietnamese monochord, is something I found out about years ago and should probably take the time to explore more soon.

    Wizard, oh, granted. But I’ll have a few things to say about that two weeks from now, too.

    Xcalibur/djs, as I noted in my post, there’s a lot of spin doctoring and a lot of political agendas applied to the issue of rising and falling birthrates.

    Scotlyn, true, and important.

    Jeremy, I’m suggesting that since global population seems to be following the standard curve of a population in the last stages of overshoot, maybe we should consider the possibility that we are in fact in the last stages of overshoot. The mere fact that other hypotheses have been proposed does not mean that this one should be discarded out of hand.

    Roldy, excellent! That’s what happened to pottery in the late Roman world, among other examples.

    Atmospheric, thanks for this.

    Carbax, under normal conditions, most souls are out of incarnation for much longer than they are in it — on average, according to some of the old texts, each incarnation is followed by a period three times as long as the life was, to process the experience. During the last few hundred years that’s dropped very sharply, so that souls are coming back into incarnation when they’ve barely begun to process the experiences of their last life. Once global population drops, a lot of souls will be out of incarnation for a good long time, just to process everything that’s taken place in this wildly busy, chaotic time of high population levels. Then things will settle back down to normal for a while.

    Robert, thanks for this. Extend that over not too many generations and you’re talking about the collapse of most of the historic nations of Europe.

  182. Methylethyl 180: I like that instrument, and it has a “whammy bar,” so John Cippolina would have liked it too.

    @JMG: as to the inward pointing teeth on the saw, I prefer to call it “gender affirming care.”

  183. Do you have a standard cut-off for posting and responding to comments? I sometimes don’t get to reading all the comments until Thursday afternoon PST and I feel rude asking you a question just as you are heading out the door home, so to speak. Thanks!

  184. @Clark
    Well if I had to guess I’d say there are different groups within the elites.
    There are those who fully bought into Fourth Industrial revolution i.e. the idea that soon we are going to have robots capable of doing virtually any kind of job. They would obviously want to depopulate the planet. What do you need all those “useless eaters” for once you have your own personal army of robots that can manufacture anything you want (including making new robots)?
    And then I’d imagine there are those who either didn’t buy into this idea or at least don’t believe that the robotic Utopia will happen during their lifetime. They would want to keep squeezing surplus value out of human.
    There could even be something in between like: “Yeah robots are coming, but we might as well keep exploiting humans while we wait. Once we have our robotic armies ready we can easily reduce the population Terminator-style, so letting population grow in the meantime is not an issue.”

  185. John,
    I welcome population contraction. I miss the quieter America of my childhood that contained 190 million people. In today’s America of 330 million, when we travel down the East coast by car we will drive 150 miles out of our way to avoid the Megalopolis. Population growth has turned once bucolic rural locales into hideous, noisy, chaotic expanses of parking lots, strip malls, fast food and subdivisions.

  186. Questions, OT:
    Adocentyn: Hard C, or soft?
    Haatan – which syllable has the “a-as-in-cat”? And how is the other one pronounced?

  187. @xcalibur/djs – I took a minor in Medieval studies after retirement, and my chosen focus was on the northern nations, the ones having Rome never conquered. They were a very powerful nucleus for the emerging new Medieval society, and I’m thinking for the Faustian civilization in general. Unlike, say, post-Roman Britain, they didn’t crash and burn when the Romans left, for one thing.

  188. @thrown, no sustainable agriculture, Chinese or otherwise, can feed a global population remotely the size of the current one. Only fossil fuel inputs to the Haber-Bosch process can, and those are going away.

    As for Russia, we might ask a Russian. From what I understand, most people, for the best part of two decades, felt their life was worse and less safe than before 1991. Not hard to understand why birth rates fell (and death rates rose). Even in the former GDR after 1990, natality fell like a stone.

  189. Really vital topic John. It is a brave person who attempts to make good sense of the inextricably linked subjects of procreation, migration, mineral depletion, global pollution, dis-economy (planned obsolescence and waste) and modern corporate psychopathy. It is an almost impossible task when employing The Crown dialect of English, which is the prime facilitator of this dystopia.For instance:
    re “Technically speaking, fossil fuels aren’t actually nonrenewable resources”
    A resource (re-source) prior to the English Combustion Revolution meant anything that arises again and again. “Energy”, in accord the Conservation of Energy Principle, is the ultimate resource – the nature of energy being that it is continually renewed.
    Certainly mineral biomass can be burned (it can be a fuel) but it also has vast potential to be used in a multitude of vital ways. Mineral oil/gas does not contain fossils and the eonic forces required to create coal means only traces of fossils tend to remain. Stone fossils do not burn.
    It is arguable that The Crown’s conflation of “energy”, “resource” and “fossil fuel” for delusional merchantile reasons is the prime driver of Anglosphere dystopia.
    Re “it wasn’t just our technologies that were designed around the short-term condition of rapid growth driven by abundant fossil fuel energy—so were our economies”
    Prior to the English Combustion Revolution, the word “economy” was associated with stewardship, frugality, careful management, thrift etc Indeed “..even in the 1780s the American Founders in laying out the new republic generally used economy only as “frugality.” (
    It is more helpful to speak of our rapid “growth” being driven by “our dis-economies”
    “the peak oil movement”
    Richard Heinberg did much to popularize “the peak oil” framing. Our Green Party arranged for him to speak at our NZ Parliament in 2007. The phrase was subject to much jeering, laughter and ridicule when subsequently the Green Party used the term in Parliament, particularly by the Labour Party Finance Minister, who they were in coalition with.
    I tried and failed to explain to my Green colleagues and to Richard that it makes nonsense and it is more helpful to speak of “the peak of cheaply extracted mineral oil” but they said “peak oil” is easier to say. The hapless phrase haunts them to this day.
    Re “The price of oil, which was around US$10 a barrel at the turn of the millennium, is now fluctuating between US$70 and $90 a barrel.”
    Indeed the price of mineral oil was jacked down under $US10 in 1999 so Clinton, Gore and Congress in general could get high on the fumes of their own euphoria and repeal the Glass Steagall Acts – just as the price was jacked up to $US147 a barrel by Goldman Sachs et al in 2008 to ensure any incoming president (a) would not dare tamper with the repeal and (b) could ensure the insane printing of money in order inflate the imploding Anglosphere dis-economy because it is based on the delusion of eternal mineral oil at $US25 a barrel.
    re “an obsolete economy of growth to the new economy of contraction”
    See note re “economy”. The Crown’s psychopathic notion of “The Economy” is a system of escalating waste in which human beings, young and old, are deigned to be mere tradable commodities and disposable items. The Anglosphere Empire uses wars and vast forced migrations to split communities and destroy all other cultures.
    Left to themselves, the people of other cultures that embrace true economy, respect their elders and treasure their children have little to fear about the size of their population.

    John, I recently posted an essay that may be of interest:
    It was in part inspired by your discussion about magic last year. It basically suggests that our conservation and use of transcendent words is a key to enabling the magic of the universal potential to be manifest to us. Forgive me if I have already posted you the link.

  190. At least one person has contemplated this future: Darrell Bricker’s book, “Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline” is a good read which discusses the economic impact of a population no longer growing.

  191. A data point to tag on to Scotlyn’s comment about historical knowledge of birth control (#157).

    I was once travelling to work at a remote site in Sub-Saharan Africa and had the good fortune to be riding in the car with a biologist who knew the area quite well. I was asking many questions about this landscape I was seeing for the first time.

    I pointed to a tree and asked for the name and she told me* and she laughed and said women knew that tree well but not men. She said it was the tree whose leaves helped you to not have a baby. The human females and the local elephant females were both known to use it for the same purpose. She said the women (both species) always made sure the trees were kept healthy. The men (human and elephant) had no knowledge of this, and thought nothing of the tree. The females kept it to themselves. Also, I believe she thought that the human women had learned it from the elephants (but I can’t recall exactly). I left with the idea that every culture probably has this knowledge in their own context but it’s need-to-know status.

    *Alas, I forget the name of the tree but it was relatively common.

  192. Beautiful post. You are always on top of the whole, that’s why I’ve been following you forever.

    It would be great if you could write a little about syntropy, seeing you cover entropy so thoroughly

    Thanks again John

  193. Isaac (and JMG) – About those “per capita energy consumption” figures… Alaska, Louisiana, Wyoming, and North Dakota. What do they all have in common, besides low population density? Energy production! Since it takes energy to make energy (much more so than the labor it takes to make energy), the energy consumed by the energy industry itself gets divided by a relatively small “per capita” denominator. This says nothing about the personal energy consumption of individuals living in these states. The energy-to-make-energy burden is born by those energy producers, and not by the urban energy consumers in Rhode Island and New York. Hawaii is a special case, since energy costs are very high, and the climate does not require season heating and cooling. The moderate climate of California also excuses them from major heating expenses.

  194. Naturally, birth-control measures of all sorts would be forbidden by leaders of the State, which could see the need for soldiers (offensive, if possible, but certainly for defense), and of the Church (more souls to save, more altar boys to exploit, etc.). All the more true when the Church WAS the State. And even if one political unit had the foresight to achieve a stable population, they could be overrun by the young men of the excessively fertile unit across the border. (I think Jared Diamond describes some South Pacific islanders who experienced this first hand, being destroyed by Maori raiders upon discovery. But I’ve searched both “Guns, Germs, and Steel”, and “Collapse”, without finding the reference.)

  195. Phutatorius, funny. No doubt they’ll be on to an even more mealy-mouthed euphemism in due time.

    Ken, I continue responding to comments on each week’s post until sometime on the following Tuesday. That’s one of the reasons the commentariat here is so lively.

    Logan, is that what they’re thinking, or is that what they want people to think they’re thinking? Publicly available documents aren’t necessarily a good guide to private plans and reflections.

    Peter, I won’t argue. Western Washington used to be a very quiet, pleasant, green place in my youth; now much of it is Los Angeles North.

    Patricia M, (1) soft C. (2) You’d have to ask Eliphas Lévi, in whose most famous book I found the name. I imagine the first pair of A’s as a long “aah” and the second as a shorter one.

    Dave, an interesting set of reflections. No, you hadn’t forwarded me the link yet; I’ve bookmarked it and will read it as soon as circumstances permit.

    Kfish, excellent! I’ll see if the library system here has that.

    Scott, I’ll consider it.

    Lathechuck, two excellent points.

  196. @pygmycory: thanks for the on-the-ground report of the homeless situation in Victoria. Yes, ‘Trudeauvilles’ are the tent encampments that have become more widespread in many cities in recent years. Even my Ontario home town (population: 20,000) has one now – for the first time in its 250-year history. The old United Empire Loyalist families that dominate the town still cannot believe that such a thing has happened in their formally well-ordered world.

  197. To Lathechuck (post #205),

    The people you are thinking of are/were the Moriori, an early offshoot of the Polynesian wave that spread toward and onto New Zealand, and who formerly inhabited the Chatham Islands off New Zealand. The hunter-and-gatherer Moriori were conquered and enslaved by the Maori, being unable to effectively defends themselves from the agricultural and more technologically advanced, and hence more numerous (but still Stone Age) Maoris.

    The episode is to be found in Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel”, pp 53-57.

  198. Economia and krematistics,

    The transition from a growing economy, where investments make money, to a contracting economy, where investments lose money, is probably a good time to bring this up. Aristotle made a sharp distinction between economia, management of household, and krematistics, the short term return on ownership.

    It’s not really surprising that our Faustian civilization conflates the two, but they are not the same. Management of household always make sense, insulating, weatherizing, composting, digging a well or planting fruit trees all take time, effort, and resources, but yield tangible results that are worth the effort. Speculating on the value of various assets, denominated in increasing abstract tokens of increasingly fickle value, as a proxy for access to those tangible yields of wealth can often make sense in a growing economy but rarely in a contracting one. Put a different way, financialized investments in a contracting economy are going to lose money, but managing one’s household is always a good investment.

  199. I think that another factor in fewer young people dating and marrying and having children is that when both parents are working full time their children are simply not getting a normal human socialization. It has seemed to me for a long time that our pattern of separating children into 1 year age groups and having them spend the majority of their day in the company of one adult and 20-30 other children of approximately the same age is a terrible idea. In a small village or a hunting band the unweaned children stay with mom and the older children have tasks that bring them into contact with numerous adults doing different tasks. The children join in as able–scare birds out of the fields, bring the cows in at night, help gather nuts or grubs or pull weeds. Learn to do the adult tasks from parents or older sister, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and when at leisure run with a group of children of varied ages and abilities. Not trying to idealize the primitive; dying of tetanus or dysentery is no fun. Anyhow, we have our system of children at daycare at earlier and earlier ages and then school them to come home to both parents exhausted and busy with household chores or just wanting to collapse. Then we had COVID with the normal routine disrupted and children surrounded by adult anxiety, etc. Now teachers are reporting that not only have the children missed the academic learning for 2+ years, they have also fallen behind in social skills. Not even going to get into the problem of everyone in a family around the room looking at phones instead of talking or even sharing the same TV show. I have even read tales of teachers confronting children in kindergarten or older who are not toilet trained (literally reporting to class in diapers of pullups) or who do use the toilet but don’t know how to wipe themselves. And these are not slum children. Of course one must take internet reports, like any news source, with a grain of salt. The extraordinary is news while the ordinary is not.

    It seems to me that a saner way to run an industrialized society would be to encourage women to get basic education needed to function as an adult citizen. Then marry and have children. When youngest child is old enough not to need intense care, the mother would return to school for careers that require more education or go directly to work in jobs that don’t. We might consider that one factor in declining fertility is that women are spending their most fertile years in school and then establishing themselves in a career, afraid to take too much time off because they will be passed over for promotion. This puts a lot of pressure on dating and marriage–when the couple are just settling into a relationship, but the woman’s biological clock is ticking. Won’t get into the effect of reformed divorce laws on the emotional and financial insecurities of both sexes. That would be an essay of its own.

    My sweater business scenario of earlier post assumed the need for a cash income of some kind. Obviously in a declining economy we would eventually be producing for use rather than for sale, just as currently with cooking our own meals or caring for our own children as opposed to running a restaurant or a daycare. Barter would eventually enter in as well. Ordinary clothing would be produced at home–but there would probably still be a luxury market, so instead of knitting warm, serviceable sweaters I could turn to making lacey garments or some other specialty. Crafts that can be combined with other chores would be best, knit while rocking the cradle or waiting for the bread to rise. Or, like Swiss clockmakers, crafts that can be done in the winter while outdoor work is suspended.


  200. Regarding living outside the city on a small energy footprint – it is effectively illegal. Rich people bought all the land a couple generations ago, so prices are sky high, and to pay the mortgage on that you need a job. Unless you have one of the dwindling remote jobs in tech or government, that means you have a car to go to work in. A log cabin or a yurt is also illegal, unless you live a stupendous distance from town, in which case you are better off owning a car and living closer.

  201. I just read an article in the New Yorker, a mag for the elite, full to brimming with that towering elite self-regard that we’ve come to know and laugh at. Seems that no matter what calamity they foist they can’t be disabused of their pathological feeling of superiority, you know, because they’re, um, ‘educated’.

    As the article doesn’t fail to mention, HIGHLY educated. In fact, so much so that no matter that their intellectual and social inferiors usually have the clearer and more common sensical and more accurate take on things, they insist that, given the facts known at the time, they, the exalted, were justified.

    This article happened to be on the covid pandemic but what happened there we’ve seen before and no doubt will see again. In fact we are seeing it again.

    No matter that, in hindsight, this same elite were dead wrong, that their less educated critics were right, it would never occur that it’s this vaunted ‘education’ that is the problem. Or at least one of the problems.

    Yes, I know, they also exist in a social echo-chamber, one made up usually of moneyed people whose loot shields them from the consequences of their own folly. The result is insulation from on-the-ground realities, realities that should inform decision making. In other words, they don’t bloody listen.

    And so now what’s the topic of this week’s essay? Population decline. And the solution evidently adopted by the greatly educated? Unrestricted and unregulated immigration. Can you imagine? Well, you don’t have to imagine because you can see with your own two eyes the practical results.

    These were the same clowns that were going to remake the Middle East into a bastion of democracy and also presumably the passel of boneheaded propositions lately become official government policy enforced with the might and majesty of the law.

    So, now, the result of the millions dead and and maimed and ruined and trillions blown into the various desert moonscapes? You saw it and see it daily on the news. The result of offshoring gain of function research and government efforts to contain and then cover up the foreseeable lab leak? Oh yes, foreseeable because guys in a position to know actually foresaw the likely consequence of such risky research.

    As for leaving the border open, someone else mentioned that hostile foreign governments could hardly pass up the chance to send fighting age men to make mayhem.

    Jesus save us. Actually, why would he? To what end?

  202. I have been travelling in the Middle East this week, Saudi, Qatar etc, and am now returning home to Europe.

    The difference is stark. It’s booming here, the confidence, increasing prosperity and sense of improvement in life is striking.

    Europe on the other hand seems to be faltering and unsure, people are feeling poorer. It does not have the upper hand in trade, and feels like the price receiver rather than the maker.

    To my mind it underlines two things in your post this week. (1) Prosperity and access to energy are intimately linked, and (2) the escape from the Western geopolitical dominance pays huge dividends.

    Speaking to people here from all over the world, the admiration for MBS and Modi is clear and explicit, whatever we may feel about them here in the West.

    It’s been fascinating.


  203. @carlos the obscure says: “why is no effort is made by europe and n. america to expand vetted legal immigration and tamp down the chaotic illegal immigration? Would be way better for everybody i think.”

    JMG touched this in his response to you, but I’d like to reiterate is that illegal (and legal, or quasi-legal) immigration is extremely valuable to capitalists. Take a look at Canada for example, it’s taken in perhaps the largest group of migration and consequently has some of the highest housing costs, rapidly falling quality of living, and weakest domestic labor power. Migrants are often brought in to smash domestic labor organizing because having a perpetual exploited underclass who don’t rock the boat (in fear of retaliation by employer or the state) is extremely good for profits and keeping the workers subdued. To say nothing of propping up house prices in demand.
    Anyways that aside, I think one thing missing, or touched on but deserves eliciting, is linking the declining material conditions with declining energy while also the declining rate of profit under capitalism. A single barrel of oil produces the energy equivalent of a single human laborer working 40-hour non-stop for 15-years. It’s imply irreplaceable. As energy supplies dwindle, so does the ability to produce rampant overabundance in materialism; however, at the same time this also leads to declining rate for capitalists who cannot abide by declining profits. We are seeing in real time, thanks to a combination of neoliberalism and declining energy, a shift from a productive mode of consumption to a ficticious finance capital mode of consumption. To state that a little better, money is itself it’s own productive force through speculations divorced from energy.

    This means speculation on required features of society (e.g. housing) and ramping up the rates of parasitic rent-seeking (such as landlords, adding more fees and rising prices divorced from whatever the actual underlying “real costs” are)

    It’s no surprise that that “Economists” are constantly boasting ALL TIME HIGHS ON THE SP500!!! every day while homeless, poverty, and material conditions are rapidly getting worse for the masses. To anyone with two brain cells, it should be infuriating and appalling that we’re told the economy is doing great while everything is getting worse. This to me, is the main key driver in falling birth rates in the first world is that material conditions are falling in a combination of everyone being bled to death by the parasitic class.

    When huge swaths of people can’t afford a house to raise their kids and rents taking up 30-50% of wages, have to worry about a $200,000 medical bill, and parents having to work 3+ jobs between them just to afford food, etc, why would anyone sane have kids?

    So it’s true that both falling energy supply is to blame, but this is further exasperated by the landlord-capital class demanding their pound of fleshy profits and being wholly unable to tolerate anything less.

  204. Ah, I wish I had an edit button and apparently my paragraph breaks didn’t go through, but one thing I also forgot to mention is wide-spread alienation fueled by the capitalists. Alienated, lonely people, are great consumers because it’s very easy to get people to consume to fill the voids that should otherwise be filled by friends, family, neighbors, and the community.

    Generation Z, Millennials, and a lesser degree Gen X, are by most metrics some of the loneliest cohorts in recorded history despite unprecedented “connectivity”. It isn’t an unfortunate happenstance that this is so. It’s very much a creation of everything from the media produced, the dog-eat-dog mentality, the privatization of ‘third-places’ where people can congregate and meet for free, the stress of seeing everyone as a competitor, and that everything socially is meant to be transactional.

    The phrase “It Takes a Village” refers to the fact it does indeed take a large support network of communities to raise kids and support each other. Forcing parents to rely on only themselves is virtually unheard of in human history and adds vastly huge stress and difficulty on top of trying to survive and afford a roof over their head in contemporary societies. When you take out the village, what’s left? Well….

  205. Everyone,
    Ever so slightly Off Topic:
    Senator Kate Britt’s GOP rebuttal to Biden’s State of the Union was significantly Well Done enough to obviate the need to even discuss the actual address? I don’t have the capacity to vocalize how I feel about the Actual Address.

  206. Hi JMG, regarding fossil fuel theory, I would greatly appreciate your review of the book of Thomas Gold, The Myth Of Fossil Fuels. Similar ideas offers the German scientist Hans-Joachim Zillmer in his book The Energy mistake, however from a slightly different point of view.

  207. Hello, JMG and commentariat.

    I can happily announce that the opportunity has arrived for a job change. The company I worked for has been absorbed and I have been the first one to be fired (others renounced before me, but that’s another story).
    As things have developed, I now have the resources to pursue a new career.

    So, taking JMG advice to the heart, I’ve chosen urban gardening. I’ve felt a call from mother nature to help her children grow, and given my family circumstances, I think that’s where the will meets the realm of the feasible.

    I will be offering restorative gardening and taking more conventional gardening jobs only when earnings are not enough.

    Thank you very much for giving me tools that opened these doors.

  208. Hey JMG

    It’s funny that you have chosen the awkward fact of population decline and its economic consequences, since Australian has recently been massively increasing its migrant intake despite the severe housing shortage we have, all to try and prop up the economy.
    I gather that in America the use of immigration for propping up the economy is something of an “open secret” that the news doesn’t usually go out of its way to advertise, and which many are still ignorant of. In Australia however its far more openly talked about by the media, though of course they still often sugarcoat it the same way your people do. (“they are only doing the jobs no one else wants”, ”They are fleeing their war-torn country.”)
    Coincidentally the ABC released an article which openly admits the necessity of immigrant-driven population growth, though its subject was the insistence by economists that the unemployment rate must increase to combat inflation. I’ll leave a link, but i will still copy the relevant paragraph anyway.

    *Deloitte Access Economics partner Stephen Smith says the newly released data shows that “while Australia is not in a recession, many Australians are in a recession”.
    He says record levels of migration, exports to China, and government spending have propped up an otherwise sagging economy.
    “We’ve had very strong population growth in Australia over the last 12 months or so — mostly driven by migration,” he says.
    “Without that population growth, the economy would have gone backwards by about 1 per cent over the last 12 months.
    “And so it’s really population growth — more people in Australia, spending more — that’s what’s propping up the economy at the moment and keeping us out of recession.”*

  209. JMG
    It’s what they’re thinking.

    Neema Parvani has been following Blair’s moves and reviewing them on Youtube for quite a while. Here’s an ongoing analysis of one of Blair’s speeches:

    I know you don’t like video, but it’s worth other readers taking a look, because Blair is far more powerful than most people realise.

    Parvani points out that the global elite don’t hide their intentions and don’t play 4D chess. They openly signal their intentions to prime the population for what is coming. He explains how this all works here:

  210. Thank you very much for this essay.

    I would like to know how you see the demographic situation after the end of the industrial age. Could the population fall far below pre-industrial levels? Our descendants will have to live with a planet that is in a worse state, with fewer resources and less fertile soil. In addition, there is much less knowledge about how to manage with less energy. Is it therefore likely that the population could fall to, say, 200 or 300 million?

  211. Hi John Michael,

    After consideration, I agree with your analysis. The whole thing reminds me of one of those carnival ‘whack a mole’ games. The game is of course probably stacked against the player. And don’t you reckon the game displays the concepts of diminishing returns, in that the moles eventually pop up faster than a player can whack them?

    The Standard run chart of The Limits to Growth study really spelled out the problems facing civilisation – and also where it is headed. I read the book a few years ago and was struck by the bland academic nature of the text. It seemed strange to me, especially given the subject matter. I much preferred reading ‘Overshoot’, and we’ve discussed this subject over the years. Acceptance, I believe, is where free will can come into play, or am I kidding myself?

    I’ve learned enough about organic agriculture that there is absolutely no way it alone could feed 8 billion people. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good and is a system which will make it into the future, but natural gas into nitrogen fertilisers is I believe responsible for about every second meal now, anywhere on the planet. Given resource depletion, this is not a system with any longevity. My gut feeling (no pun intended) is that as gas resources decline, food will still be available, but the protein content in the produced food will continue to decline. As I understand it has done so for many decades now, nitrogen being just one element which plants require. All of them are being slowly used up. A slow loss of health in the population, and it will affect livestock too. It’s not good.

    I’m thinking of you. Hope you are doing OK this week. It’s been my experience that people soon forget.



  212. Forgive me if I missed it but I believe there is a spiritual aspect to the decline in population. Of what nature? I’m not sure.

    JMG states that peak energy production occurred about two decades ago. I believe population declines began earlier than that. I did a quick search for Japan and China and they roughly started declining after WW2. In ageless time, yes, energy production and population decline is simultaneous but my point is there wasn’t a switch that was moved to off once we hit peak energy production and then all of a sudden people made (or were forced by circumstances into) lifestyle choices that resulted in less children. I put this down to the evolution of modern society and the soulless aspects of it.

    JP ONeil #10 mentions how “humanity acts as though they are somehow separate from the rest of the world” and “create their own reality”. My term, but an “Old Testament” outlook.

    JMG #96 mentions “biological controls” within humanity triggered by overpopulation. I wonder if spirituality is part of the control.

    Let’s take illegal immigration as an example. I agree 100% that it is a tool being used to counter population decline. What baffles me is the vindictive and even evil way in which it is being implemented Many levels to this evil. Illegal immigrants may be preferred as they reside in a grey zone and are at the mercy of those that abetted them (think low wages, no social security, no medical insurance, costs are transferred away from government and business onto the populations such as only medical care for illegals is only available in hospital emergency rooms (US example)). Evil in that let’s say that any and all immigration is a net positive but the refusal of authorities to address criminality. Many high profile cases in which all sorts of rape, murder and mayhem is excuses. That’s the vindictive and evil piece. Imagine the sheer lack of any positive spirituality, the karma, fate or whatever that allows such turds as currently run the show to rise to the top of the toilet bowl we call modern society.

    Ben #170 states “The difficulty with dealing with only physical evidence when determining effects, is that the causes are not physical. ” He posits this may be related to the evolution of souls (The Cosmic Doctrine).

    JMG #191 may have the answer to the spiritual piece in he states that we are all currently in the humanity stage of evolution and “war and other forms are a constant presence” in this state. This may be the answer and that demographic decline is mostly caused by limitations on the material plane and that the sheer cluelessness, vindictiveness, spitefulness, and other attributes of a soulless society are a Saturnian tool as part of our soul’s evolution through the human stage……

  213. JMG

    Two points about population decline:
    1. Something I have been noticing about birth rates is that, they have been falling faster than the models predicted a couple of decades ago. The UN world population estimates are telling. In 2017 they estimated that world population will hit a peak of 11.2 billion in 2100; In 2019, that was revised to 10.9 billion in 2100; In 2022, they again revised it to 10.4 billion peak in 2080. Decline is picking up speed. Demographers and policy makers have been taken by surprise by how fast this changed.

    2. Young men and women are sharply diverging in political leanings. Men are skewing more conservative, while women are skewing more liberal. And, a growing number of men and women inhabit starkly different economic classes. More and more young people are living without romantic relationships of any kind with the opposite gender. Putting this all together, it is clear that the rate of reproduction is stalling, and will continue for a while. Interestingly, this divide isn’t limited to USA and its allies. It is present in many countries.

  214. Re birth rates – the world population was 3.4b when I was born (mid 1960s). It’s well over double that now, incredible in the span of a single lifetime. Growing up, I palpably recall the world getting noisier, coupled with an exponential rise in crapification. Elon Musk shrieks regularly about the need for more people. Because, who is going to populate Mars?? A moronic double-whammy.

    Re migratory trends – some data points from south/east Europe.
    As per the pattern mentioned above (from Mississippi to Japan), over the past 3-4 decades the rural areas of many EE countries have basically been emptied as the young moved to the cities. Village life is basically gone, schools are shuttering, few farmers left and little local food production. Yugoslavia, for example, used to have a policy that the country must be able to feed itself; if that meant you didn’t eat bananas, tough. Nowadays, most food items are imported. Plenty of bananas though.

    Many of these countries have relatively small populations (<10m) and yet hundreds of thousands leave each year. Croatia has a population of under 4m but there are over 400k Croatian immigrant workers in Germany alone, most of whom moved there since 1995.

    Population rates are plunging all across the region (1.2 -1.7). In Croatia, pro-natalist policies (restrictions on abortion & birth control, financial incentives, paid maternity leave, 'patriotic' appeals etc.) have had precisely zero effect.

    ‘Come to Germany’ online ads and physical billboards are ubiquitous across all EE countries. The call is for everything from IT/software, engineers and doctors, to skilled labor (construction & factory workers, electricians, mechanics, plumbers, truck drivers etc.), to caregivers, nurses, kindergarten staff, cleaners, hotel staff, cashiers, cooks, you name it. Previously (say 25 years ago) there was an extensive process, including needing academic credentials, secured employment & work visa. Now the doors are wide open, you can even move to Germany gratis for a year while you look for work. The machine demands flesh.

    Hardly anyone comes back. The result is that you can barely find decent plumbers, electricians, or builders locally. I recently saw Nepalese workers building a road in Bosnia, Bangladeshis working on a railroad in Serbia, and Filipino waiters in Croatia. On the other hand, many families in the poorer countries (Kosovo, Bosnia, Moldova) are reliant on the remitted funds sent from Germany. Volkerwanderung is no news I guess. As a local proverbial saying goes: "A fool lives where he was born, the wise man moves where life is better."

    PS. The point about the NGO-backed illegal immigration rackets brings to mind the disasters of conservationist NGOs in Africa; the fate of the elephants in Tsavo/Kenya is a good cautionary tale.

  215. I saw someone on Twitter, enthusiastically promoting abiotic oil because the Russians have found a lot of oil and gas by using the abiotic framework. Is this true? What do you know about the state of these resources in Russia? Do they know something that we don’t know? Whatever the case may be, after the US severely declines, it looks like Russia, Iran and possibly China will be the next Great Powers.

    Looking forward to the next blog!

  216. @Dave McArthur, that’s interesting, in Romanian, when you are frugal, we say “to make economy”, for example: you make economy at electricity, meaning that you are more frugal with your electricity consumption. On your reflection on “peak oil”, it’s a curse and a blessing, because you need to make your idea marketable so you come up with a catchphrase that’s short, but it’s subject to misunderstanding. And lastly, could you expand your explanation on the oil price reflection? I would like to hear more.

  217. 💸Yesterday, my husband (call him “Josiah”) and I went to our yearly tax session with our accountant.

    Josiah earned income, and the various governments have taken most-all of it in taxes. That, and interest rates in 2023, wiped us out. We are grimly struggling. Welfare queens, bloated military budgets, foreign wars, printing of cash, bankers—and other frivolous things, all have manipulated their way to hack chunks of what they felt “entitled” to of our income, leaving our own cupboards bare. How many deadbeats and cheats are we [involuntarily] supporting? Five, ten, a hundred?

    I feel so down. I re-read “A Life Remembered” of 21 Feb 2024. Thank you for writing it. It helps me. I see that a person can have a conscious death outside the despicable medical establishment. The adage is “When things can never ‘work out’ in this lifetime.”

    Sara perceived her time to go. I am wondering if I shall do similarly. In bookkeeping terms, close out my accounts. Liquidate the business. See when owner’s equity’s trend is cratering and cannot recover. Zero out revenue and expenses. Start a new life with all zeroes.

    I take a year to wrap up my affairs. Wait until AFTER Kamilla-the-Komodo-Dragon dies. Aka mother-in-law. Aka ogre. (She lives a thousand miles away, thank the Gods.)

    For Josiah’s (her son) benefit, Kamilla would have to die before me, or she will suck out even more life from him than she already has.

    Deadbeats took all our extra cash. We have no money left for long-term projects we would have continued or saved for (like a new roof), or short-term projects. Why bother earning income when we ourselves are neglected? In other words, we as middle-income-earners don’t matter.

    I feel bitter.😑

    💨Northwind Grandma💨💸
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  218. Another intersting thing, that this deer population graph shows and our host wrote here, is that overpopulation damages the environment and lowers the carrying capacity. There are three places on this world where this will result in the complete destruction, maybe local extinction on mankind: Egypt, China and India. Taking China as an example, it’s carrying capacity after the so-called columbian exchange was around 400mil people, the population of Qing China. But now all soils there are toxic, the rivers are full of heavy metals and funny microplastics, the seas are dead due to overfishing and the plagues coming both from labs and from animals will become endemic there.

    There is a nonzero risk that no humans will be able to live there in the nadir of mankind and that will be end of the long chinese civilization and race unless the diaspora keeps their culture. It’ll be like the fall of Atlantis but with benzenes and cadmium instead of volcanos and tsunamis. India and Egypt are on the same boat. I can envision, at the bottom of the dark ages, a group of asian heroes in what was once British Columbia doing a journey to the dead homeland to seek ancient books and artifacts. Maybe, with the last photographic camera, they go there to phograph everything they can so that the scribes back in Vancouver convert the photographies into drawings.

    Or indians that established a hindu kingdom in New Rajputana (AKA California) doing a similar trek to Varanasi.

  219. A few riffs on some of the comments…

    @Liquefication #215 wrote:

    “Generation Z, Millennials, and a lesser degree Gen X, are by most metrics some of the loneliest cohorts in recorded history despite unprecedented “connectivity”. It isn’t an unfortunate happenstance that this is so. It’s very much a creation of everything from the media produced, the dog-eat-dog mentality, the privatization of ‘third-places’ where people can congregate and meet for free, the stress of seeing everyone as a competitor, and that everything socially is meant to be transactional.”

    I agree with this very much. I’m at the tail end of Gen X, and most of my good friends have been older than me, so I identify with X the most, but have that experience of being at the end the gen. Though we have all experienced the way things have changed, being in between gives a perspective to how things were before the internet really took hold and that has added to the isolation.

    Going out to “find the others” and do stuff with friends was a real imperative. Helicopter parenting hasn’t helped. The sense of having free run of the city, let alone the neighborhood, is gone for many. My own kids and step-kids didn’t seem to have that same inclination. The oldest one did actually, a bit more, but then she was the oldest and more squarely in the middle of the Millenial gen, and the others were on the cusp of Z.

    As for third places, it really does seem there are fewer of those. I remember hanging out at the bowling alley and arcades. Perkins and Waffle House were open 24/7 and these were great for teenagers even if bad for waitresses refilling our coffee and us only buying fries, smoking and being annoying.

    A lot of this also relates to what @Rita #210 was saying about kids not getting socialized. A lot of people like me who had good socialization from church and big families, none-the-less dropped out of church, often with good reason. So there is one big area of socialization gone. Gen X is notorious for our love of subcultures. And though I personally like to celebrate them, they also have that downside. People come and and go from various scenes, and as the internet transformed things, they did tend to become more transactional. On the other side of it, a lot of the socializing in music subs happens in bars. I don’t begrudge a bar, and some people drift away from those scenes as their habits change.

    It seems that a lot of the illegal migrants who come here and work have much more tight knit social groups than most natural born Americans who have drifted from church and don’t do anything except consume media. (I don’t know about Europe.) A lot of them are religious for one (there is a vibrant Hispanic church on our street with activities multiple times a week -and big potlucks and other gatherings almost monthly, especially as the weather gets nice.

    My dad started a yearly friends and family picnic in a local park renting a shelter. It’s nice and old fashioned, and I’ve helped expand it. People really look forward to it every year (we started in 2018 or 2019). Finding ways to get together is important.

    I was reading John Cheever’s short story “Goodbye, My Brother” last night and so a good dance comes to mind. Interesting in that it is also about estranged family members.

    And one final thought with regard to socialization… it seems that the workplace was often a more social place to be. Again, there was going to the bar after work. It might be my age, but I don’t see the younger people doing that together as much, even though there is a plethora of watering holes to go to and commiserate about the managers. There were a lot more work parties on the job in the first ten or twelves years of my job than in the last ten or twelve. Though the tradition hasn’t entirely disappeared, it isn’t what it once was.

  220. Ted Gioia has an interesting series of articles up on Dopamine Culture. No necessarily related to migration per se, but they do touch quite a bit on the loss of social cohesion as driven by social media companies and big tech.

    This graphic he created tells quite a bit, and he is happy for people to share it. In it he compares Slow Traditional Culture, Fast Modern Culture, and what he calls Dopamine Culture:,q_auto:good,fl_progressive:steep/

    Here are the articles for anyone else who is interested. The second in the series, his 13 Observations on Ritual, will delight others here I think. In the last one he gives some basic tips for resisting dopamine culture.

    Thanks to @anonymoose who I think turned me on to that substack, via a comment on this blog earlier this year.

  221. And Revelin’s post #225 may provide a clue in which spiritual malaise is possibly caused by the modern economic / societal system. Maybe more prescient people stopped having children very early in the process and the example Revelin gives of Germany shows the “beginning of the end”.

  222. Since the topic of abiotic oil has been raised… When I were a lad, Venus was a planet of steamy swamps inhabited by nubile green women desperately waiting for an Earthman to rescue them from the dinosaurs. Then, space-mad as I was, I read Fred Hoyle’s “Frontiers of Astronomy”, published in 1955.

    Hoyle was a colleague of Thomas Gold, who independently came up with the concept of abiotic oil in the course of speculating how an agglomeration of asteroids could result in the mineral deposits we see today. Basically, the asteroids squeeze together and under compressional heating the minerals melt and migrate through the pores, with gravity separating lighter and heavier elements.

    Gold considers this explanation of the origin of metallic ores to be one of the strongest points in favor of the pore theory. He also believes that the occurrence of another important sort of deposit may possibly be explained in terms of the pore theory, namely the deposits of oil.

    The idea that oil, so important to our modern civilization, has been squeezed out of the Earth’s interior derives an immediate plausibility from Urey’s discovery that the meteorites contain small concentrations of hydrocarbons. The presence of hydrocarbons in the bodies out of which the Earth is formed would certainly make the Earth’s interior contain vastly more oil than could ever be produced from decayed fish — a strange theory that has been in vogue for many years.

    As for the nubile women of Venus, they would be escaping plesiosaurs in an ocean of oil.

    On the Earth it is clear that water has been dominant over oil. On Venus the situation seems to have been the other way round, the water has become exhausted and presumably the excess of oil remains just as the excess of water remains on the Earth.

    This possibility has an interesting consequence. The surface of Venus is perpetually covered by thick white clouds. […] we must now add the possibility that the clouds might consist of drops of oil — that Venus may be draped in a kind of perpetual smog.

    There is another problem that may be soluble in terms of these ideas. Venus apparently rotates very slowly on her axis. The ‘day’ on Venus seems to occupy more than 20 Earth-days. Since it is likely that Venus originally rotated at much the same rate as the Earth, the problem is to explain how the rotation rate of Venus came to be slowed down so much. If Venus possesses oceans the question is readily solved, because Venus being nearer the Sun would experience stronger tides than the Earth does […] Previously the difficulty was to understand what liquid the oceans were made of. Now we see that the oceans may well be oceans of oil. Venus is probably endowed beyond the dreams of the richest Texas oil-king.

    Sir Fred is one of my heroes. I even had the privilege of attending an open lecture he gave when he visited my alma mater. But I have to admit he was wrong about oceans of oil. (I’m not giving up on the steady-state theory, though.)

  223. @stephan #217,
    I have not read this particular book but way back when I was in college I took an astronomy class from Gold, about the time he was first popularizing the abiotic oil theory he borrowed from the Russians. Gold was a brilliant and eccentric man who was the head of the Space Sciences department at Cornell, and was responsible for hiring Carl Sagan away from Harvard when they failed to give him tenure.
    Gold loved the process of coming up with scientific theories and the intellectual exercise of constructing them and defending them. It was well understood around campus at the time ( at least among students) that Golds abiotic oil theory was more of an intellectual novelty and talking point. He thought of himself as so smart he could set up a theory that was the opposite of the common understanding and challenge anyone to be smart enough to knock it off its pedestal.
    Most of his “evidence” for abiotic oil was not really ” ah ha” proof that oil must come from an inexhastable well at the center of the earth, but rather ” look at these anomalies” that make the idea that oil comes from millions of year ofl biological sediment unlikely.
    He was not a geologist but an astronomer who was really looking for the building blocks of the universe and not really how the petroleum that we use to power civilization is produced under the ground.

  224. Team10tim, thank you for this! It has been too long since I read Aristotle’s Politics, and I’d remembered the distinction but forgotten the term. Chrematistics, as it’s usually spelled in English, will have to feature in an upcoming post…

    Rita, that’s very likely also an issue. As the economic decline picks up speed and production for profit gives way to production for use, fortunately, the surpluses necessary to keep schools and daycare centers funded will go away, and a more healthy mode of childraising will follow from there.

    Justin, the people who are doing it are being stealthy about it. There are a fair number of them these days, and they’re building the future.

    Smith, yep. That’s the usual fate of effete aristocracies — they become so enmeshed in a world of self-glorifying abstractions that they fail to notice the rising tide of crises that will end their power.

    MCB, that is to say, the world is reverting to more normal conditions. Through most of history a band of urban societies from western Africa across the Middle East to India, southeast Asia, and China has been the prosperous core of human civilization, and Europe has been an impoverished backwater. Welcome to the future. Oh, and when Mexico becomes more prosperous than the United States we’ll have taken another step in the same direction…

    Liquefaction, there’s an odd glitch in my blog software that makes the paragraph breaks look like they’ve been erased in preview mode. As you see, they didn’t go anywhere.

    Stefan, I read Gold carefully more than a decade ago. He offered an interesting hypothesis that has been disproved by later data. I see no need to rehash that, any more than I feel a need to point out that perpetual motion doesn’t work or that phlogiston theory isn’t valid.

    Abraham, delighted to hear it!

    J.L.Mc12, it seems to be a disease of all the Commonwealth countries to think that they can do that. It’ll be interesting to see how long that lasts and how powerful the blowback becomes.

    Logan, I’ll pass on the video; I don’t do those. If you can find me a print transcript I’ll give it a look.

    Executed, it really depends on the fine details of the decline, but yes, that’s possible.

    Chris, exactly. All that happens when we solve one crisis caused by excess growth is that two more pop up. As for me, I’m doing about as well as can be expected; plenty of work and a good bit of help from friends has helped things along.

    Scotty, of course it’s not a matter of a switch being thrown. It’s a matter of slowly building pressures, combined with many other factors, that drive down population growth in different places. Are there spiritual factors involved? Of course; from the perspective of the teachings I follow, everything that happens on the material plane has a spiritual cause.

    Anonymuz, (1) yep. Models are only as good as the assumptions that underlie them, and it’s very hard for people who grew up in a world full of talk about overpopulation to adjust their models to deal with the imminence of population decline. (2) For complex evolutionary reasons, women tend to be the stabilizing and conserving force in human societies while men constantly test the boundaries. Right now, that means that women are more likely to believe in the liberal conventional wisdom of our time, while men are more likely to be willing to abandon that conventional wisdom for something that works better. It’ll balance out in a generation or so — but yeah, in the meantime it’s an awkward situation for young people.

    Revelin, many thanks for the data points.

    Rafael, yes, that same bit of inaccurate propaganda has been doing the rounds since I started writing about peak oil. The next time it comes up, ask for verifiable sources.

    Northwind, please take some time and, if possible, have a conversation with a counselor or a sympathetic friend. Sara chose to die because her health was failing rapidly and it was simply a matter of not delaying the inevitable any longer than necessary. If your health is decent and you still have a reasonable hope that it will continue to be so, it’s hardly useful to get so caught up in the value of money that you’re considering ending it all just because you won’t have as much of that as you’d like.

    Luciano, oh, there will probably be quite a few places where nobody lives for a fairly long period. If the American west goes full-on desert, as it seems likely to, about a dozen US states will be abandoned over the next century. But mass migrations are a common feature of the fall of civilizations; it’s interesting to note that before Rome fell, the people who became today’s Spaniards lived in what’s now southern Ukraine.

    Justin, thanks for this.

    Martin, Fred Hoyle was a fascinating guy, and his willingness to go out on a limb and contradict the conventional wisdom endears him to me. On the other hand, he was wrong a lot of the time.

  225. “While fossil fuel production has climbed steadily year after year, in other words, the availability of energy to society has faltered—and in lockstep, just as population ecology would predict, birthrates have fallen.”

    I’m having a hard time with this sentence and I’m going to try to think through it here. I’m a trapper and a squirrel hunter. I get boom and bust cycles when they are tied to tangible resources drying up or population numbers overburdening an area with diseases of success. Squirrel population drop off after a mast year because there aren’t as many acorns to eat. Muskrat populations dive bomb when their density ushers in epidemics like tularemia and plague. But loss of available energy bringing down human populations? I mean ultimately, that’s a brick wall that we are going to run into (e.g. Haber-Bosch industrial glyphosate based farming going bye bye when oil becomes scarce), but is that’s what’s going on now?

    I think the decline we are seeing now is one of choice that is only conditioned, however significantly, by a decline in resources. This is a very different thing than squirrels starving in off years. In the developed world, it’s more a matter that it’s simply too expensive to have too many children. Birth control is allowing most people in first world countries a more managed decline (and I’d be interested to see if less developed countries would see similar drop offs if they had equal access to contraception). I suppose reproductive choice will mitigate the impact of decline and help spread it out over a number of years rather having a sudden and catastrophic die off.

    Maybe comparatively easy access to money is our mast year? I guess money is just energy in a different form.

    Yeah, I think I’ve worked it through. You’re probably right.

  226. JMG,
    Correct me if I am wrong here but once population and economic decline set in for good and business becomes “unprofitable” in nearly all cases there are essentially 2 modes of economic activity left. One is self sufficiency, which is producing things for the use of yourself and your extended family such as food, hand spun clothes and utensils. The first has been well discussed by I think the second will also be common.
    In exchange of labor a given person has a particular skill or a skill in combination with specialized tools that he ( or she) can use to benefit another person or family in exchange for something they have to trade ( or some item used as currency). Good examples of these type of specialized labor are Tinkers, Blacksmiths or Cobblers. You might go to the tinker to have your cook pot repaired and in exchange give him one of the chickens you raise in the yard. Or you might take your shoes to the cobbler to have them resoled and she would get a hand knit sweater in return for the services.
    In these cases one type of specialized labor is exchanged for another, put there is still no profit motive. The cobbler business would not generate an excess return ( profit) that could be used to purchase a larger building and hire cobbler employees. So hopes of becoming a cobbler tycoon where your legions of cobbler employees repair shoes while you pursue your skill in. ” business management” will disappear. But a person with a skill in need ( and the tools to pursue it) will be able to make a living exchanging labor with others instead of tending to all their needs themselves.

  227. Julian and JMG, I don’t expect to convince our host, but Julian is right and if anything, the UN projections are possibly too low, not too high. See for example:
    These calculations are made by people who do know about fertility rates, by the way. And, as mentioned in the post, fertility rate worldwide is STILL above replacement. Then there’s the population momentum.
    So it’s either continuing population growth for a long while, or very massive human die-offs. Neither is pretty.

  228. Dear JMG,

    you seem to have hit a nerve – nowadays it is rare for an essay of yours to generate so much pushback, probably because the readership has self-selected to agree with you. Congratulations!

    I was finding myself in the unusual position of agreeing 100% with everything you wrote in the essay. You have ended that uncomfortable moment by referring (in #235) to population exchange in Spain after the end of the Roman Empire, where I thought we had agreed last time that the genetic evidence is for very strong continuity…

    In any case, I wish you all the best in your current situation.

  229. Hi JMG,

    Can I ask a follow-up question to your response to MCB (“…when Mexico becomes more prosperous than the United States…”)?

    What reasons do you have for that expectation? Simply that the pre-Columbian populations of modern Mexico were more prosperous than their counterparts in the modern United States? Or are there other things you’re factoring in there? Given the significant geographic advantages that the Eastern U.S. has over Mexico (vastly more miles of navigable waterways, much larger tracts of high-quality arable land, more reliable rainfall patterns, historically higher political stability), I found your response to MCB startling. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you have certainly piqued my interest!


  230. It always takes me a couple of days to work through the commentary and see who else has already answered most of the very, very many points that flood into my head when I read your essay… so I’m not giving you a 20,000 word commentary.
    A point that has puzzled me is: why, in the decline of a civilization, are so very many skills and so much knowledge lost? How is it that a population of, say 10m people during the rising phase seem to be capable of so much more than a population of 10m in the decline phase?
    I believe, and correct me, please, it goes like this:
    On the rise, no one minds getting their hands dirty, and a “can-do” attitude prevails. (People don’t *like* working, but they worked anyway. Ben Franklin carried papers and worked his own press. Other key figures of the 18th Century actually knew how to work a plough team. Paul Revere was a smith. &c.)
    At the plateau, everyone feels they should be wealthy, but wealthy people and their children don’t get their hands dirty. Instead, we get fat sitting in offices pushing paper in our flimsy dress shirts and suits and believe we are ‘better than’ that. So the dirty work has to be done by immigrants or in factories abroad. The educational system begins to cater to the wealthy tastes, and so focuses almost entirely on providing skills only useful in an office (like coding skills), and fosters the illusion of refined social sensibility (obsessing on “racism” and “trans-rights” and “unfairness”), instead of learning useful facts and teaching skilled trades needed to keep things going. So these children don’t even learn how to fit two boards together, even if it weren’t socially disparaged. Furthermore, the various and sundry hindrances previously discussed here, result in accumulation of wealth by an increasingly narrow group of people eliminates the opportunity for unskilled immigrants to become skilled and well-paid workers and small-business owners.
    Finally, as infrastructure breaks down, as it is doing across the U.S., neither the money, nor the “can-do” attitude, nor the skilled labour is available to maintain it. When the bridges were built, children aspired to be engineers. Now the bridges are crumbling, the current generation aspires to program the next killer video game. As you noted before, when the Roman Empire began its ragged decline, pottery skills became outsourced, then concentrated in factories, then suddenly unavailable to much of the former Empire and so lost for centuries. Slaves made pottery in factories, wealthy Roman citizens were busy discussing Plato’s “Republic” in the atrium and they didn’t become skilled artisans. The same attitude is playing out today. Only a very few people I know want to be artisans or builders those few who do have to contend with insurance and regulations and licensing, “proper” training &c. &c. The majority seem to believe that the only jobs worth doing are clicking keyboards and at the end of the day just want to come home to their over-large space full of stuff cheaply-made elsewhere and veg out to Netflix.
    Hence the difference in quality of life between a rising civilization and a declining one and why a declining civilization loses so much knowledge. On the rise is a zeitgeist of hope and possibility, on the decline is one of too tired and bored to do anything.


  231. @Aldarion,
    I’m actually rather more sanguine about the technical ability to feed the current and slightly larger population in the very near future, and a declining population further out.

    What I’m not sanguine about is the political will to make sure that food gets to everyone that needs it, or that the resources we have are actually used for food production. Humanity has never fully done that yet, so why would I expect us to start now?

    there’s several reasons I think we have the technical ability to feed people:
    -a lot of land that could be used to grow food is currently growing lawns. As food prices rise, some of this will come into production. I’ve seen some of this in my area already, but it sort of ebbs and flows with need and people’s desire and ability to grow food.
    -small scale intensive organic agriculture can actually grow a lot of food per acre. it tends to grow less of any one thing, but when done well by skilled farmers can actually produce more food overall in at least some circumstances.
    -while meat produced as part of a mixed farm can make a lot of sense environmentally, the giant CAFOs from which most of the developed world gets their meat use a lot of grain that could be eaten directly, and a lot of people in the developed world eat a lot of meat produced this way.
    -a surprising amount of the world’s food is still being produced on small holdings, many of which use very little in the way of modern pesticides and fertilizers. 12% of agricultural land is farms under 2 hectares that produce 35% of the food
    -there’s a lot of food waste. Some of this we’re never going to get rid of, but if people were willing to sell and buy imperfect veggies and fruit, and actually use the food they buy before it goes bad, food waste would go down. Until people start having to do without refrigeration, which tends to shoot food waste back up on perishable stuff.

    Just because it’s technically possible doesn’t mean it will be done, however. There’s big problems with who controls the land, and their interests vs. those of poor people trying to buy food, and of retraining farmers to do organic agriculture well and making sure they have the resources they need (it requires a different skillset and if you don’t do this you get Sri Lanka’s situation and we all know how that went) and fixing land damaged by conventional ag. I’m expecting nasty dislocations on the way down, much higher hunger than the late 2010s, and a few really spectacular famines.

    A lot depends on how we handle the incoming predicament. But there are genuinely things that individuals, communities, and governments can do to make things a lot less bad IF we actually do them.

  232. Abraham @ 218, best wishes for success in your new venture.

    Anonymuz, about young men and women having different viewpoints, I thought when the Dobs decision was announced that it would eventually mean young heterosexual men not having sex very often. For the Record, I have always thought abortion was a matter of state’s rights. I wish the Supremes would take an equally proactive view of just war theory and doctrine, and the Catholic justices in particular should have been asked about their views on what is a just war during their confirmation hearings.

    I would suggest that for many women living in a time of declining wealth, marriage does not always look attractive. If she can live better on her own earnings than she would as a married woman… For those of us on the lower end of the infamous 1-10 scale, a #1-4 might have to put up with contempt and harassment in public and on the job, but why on earth tolerate it when at home?

  233. Chaquin @ 142, for us Americans, we are hardly in a position to be lecturing other countries about their internal policies. Let us be about setting our own house in order and let the French do as they will. Boring, I know.

  234. One good thing about the practice of “collapse now, before the rush” and its prompting to learn more skills and turn to lower tech is that it helps you prepare for a time when there are fewer anonymous others to make and do things for you. Of course as a society we’re nowhere near prepared for the already-begun experience of losing skilled people and not having replacements in the wings. I’m thinking here of municipal water and sewer, and the manufacture and transportation of goods like parts for things that need repair. But on a personal level, lowering expectations and then trying to meet those expectations yourself builds the resilience needed to possibly weather what’s going to get worse.

    I surprised myself a few days ago by easily convincing my husband (under the guise of saving a lot of money) to hold off on buying a conventional but small tractor (his preference), or even a walk-behind tractor (my preference, if a tractor is required?) and instead to buy and learn to use a scythe for about 5-8% of the cost of the “cheaper” petroleum-powered and ultimately riddled-with-points-of-failure walk-behind — and that’s not counting the implements it would need to do the jobs we want to do. Our first need for such a thing would be for mowing, before we have animals to graze the pasture.

    So, like Northwind Grandma, and like so many here – I’m about to embark on some skills learning, some physical exertion, and some learning-curve, on behalf of the simple but far more resilient scythe that, maybe if I take really good care of it, might be pass-downable should there be someone to pass it down to. The same mindset underlies the entire “farm” project, has me learning to sew by hand and on a treadle sewing machine, (sporadically) learning to spin fiber, and this of course fuels the Mimeograph Revival project.

    At this rate, I’ll have much in common with my Amish soon-to-be neighbors, which might do a lot to create good relations… (also, has anyone seen data indicating that some of our smaller sub-populations with historically high birth rates are declining in conjunction with the whole? Or will I really have a lot more Amish/Mennonite and Mormon neighbors in the longer, short term future?).

    Well, to be honest in addition to the perks of using tools that I can maintain and repair on my own and that don’t break the bank, is the fact that all this stuff is also just way more fun, quiet, and conducive to my creativity and “deep thoughts” than all the currently approved versions. I DO hope I’ll have people to pass these things on to…

  235. @JMG Thank you for the response!

    Wow! I knew that we’re destroying our habitat, the planet, but I didn’t realize the situation was so dire. Maybe this will sound callous, but I think that USA, India and China rather deserve what’s coming for them, in terms of ecological collapse. Go to my first comment and see the Bible reference that I made, we humans have the capacity to destroy our world and when we do, we get what we deserve.

  236. Mo, good. Yes, that’s how it works.

    Clay, there are several other modes of exchange. There’s the gift economy, in which every surplus is always distributed among the members of the community because the benefit in terms of mutual aid and solidarity is worth that investment. There’s the customary economy, in which certain exchanges of value are simply done because that’s the tradition; feudalism is a version of this. There’s also the religious economy, in which surpluses are used to support religious institutions such as churches and monasteries, which then turn around and distribute part of that surplus to the poor; this is very common in dark age situations. All of these reinforce your point, which is that certain providers of specialized services — warlords and priests as well as blacksmiths and cobblers — can get by without having to do everything themselves.

    Gaia, that is to say, you’re still caught in the dichotomy between progress and apocalypse. That’s certainly your right; now we’ll just get to wait and see who turns out to be right.

    Aldarion, the genetic evidence supports some degree of continuity, but there were quite a few Visigoths, you know. That said, I’m delighted to have said something you disagree with — I get uncomfortable when too many people agree with me too often. 😉

    Balowulf, in 1491 Tenochtitlan was one of the largest and wealthiest cities on Earth, part of a huge and thriving urban region far in advance by almost every measure of the Mississippi valley cultures, the nearest North American equivalent. On the principle that global wealth and power will revert to the mean once the disruptions of the European conquests finally settle out, I think there’s a good chance that the same thing will be true a few centuries from now.

    Renaissance, a good clear elegant summary of how it happens. Yes, exactly.

    Temporary, yes, that’s one of the huge advantages of that strategy.

  237. Reading about cycles imagines me into snake skins, the ever repeating twists. Perhaps I noticed your footprints, there. I am bringing through from my Kether through my Tiphareth through my Yesod (which I call Yensid – for fun) to my Malkuth. Peeling off the old and emerging again. The thing is a machine. Here we go, again :- )

  238. So many people in the mainstream expect a Star Trek Future. What they seem to forget is that future, in Star Trek canon, depends on the arrival of friendly aliens bringing us the technology needed.
    I think we’ll be getting the Star Trek future alright, but without the friendly Vulcans arriving to save us.

  239. John: that is an extremely generous offer and I gratefully accept. The publisher is Auctoritas Publishing. I know that some of the people involved read and occasionally comment here. I’ll make sure they are aware and I’m sure they will be in touch.

  240. I still field comments tolerably often from readers who are convinced that overpopulation is the biggest threat our species faces.

    The power of the REGIME MEDIA propaganda is powerful… but we already know this after the great success of OPERATION COVIDIUS!

    That threat is indeed real BUT not for the specie! It is a threat for the Secular Ruling Families & Billionaires hence…

  241. On the subject of economic returns (both financial and non-financial) in the absence of overall growth, the discussion of farmers on ACOUP seems relevant. The assumption is a steady state agriculture, something like the Roman Republic, but the lessons apply even more in a contracting economy:

    “[Grain] storage problems could be surmounted with difficulty, spoilage problems largely cannot… Money has one problem that grain does not, which is bound up in the way prices work in agricultural societies. The risks the farming family most wants to insulate themselves against, whether caused by war or harvest failure, are risks that involve a contracting food supply. The thing is, as the food supply contracts, the price of food rises and the ability to buy it with money shrinks (often accelerated by food hoarding by the wealthy cities, which are often in a position to back that up with force as the administrative centers of states). Consequently, for the family, money is likely to become useless the moment it is needed most.

    So what do our farmers do during a good harvest to prepare for a bad one? They banquet their neighbors, contribute to village festivals, marry off their sons and daughters with the best dowry they can manage, and try to pay back any favors they called in from friends recently… these events also built that social capital which can be ‘cashed out’ in an emergency. And they are a good survival strategy. Grain rots and money can be stolen, but your neighbor is far likelier to still be your neighbor in a year…

    …our small farmers aren’t producing for maximum efficiency, but for minimum risk (spread out fields, multi-crop strategies) which lowers total production compared to monocropping the most calorie or market-efficient crop…

    And finally, just to point out the obvious: farming labor is hard. It is back-breaking, uncomfortable stuff. And for these small farmers for whom upward social mobility is often very literally impossible (often prevented as a matter of law and custom, but also – as we’ll get to next week and after – made very difficult by economic and social structures), there isn’t a whole lot of incentive to aim higher than, as Paul Erdkamp puts it, “subsistence – and a little bit more.”… For these families, the marginal value of working harder to produce a little bit more which they cannot eat and will likely be taken from them anyway is minimal; they focus on the goals they have. Why should these peasants break their backs so that leisured aristocrats can have more economic activity to tax? “

  242. @Justin Patrick Moore #
    “And one final thought with regard to socialization… it seems that the workplace was often a more social place to be. Again, there was going to the bar after work. It might be my age, but I don’t see the younger people doing that together as much..”

    So I’ll doxx myself a bit, I work for a quite a large and very diverse public municipal water agency (just narrowly over the middle-hump of my 30s) and yes there’s definitely more old-timers here that do schmoozing and after-hour bar meets than most of us under 45, and used to be a larger culture of it than today. I don’t do schmooze but if I were to ask myself why? Well, I like to beat the traffic home, I want to get back to my computer and comforts, I’ve already spent 9-hours yakking it up. But fundamentally I think I just don’t see what I could possibly offer to a schmooze nor see any potential camaraderie in it. There’s a certain pervasive neurosis to contemporary society that’s quite insidious where the sort of post-modern irony is mentally toxic, laying bare each and everyone’s anxieties and neuroses reflected back upon themselves like the idea of walking stark naked through the streets.

    I think the sort of overly self-aware ‘irony’ of the 80s-90s+, and amplified many times over through the internet, has created a sort of isolating heightened-self-consciousness to a large swath of younger masses and essentially a sort of self-imprisonment. I don’t know how to describe it any better.

  243. I am surprised the Russia – Ukraine war has not been mentioned – so I’ll bring it in. Specifically thinking about Russia’s forced emigration of Ukrainian children. I don’t know what scale this took place, apart from the western reporting/propaganda, but my understanding is that Russia’s intent was to subsidize declining birth rates in Russia.
    another thought – will the once fiercely expansionist mindset of Americans soon replace the current ‘its the 21st century no one moves national borders by force anymore’ that seemed to come in vogue during American post WWII empire heydays? To your point, rather than migrate a bunch of Ecuadorians for necessary population growth, could also integrate Canada into America? Why not Mexico? I saw some troubling video the other day of cartels that were outfitted with paramilitary vehicles, uniforms and assault rifles. Mexico is a narco-state and as populations decline and settled areas hollow out in the American southwest it would not be surprising to soon discover territory ‘settled’ by narco-state building orgs from Mexico.

  244. Isaac #106 As a rural resident and farmer let me say. 1) I heat my far northern home with standing dead wood (old groves) from my farm and neighbors. 2) our roads are gravel and maintained by neighbors who are paid by the township using gravel from our own county. 3) we power our farm with a modest 10kW wind turbine and sell the excess to the grid. 4) my food is literally steps away and includes multiple nuts (walnut, hazelnut…), fruits (apples, plums, pears, cherries), berries (raspberries, mulberries, aronia,…) and it’s all 100%rainfed. Plus my own chickens, beef, and eggs. Pork and lamb from neighbors..

    Let’s see… 5) Water for our house and farm animals is sourced from wells, including one with a hand pump, and a cistern that collects rainwater which is still operational but not used. My house is modest sized 120 years old. None.of the water is treated. 6) social cohesion and kids know hard work and spend their highschool years working in the small town grocery store and caring for.the elderly in the nursing home (people would stop us to say how grateful they were to have our kids taking care of their parents and grandparents.

    Just saying… You need us rural folks for a wide range of reasons, including how to survive a lower input future. I live in a frontier level density rural place.

  245. >the current generation aspires to program the next killer video game

    Not any more – the video game crash is underway. It had to happen, there are too many people chasing too few customers.

    And it wasn’t just vidya either, this guy has been warning about this for years, that books, music, art in general has been overproduced.

  246. JMG, I believe it’s just a matter of numbers: fertility isn’t declining in places such as Sub-Sahran Africa or Pakistan fast enough to ensure the global population decline you project, without a huge number of deaths. I hope I’m wrong – I like your version much better, I just think those births are baked in the cake at this point.

  247. Dear Archdruid:
    I consider you a genius , but I think that your explanation about the causes of the population decline misses some antropological factors wich will describe why so many women are not atracted by the rol of maternity. In my case; an Spaniard of your age, I was raised in an enviroment in wich the norm was families with four or more sons, and now the usual is more reduced numbers. I think that one diference between the Spaniards boomers like me and our fathers is that we don’t have their spirit of sacrifice and that this is motivated by the abandonement of catholicism.

  248. Cobo, that’s good to hear. 😉

    Ryan, in the years ahead, I expect to see frantic attempts to insist that the friendy aliens are on their way. In fact, I made that a plot point in my novel Star’s Reach.

    Andy, I do blurbs for worthwhile books quite often — it helps them find readers and it also gives me a little additional publicity, so what’s not to like? If they have any trouble getting in touch with me, put in a comment marked Not For Posting with your email address and I’ll be in contact promptly.

    Voza0db, I’m far from sure it’s just a matter of publicity. People in Western societies seem to have an invariable bad habit of assuming that any linear trend must continue indefinitely.

    Aldarion, that’s sage advice; thank you.

    Jstn, I’m far from sure that any of this “forced emigration” actually took place — in wartime, as the saying goes, truth is the first casualty, and it’s just as unwise to trust what NATO media says about Russia as it is to trust what Russian media says about NATO. As for expansionism, it’s quite possible that the quarter of the US that used to be the northern half of Mexico will be reclaimed by our southern neighbor in due time; in any sort of longer historical perspective, borders are very transient things.

    Gaia, global total fertility is at 2.3 live births per woman, barely above replacement level, and has been dropping steadily all over the world. Even with Pakistan and a few other countries with higher fertility, the total fertility of Asia is below replacement level, and Africa’s the only continent on Earth that’s still on track to produce more people than it has. That’s not a recipe for mass death; it’s a recipe for mass migration — which, of course, I’ve been predicting for quite some time.

    Anselmo, the question in my mind is whether those changes in ideology are a cause, or simply an effect, of changes in human ecology.

  249. @JSTN,
    This Russian forced immigration of children meme does not make any sense if you think about it. It might be true, if the narrative was that the Russians were parachuting in over the line of contact to grab Ukranian children out of their beds and then hustle them back over the front lines to a new life in Russia. That seems unlikely because if they could do that they would just send in commandos and wipe out the Ukranian soldiers in their beds.
    What is happening but misrepresented is that the Russians are winning and the front lines are moving forward as they go. You might remember that at the beginning of the war Russia asked the citizens of the Russian speaking areas of Eastern Ukraine if they wanted to be annexed in to Russia. By all accounts this referendum was fairly tabulated and the result was that these territories that make up Novorussia ( New Russia) voted to become part of Russia.
    Until just recently nearly all the fighting has taken place in this newly annexed land. So as Russian lines moved forward and towns and villages changed hands the citizens of those areas became Russian Citizen ( or citizens of Russian administered annexed areas) . This is not unusual in history as those who found themselves on the south side of the DMZ in Korea became South Koreans and those on the side became North Koreans. So if kids were in an orphanage or something when the Russians took over a town they became Russian immigrants in a way.
    I think US and Nato spinmeisters are just sour grapes that the Russians are winning and grasping at any emotional talking points that make the Russians look bad. ” Putin snatched the babies out of the hospitals and forced marched them to Russia to become unwilling immigrants.”

  250. @Anselmo

    I don’t think abandonment of catholicism has anything to do with it; however, post-industrial/finance capitalism erodes spirituality and community because they’re incompatible. Or at best it’s subsumed into something like contemporary americana protestant prosperity gospel ideology. And as I said before, losing that community and putting the onus onto the individual(s) is a big dampener socially. Behavior is downstream of the environment (including material conditions), and the environment has certainly changed significantly over the past 4+ decades. A lot of women are not saying “oh no I don’t want to have kids because of gender roles or I just don’t like em”, there are some for sure (and that’s fine!), but there are many more deciding not to because they simply can’t afford them ontop of stagnant wages, no pensions, skyrocketing rent-seeking by landlords, and healthcare costs. Many can’t afford to take months off work during and post pregnancy. There’s no one single issue, but the stressor of contemporary costs of living (and costs of having kids + housing) is almost certainly the largest reason that rates are falling.

    We plan to have kids (for admittingly extremely selfish lizard-brain reasons considering the state of the planet), but have been putting it off because we simply aren’t paid enough to afford a house and don’t want to raise kids in a 1-bedroom apartment.

    One thing I did not see mentioned in the comments is also pollution. We have so massively polluted the world with nano-microplastics (endocrine disruptors), heavy metals, and everything else and biological fertility is plummeting around the world. There’s two things: performing intercourse for reproductivity and actual biological fertility in how easy it is for fertilization to take place and stay stable are different. Most recent studies have shown massive plummeting of testosterone, sperm count, egg viability, and massive rising risks of defects (physical and mental). There are lots of people trying to have kids and unable to do so, at huge rates. And often when they do, autism and other issues are on the rise which is a big stressor on a parent-only kid rearing society.

  251. North Wind Grandma,
    Congratulations on getting a loom! A great way to get going may be to look up your local weavers guild. There are guilds all over the U.S. and most are pretty active. Find the Handweavers Guild of America website, and they have a listing there of all the local groups. Guilds have been going for many decades. I have been in several, in several states, and the depth of weaving and textile knowledge embodied in the membership is really quite stunning. Guilds meet monthly, they share projects they are working on, they have libraries, put on workshops, and do outreach to the local community (demos in schools, etc.) My local guild also has study groups for particular areas of interest. Many guilds also have equipment you can borrow to use or “test-drive” . There is always range of very experienced to brand new weavers, so don’t be shy!
    Goats and Roses

  252. I’ve heard it argued that there is a correlation between the speed of the ‘demographic transition’, that is the length of time between typical pre-industrial TFR of about 7 children per family, to replacement level or less, and how low the TFR gets. In the countries that industrialised first such as the UK it was a more longer-term, slow process over 150 – 200 years, but some of the East Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan this all happened over a much shorter time period. Therefore it is possible the rapid movement leads to overshooting the natural end-point of the change.

  253. @Aldarion (#252) Why should these peasants break their backs so that leisured aristocrats can have more economic activity to tax?
    In Europe, this changed (around 1000?) when the economy remonetized. This meant that now there were things for peasants to buy with surplus production and more things for elites to buy by extracting more from the peasants. This made relations between producers and elites tenser.

  254. Hi JMG,

    Thank you for your response! It’s always puzzled me why Mesoamerican civilization developed so much farther than the cultures of the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, considering the geographic advantages of the latter. Are you aware of any historians who have proposed theories for why Pre-Columbian civilization worked out this way—or do you have a theory of your own?

    Thank you!

  255. #241 Renaissance Man (Bruce) You ask “why is there more capability on the upside than on the down?”, and then answer your question with psychological and social factors. I agree that those factors may be present, but are they actually the cause? I don’t think so. When we look back at “flowering” societies, we often see new access to raw energy. Whether it’s new metals to cut down old forests, new processes for burning old peat beds, new engines and pumps to allow deeper mining of (better quality) coal, or new processes for finding and exploiting oil & gas, when raw energy is available, everybody looks like a hard-working genius. The best reason to cooperate is when there’s a resource to exploit.
    Conversely, when the resource is depleted, even being clever, hard-working, and cooperative doesn’t pay (as much as it used to, at least). We’re left fighting over the scraps in a less-than-zero sum game.
    So, what to do? My response is to perform token rituals of vegetable garden growing, wood & metal shop work, community-building over amateur radio, and creative writing to a tiny audience of blog commentariate. If nothing else, it justifies the collection of tools and textbooks.

  256. Gaia, global total fertility is at 2.3 live births per woman, barely above replacement level, and has been dropping steadily all over the world. Even with Pakistan and a few other countries with higher fertility, the total fertility of Asia is below replacement level, and Africa’s the only continent on Earth that’s still on track to produce more people than it has. That’s not a recipe for mass death; it’s a recipe for mass migration — which, of course, I’ve been predicting for quite some time.

    It has occured to me to wonder more than once if our environmental modelling data is off, and if so by how much. Our demographic models have hinged on the assumption that the population will keep growing until the end of the century, but our updated data seems to suggest that this isn’t going to happen that that the world’s population has more or less already peaked. Continued population growth for the next hundred years has been one of the basic assumptions of our environmental models, and that assumption is apparently wrong. There are also some demographic models that suggest that the human population will contract down to around four billion people by the end of the 22nd Century. I’d be interested to know how that will affect our models of how the environment is going to change over time.

  257. Mawkernewek, that’s an interesting hypothesis.

    Balowulf, the subtropical conditions in central Mexico permitted extremely efficient intensive agriculture — have a look at the chinampa system sometime. I suspect this had a lot to do with it.

    Tlong0038, very likely that’s the case. It’s nightmarishly difficult to track the actual state of an ecosystem because there are so many variables and they’re all constantly changing; brute force measures such as total biomass get some of the picture but usually not enough of it. Factor in political agendas and you’ve got a situation just begging for failure.

  258. Nobody has mentioned parenting strategies, unless I missed it. High investment parenting, for example Liquifaction @ 261, is at a standstill. But low investment parenting, with teen mothers and absent fathers, forges ahead undeterred despite all the downsides.

  259. @Balowolf

    The higher (elevation) areas of Mesoamerican are fantastically fertile and mild places: The elevation means temperatures are moderated and the volcanism means there are some very fertile patches of soil. The valley of Mexico was really an agricultural garden of Eden of sorts, and humans couldn’t help but go big there. Plus with the narrowing of land between two oceans means there is always coastline relatively close by and the resources that entails (peninsulas are great places to live because of all the edge, just ask Europe). So when you dive into it the climate and geographic advantages are with Mexico.

  260. @balowulf #265:
    I highly highly highly recommend Fall of Civilizations. They have a YouTube Channel or a Podcast form There’s episodes somewhat related to this and you get the picture about the energy/resource-surplus of mesoamerica vs ohio valley. Basically, mesoamerica had more fertile land.

    I also think most people here would enjoy it.

    I would also recommend David Graeber and Wengrow”s book, The Dawn of Everything They talk a lot about mesoamerica as well.

  261. Is there really a dichotomy between overpopulation and a declining population? If resources, land, water, fossil fuels,etc decline as fast or faster than the population, would it not still be overpopulated?
    Balowolf #240 and JMG
    I don’t think Mexico will be much better off than the US. I think it is currently almost as locked into the whole global industrial system. Even a lot of their corn comes from US agribusiness. Once things start going down hill there is no way that cities like Guadalajara (6,000,000) or Mexico City( over 20,000,000) will survive. Also the northern 1/2 or 1/3 of the country will suffer the same climtic fate as the western 1/2 of the US. It is in the same dry climate zone. One great advantage that Mexico does have is that the family structure is still a lot stronger and many people still have relatives on the land. The addiction to the modern lifestyle only goes back a generation or so and is still more of a novelty and has not yet become something that will totally devastate people’s entire lives when it goes. I do think a strong culture will grow back in central and southern Mexico more quickly than in the US, but on a very reduced basis as the land there has been severely degraded as well.

  262. JMG, how does the fact that most illegal immigrants are a net drain on money/resources work into this? According to a recent FAIR study, for every $1 illegal immigrants pay in taxes they use $6 in services, costing the US $150 billion/year. It’s the similar in many European countries.

    This makes me think the political element (importing a class who’s “job” it is to vote for the left) may be more important, especially since a number of prominent left-wing politicians (ex: Andrew Neather) and think tanks (ex: Center for American Progress) have admitted they’re trying to change the demographic makeup of the electorate.

  263. On the subject of Ukranian children, I have heard from what I consider reliable sources that Russia took some war orphans from the Donbas to Russia to protect them from the fighting, and sometimes find them homes with Russian families who would adopt them

  264. To add to my last comment, children in London were sent to the country, even if they had families if the families agreed. in WWII. My cousins were going to be sent to us in the US, except that the ship before the one they were to go on was torpedoed, and their parents decided not to take the risk. I think trying to remove children from harm’s way in wartime is pretty common.

  265. Julian in comment #24 is surprised at the population discussion because of the UN projecting human population peaking in the 2080s in the 10-11 billion range. But, a couple of things.

    Firstly, the UN has a history of erring on the side of the more alarming numbers – higher popoulation and pollution, lower resources and so on. It’s their job to be doomers to encourage governments to take action so that doom doesn’t happen. I think that’s a reasonable approach on their part.

    Secondly, JMG spoke of the TFR, total fertility rate, the number of children each woman has on average, and the replacement rate being 2.1. What we see in a country is that absent immigration or emigration, about 30 years after TFR hits 2.1, its population peaks and starts declining. That’s because in an average generation, about 30 years after a woman has her last child, both her parents have died – it’s unusual for someone 30+ to have grandparents, yeah?

    So for example China’s TFR hit 1.9 in 1991, and its population peaked in 2022 and declined in 2023 – 31-32 years afterwards. Korea took a bit longer, with TFR 1.7 in 1984, and population peaking in 2020. But South Korea also renounded slightly to 1.8 in 1992, even as it’s plummeted since. You can see that the TFR < 2.1 to population peaking lag will be longer if the country lurks just below 2.1 for some years, or drops to under 1 in a decade.

    Italy hit TFR 2 in 1976, but they've had a lot of immigration compared to China or Korea, so their population peaked in 2015. Japan was 1974, and a peak in 2010 – but while they're unfriendly to immigration, they also have good healthy lifestyles with food and exercise (if not work-life balance) and excellent medicine and aged care, making them the longest-lived people in the world.

    But a lot of Western countries hit TFR < 2.1 in the 1970s or 1980s, meaning the "native" (using the term loosely to accommodate Anglosphere countries etc) population peaked and was made up by immigrants, who both added their own numbers, and tended to have more children than the natives.

    Thirdly, what nobody's talking about is the death rate. We've already seen the US and UK increase their death rates and have life expectancies drop due to a variety of factors – and because it's such a variety of factors, it's likely to continue, unlike say some single factor like a war or plague. But it's climatic (change) and economic (recession, acknowledged or otherwise, with its effects both on individuals such as unemployment but also on budgets for healthcare etc), as well as social (atomised society leading to more anxiety, depression and substance abuse). So it's not likely to get better soon.

    I'd suggest that as we go further into the 21st century and various kinds of pollution build up – whether carbon, or tailings from rare eath mines, or bureaucracy – and resources deplete, death rates will rise further. We're not going to see some day when the whole world has a life expectancy of 85 or so like Japan, let alone the 100 breathless articles are talking about.

    In particular, note that the places with the highest TFRs tend to also have a lower life expectancy. So for example Niger with some 25 million people has the world's highest TFR at 6.7 – but it also has a life expectancy of 61.58 years. So Niger may in fact not ever exceed Japan's population, because by the time it would have come close, it would be closer to the carrying capacity of its territory, and its death rate be higher still. And of course Japan itself may see its death rate increase as there are fewer people to take care of the elderly.

    Reference to the World 3 model of Limits to Growth is useful. For reference, that was known as the "business as usual" model – where nobody made particular efforts to reduce pollution or do incredible industrial efforts, but just trundled along as before, with some countries winding back and others ramping up, but overall just burning through whatever resources were available and leaving someone else to deal with the mess in the future.

  266. Another odd aspect of the demographic collapse is that it seems to be affecting diaspora populations to the same extent as home ones. A good example is Malaysia, where the TFR of the native Malays is 2.0, but the TFR’s of the large long-standing Chinese and Indian minorities is 1.1 for both. In the UK the West Indian population is also undergoing severe demographic decline, especially the Jamaicans, who have a low TFR in Jamaica itself (I think 1.3).

    This therefore suggests that the phenomenon may be affecting ethnic groups, rather than localities, which does support the idea of some kind of biological trigger. The lower end of South America has undergone a fertility collapse in the last two years, with Uruguay down to 1.3, and previously demographically healthy Argentina also taking a sudden dive. I wonder if this can be linked to the demographic collapse in Spain and Italy?

    Also worth noting that Africa is demographically less robust than is generally considered. Kenya already has regions, including the capital Nairobi, with sub-replacement TFR’s.

  267. It’s also worth pointing out that a few demographers I have read have alleged that the replacement rate in practice needs to be higher than 2.1, especially in less developed regions where infant mortality and premature death tends to be higher. I have certainly seen figures such as 2.3 or even 2.4 being suggested as more realistic replacement rates.

  268. #241 Renaissance Man
    Not to answer your question “why is there more capability on the upside than on the down?” , but to offer a different perspective: the loss of knowledge and/or desire to work you speak of was by no means a universal feature.
    Just to give you one example: in the book I already listed, “The Great Wave” David Hackett tells the story of Chartres Cathedral.
    To quote: “The great building that loomed before them, and still stands today, was the seventh cathedral of Chartres. The fate of the other six made a catalogue of medieval miseries. The first had been wrecked by the Duke of Aquitania in 743, and the second had been ruined by the Vikings in 843. The third cathedral had been destroyed in 962, and the fourth had been pulled down in 1020. The fifth and sixth had burned in 1134 and 1194.
    After each of these catastrophes, the people of Chartres acted quickly to rebuild a structure that was vital to their faith and fortunes. In 1134 and again in 1194, they unhitched animals from their carts and placed themselves in the traces to haul stone for the new cathedral. That act of piety was remembered as the Cult of the Carts.”
    – That’s 400 years of continuous rebounding from disasters – longer than US of A has been in existence.
    Now of course one can argue that all those viking raids and local wars and famines were not civilzation breaking events, that it was still the same civilization, that people back then were different, yada yada yada. But nonetheless there are examples where catastrophic loss of knowledge and desire to work did not occur despite of all disasters.

  269. I followed up on some research claiming to distinguish between economic factors vs. availability of birth control technology as to the effect on birth rates. (The authors conclude that it’s availability, more than economics). However, the study relied on “per capita GDP” as a measure of economic prosperity, and that doesn’t take into account the distribution of national wealth. That is, wealth inequality. It’s a convenient parameter to measure (how much “activity” vs. how many people), but it doesn’t capture the economic conditions of the lower classes. Are they modestly comfortable, or desperately impoverished? (Exactly how that biases their results, I can’t say.)

  270. @Jessica #264 – by the 15th century, monetization had gone far enough that serfdom was breaking down of its own accord. You could even have rich villeins who hung onto that status because they were guaranteed a landholding under it. There are plenty of records from the villages in England, showing this, at any rate. Can’t speak of other countries.

  271. Hi John Michael,

    Glad to hear that you have the support of friends.

    Almost forgot to mention, but consider the leafy edible green. Yes, leafy edible greens. If I cut some of those from the garden in the morning, then by evening, they’ll be moosh. That’s the technical term for an inedible pile of organic gunk. People go to shops and buy this same stuff which has been picked days beforehand and it still looks fine. But to get to that sort of shelf life involves a lot of interesting products. Some of those are probably going to do some things to your internal flora and fauna. You’d like to think that the bare minimum of the stuff has been used, economics would tend to suggest that this is the case, but who ever really knows?

    On another food related issue which may tie into population decline. When I was a kid, I don’t remember anyone purchasing pre-made meals at the supermarket. That just didn’t happen. Most meals were made from raw materials, and the most exotic sauce in those days was tomato sauce and/or paste (which is a concentrate). The whole industrial production of meals is like a hugely big experiment being conducted on a live population. Who knows what affect it’s having? But there might be no other way to support such a large population uninvolved with food production. I tell you one thing for sure, in the future a lot more people than now will be involved in that business.

    But then, isn’t the crapification of food and the ecosystem all just part of the whole pollution side of the Standard Run Model?

    As pollution goes up, population comes down. That’s what happens.



  272. @jmg, I am not sure if I heard it on this site, but I finally got around to reading “the ministry of the future” by Kim Stanley Robinson. It covers some of the themes of this week’s post! (synchronicity for the win 🙂 )

    It does have an interesting path about how to manage the coming decline. Without giving too much away though, it does seem to rely on “hopium”, at least in my view. (and a lot of targeted assassination).

    so thx to the forum for the suggestion — it was a well written book and good to see other views.


  273. Phutatorius, despite this, fertility in the US is well below replacement level…

    Stephen, if resource access (mediated, of course, by complex social phenomena) drive population levels, then the faster resource access declines, the faster population will contract. One of the core things I’m suggesting here is that they’re not independent variables. As for Mexico, of course it’s going to go through a whopping crisis — so is every other country on earth — but in the longer run, I suspect it’s going to thrive.

    RedSquirrel, the corporations who import them don’t have to pay for those services. Thus it’s a net gain for the kleptocrats, even though it’s a net loss for society as a whole. Very few industries today would make a profit, or even be able to stay in business, if they had to cover all the costs they load on society out of their own income.

    Warburton, nicely summarized. Thank you for this.

    Logan, thanks for this. I hadn’t taken a close look at emigré populations — that’s fascinating, that they track the fertility decline of their homelands rather than that of their current places of residence.

    Lathechuck, there’s a lot of fudge factors like that in demographic studies…

    Chris, I’m not sure where crapification fits on the World3 standard run, but I could see a case for it being counted as pollution.

    Jerry, thanks for this. I generally find Robinson’s stuff very disappointing, but I’ll consider giving it a read.

  274. RedSquirrel #273
    “According to a recent FAIR study, for every $1 illegal immigrants pay in taxes they use $6 in services, costing the US $150 billion/year.”

    It is worth breaking this figure down another step in order to understand how incentives are stacking up. While it may seem that these figures mean the immigrants are being handed $6 in “free stuff” for every $1 they pay in taxes. But, give some thought to the meaning of “services” in the equation “$6 in services/$1 in taxes”, and notice that there is a direct correlation between “services” and “PMC jobs”. Which adds a layer of complexity to what these figures actually say.

    Which is that this immigration pattern, producing this $150 tax allocation to services over and above the provision of services being made for citizens, is actually an important stabiliser of PMC employment prospects, and, to a certain extent, it counteracts other de-stabilising forces which are increasingly threaten that class’s livelihoods, and can’t help frightening the life out of them. This may explain the increasing venom with which the word “racist” is wielded. For a certain class of people it is their jobs and livelihoods that are put directly at risk by those who advocate by more effective border controls. (Not that they would admit to this realisation).

    Anyway, I’m off out to plant my first “early early” potatoes of 2024. Best wishes to all!

  275. @Whoever put forth the idea that women should spend their reproductive years raising their family, and then start careers – it’s been done. Not deliberately, but when no-fault divorce became the norm (though it saved my sanity.) An article in the independent bi-weekly Main St. Daily News, “Displaced Homemakers Program marks 40 years,” reminded me of how well that worked – i.r. a great hardship on the women involved.

    The Main Street News has news in it you don’t see in either the Gainesville Sun nor in Alachua Today.

    Other news – a data point from the same issue. St. Francis House is looking to move, because (1) they’re broke. (2) the land their building is sitting on downtown has so increased in value (now $3.8 million), they can save themselves by selling it and buying or building another shelter.

    Welcome to the downslope.

    Middle-aged women whose last experience in the workforce was before they had children. Who needed to get up to speed on how to write the sort of resume that got looked at, what skills were needed, and of course the fact that the workplace had changed since their day. Not to mention the fact that employers have/had been firing middle aged employers over the past 40 years to get the young, cheap, an up-to-date youngsters. . So, nice theory, flunked the road test.

    And BTW, I was there for part of that, but got a job at the UNM mailroom – doing accounting – because I’d worked my way through college sorting mail. 10 years later, a bright new boss in a miniskirt was resorting to all sorts of dirty tricks to force out those of us who had our departments running smoothly. With Human resources and Dispute Resolution backing them up all the way. I survived by the skin of my teeth and help from a woman from another department. It was the only part of my life as traumatic as my marriage; dealing with people out to undercut me is not one of my strong points. Read that as you will.

  276. @Phutarious #269, re: “low investment parenting, with teen mothers and absent fathers, forges ahead undeterred despite all the downsides.”

    My take: that was also true in urbanized Rome at the lower levels, and in the deep slums of Dickens’ London. It may be a human constant whenever you have urban slums; or, in some cases,rural ones.

  277. Stephen Pearson (#275)
    “To add to my last comment, children in London were sent to the country, even if they had families if the families agreed. ”
    The Lord of the Flies was written by someone sent to the country as a child then.

  278. 📖Kendo 52

    I went ahead and got from Amazn, and am reading your aforementioned Reef Hains’ Kindle book “The Grinding.” I am 10% through. Rebecca has just given her speech at Davos. I haven’t the foggiest idea how, or when, the two siblings’ storylines will affect each other, much less how bad the shock(s) will be. I read “Atlas Shrugged” fifty years ago, and somehow your story reminds me of that book.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨📖
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  279. Warburton Expat #276

    Hmm, to include “bureaucracy” on your list of types of pollution, I have to say – that is a brilliant insight!

    Much to ponder on… thank you.

  280. One addendum to the fertility rate discussed here, especially in Africa. JMG referred to the commonly used value of 2.1 as replacement rate, where the 0.1 covers children who won’t live to be adults, but this is, of course, an approximation based on recent Western data.

    When we lived in Sierra Leone (currently 3.8 children per woman) in the 1980s, my mother learned that the first question to start a conversation among women was “How many ?”, and the correct answer contained two numbers, e.g. “five [born] and three [still living]”. So the actually relevant number for population forecasts is probably, in countries like Niger or Chad, quite a bit lower than the total fertility rate. I am sure population projections take that into account, but forecasting if total fertility will fall faster or slower than childhood mortality is a further source of uncertainty.

    @Phutatorius #269: I touched on parenting strategies in my first comment, regarding Brazil. A country with falling population can’t afford the luxury of letting children from any background drop out.

  281. JMG – Not too far off-topic, I hope, but file this under “Whose statistics do you trust? How do you know what you think you know?” Headline from the Washington Post today “Revenue projections worsen in Maryland // Deficit forecast is in the billions // A way forward splits the usually united Democrats”. (By Erin Cox). Opening sentence: “Maryland’s budget problems worsened Thursday with tax receipts failing to hit estimates for the fifth consecutive time since the pandemic ended.” later “… tax receipts… to bring in $255 million less than projected … less money withheld from … paychecks than anticipated over the past three quarters, despite record-low unemployment, which suggests a strong labor market.” “Members of the Board of Revenue Estimates could not explain Thursday why seemingly positive economic data was not translating into tax revenue…”

    Hmmm. Could it be that the “unemployment” statistic is NOT a good measure of labor prosperity? Remember, if you’re not applying for a new job, or if you worked an hour last week for minimum wage, you’re not “unemployed”. Or, maybe somebody’s just making up happy numbers to please their boss. But there’s not much discretion in counting the tax income.

    What sort of businesses are falling short, in Maryland? “The largest sector in 2022 was government, followed by finance, insurance, and real estate, and then professional and business services. ” (Maryland state web site). You might think that these businesses would be thriving in this era of late-stage capitalism. I wonder how other states are doing?

  282. RE: taxes vs services for illegal immigration.

    Yes, it is absolutely a job generator for those providing the services. Just like the more people ( and these are citizens too for this one) who make use of free food distributions or food stamps, the agencies providing these services grow. ANd, like FEMA after a fire, alot of paperwork and screening is done for a small percentage who actually ” get ” something, so it is for things like the hybrid cars and solar, some college educated low paid jobs, alot of outreach and forms filled out for a few diverse immigrants who can actually afford at that income level, even with subsidies, the product subsidized.

    I also know a young millennial who works locally for the government/education and yes, there is absolutely jobs created to serve this population, especially for education, including the young person I know, although also most of the jobs go to immigrants so that they have “native speakers” , management are PMC, usually second generation though ( which includes the young person I know)to keep the some one who looks like me is taking care of me thing going. Somehow this wasnt a thing when I grew up, . I was expected to learn from whomever they hired

  283. I had tuition waved for some classes at the junior college after I was divorced as part of the displaced homemaker program. I was working 50 hours a week, and having 2 children who were very young, ( preschool, kindergarten ) so I went one or two nights a week for a class or two, then after learning the latest programming language, thinking this would help, I had very interesting interview or two, where it was obvious that I was not going to get hired no how no way, they cant ask about children, but when your resume has a 5 year hole in it, they know, and then why not hire someone unencumbered ? Then a couple years later I get sued by my ex to reduce child support arguing to “impute” income to me, that I am not earning to potential. The same man that would not change what weekday night he took the kids for the evening to align with when the classes were held.

  284. @JMG & @Clark
    (& @Vlad RE elite intentions to depopulate the Earth)

    I really want to agree with you because I agree something doesn’t add up, but I keep encountering evidence that at least some elites want to reduce population. Perhaps I’m misreading the evidence, or maybe my other sources for news are distorting my perception and will eventually be proven wrong.

    One such pundit pointed out that the three major things Joe Biden offered Americans more of in his state of the union address were war, abortion, and transgender surgery for children. If these are the things he’s promising the American people, it’s not a well-thought-out strategy to increase the population.

    I’m not claiming there is some intentional plot here. But I’m having trouble wrapping my mind around the idea that there are no elites who are trying to use their influence to reduce population.

    Sorry, I’m not trying to start an argument. You don’t need to respond to this. And I won’t bring it up again. We can agree to disagree if necessary. I am just describing where my mind is at in the process of trying to reconcile the buzzing confusion around us.

  285. JMG,
    I just ran into another relevant article, I thought you might want to see this, also: “Quantitation and identification of microplastics accumulation in human placental specimens”.

    TL;DR? ALL 62 tested placenta samples contained microplastics. The microplastics, along with other PETROchemicals we now routinely eat, breath, and swim in, cause STERILITY, as well as cancer, asthma, endocrine disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. The gift that keeps on giving.

    Obviously, the microplastics had to go through, at least, the mother, before they could get to the placenta. And there are many, many, other sterilizing chemicals our ignorant, completely unmonitored, use of fossil fuels has FORCED all of us to imbibe. (you can’t opt out)

    So, fossil fuels are, probably, the proximate, primary cause of the current population collapse. But in the way that resource depletion/ carrying capacity ecology normally predicts.

    I think THAT die-off curve is still ahead of us, as the food from oil (1 for 10 calorie tradeoff) predicts. We sowed the seeds of the current STERILIZATION OF HUMANITY right from the beginning. It’s probably been a compounding, spreading, problem for a century or longer. We are just noticing it now. It seems unlikely to be remediated, as . . . well . . . we lack the energy and oil to do that any longer. Therefore, sterilization seems likely to continue for centuries to come.

    It is a weird, Faustian relationship we have had with the oil devil, don’t you think? From the beginning, it has empowered us: as it concomitantly weakened and sterilized us. Is this deal-with-the-devil maybe grist for a future Ecosophia post? I don’t know how humanity could have resisted the temptation. It wasn’t that far back when people, even here, in the N. America, routinely and directly died for lack of food and heating energy. Quite a deal. God must have a sense of humor?

  286. Could it be that what we are seeing in falling birthrates and MANY other indicators is the end stage of the cultural pendulum swing towards individualism? (Also known as selfishness?)

    All the older tribal cultures that I am familiar with seem to place much more value upon the survival and well being of the group and much less upon the individual members than what we now consider the Western “norm”. This process of ever increasing individuation seems so tightly wound into the current Western worldview that it is difficult to see that our way is actually the extreme far end of the individuation spectrum when looked at over the last couple of million years of hominin cultures.

    As Western materialism/capitalism/individualism seduces the most naturally ambitious and individualistic members of a more tribal/collectivist group, it appears to initiate a cycle of ever increasing selfishness (privatization of tangible goods). Perhaps the failure of state communism in the USSR and China could be attributed, at least partially, to this apparently species wide meta-tendency?

    Perhaps we are seeing the same process work it’s way through our most basic human group, the family? After freely receiving the gift of Life, are people now simply too individualized/selfish to pass it on? I’m guessing that any human cultural group that expects to survive the next few centuries will be required to push-back against individuation and push-for higher birthrates within their group. [Orlov’s “Communities That Abide” comes to mind]

  287. JMG,

    “Gnat, I have indeed read Stand On Zanzibar, and most of Brunner’s other fiction — the guy was really remarkably prescient. Do you recall The Shockwave Rider and its uncannily accurate prediction of the internet?”

    I do! I think I bought a copy in the early 1990s, before the internet really took off and trojan horses and malware worms really became a part of the accepted scenery. I thought about that book, on and off, for years. We had plenty of warning about that, too. Thanks for mentioning it!

  288. @Lathechuck

    It’s not the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

    It’s the Bureau of Humor and Goalseeking.

    Pass it on.

  289. I’ve got to say, the prospect of fewer humans on this planet gives me great solace. Humans are not the nicest or cleanest creatures, and it feels to me like the pressure we put on the Earth and all its other lifeforms is nearly unbearable. I can almost hear the huge sigh of relief from most ecosystems when the human pressure goes down.

    Granted, this will put a lot of pressure on humans for a while, but I see this as a necessary process that will bring the world more into balance. This gives me comfort when I look out my window and see how crazy things have gotten.

  290. One thing that will be a contributing factor to the decline in overall population via increased death rates, at least in the ‘developed’ Western countries, will be the unravelling of publicly funded social and health services. For example, our publicly funded health care system was initiated during the baby boom – a time in which there was still a demographic population ‘pyramid’ – that is, lots of young and healthy people paying into the system and few old and ill people ‘consuming’ these services. Well, there ain’t no pyramid anymore and the math no longer works. Collapse of the hospital system has been gradual, but eventually it will collapse utterly – date yet to be determined. The same is true of the insurance services (life insurance policies) and the old age pension systems. Even with the addition of a gazillion people from overseas, the math still does not work. Poverty and untreated ailments kill. I suspect that a combination of decreasing birth rate and increasing death rate will possibly make the population ‘bust’ quite a bit faster than the ‘boom’ of the last couple of centuries (in which the birth rate did not increase but the death rate decreased).

  291. Hi John Michael,

    Whilst happily sitting here, reading comments, outside there was a loud ripping and tearing sound followed by a solid thump. A big chunk of tree fell, then hit the ground. Nothing lasts forever, and it looks like free firewood to me. The trees were quite considerate and not a single other plant was smooshed in the incident. Can’t ask for better than that.

    Anywhoo, considering this subject you’ve written about, I kind of get the distinct impression that there are 99 problems, few if any are being seriously addressed, and so there will eventually be 99 points of failure. Rome fell that way. If I may be so bold as to suggest that: our elites now mostly lack the ability to save themselves. Even vampires realise that in order to survive, they must in some ways support their err, feed stock. How is that for an apt example? 🙂



  292. Hi John Michael and everyone,

    After reading many of the comments, I get the impression that a lot of people here are looking for the smoking gun theory. The single answer which lays out all the dirty facts and exposes them to the awful light of day. What ‘The Limits to Growth’ researchers discovered, probably to their utter horror, was that no matter what variable they tweaked, the walls still came tumbling down. It’s a sobering thought.

    And I’ve heard that selfish argument plenty of times. Look, when your parents lead dysfunctional lives, they accept an economic inheritance, then leave nothing, and in fact they leave a world where everything is far more expensive relative to income than what they experienced, well it kind of sends a strong message. That’s the sort of experience which civilisation is gifting to the future. It’s ugly.



  293. @Aldarion said: “@thrown, no sustainable agriculture, Chinese or otherwise, can feed a global population remotely the size of the current one. Only fossil fuel inputs to the Haber-Bosch process can, and those are going away.

    As for Russia, we might ask a Russian. From what I understand, most people, for the best part of two decades, felt their life was worse and less safe than before 1991. Not hard to understand why birth rates fell (and death rates rose). Even in the former GDR after 1990, natality fell like a stone.”

    I disagree with your first claim. Right now there are about 16 million square kilometers of permanent cropland in the world (see here for the detailed statistics) which, for a population of 8.1 billion people, gives 506 people per square kilometer of farmland, or, in units more familiar to Americans, 2.04 people per acre. This is not too many people for organic agriculture (either traditional methods or modern) to feed. (Here is a paper with a good overview of organic vs. conventional yields. Organic yields are smaller, but not by enough to lead to mass starvation.) One important fact that doomers tend to miss is that about half the agricultural land in the world (and much more than half in the United States) is currently used to grow grain for livestock feed. If people limited their meat consumption to what can be supported by pastures, plus plant parts that humans don’t eat, then we could vastly reduce our ecological burden, in addition to eliminating a lot of cruelty to animals.

    As for your claims about Russia, I totally agree with them. Russians’ lives have indeed been bad for a long time, and this is reflected in low fertility rates, high emigration, high alcoholism, etc. And yet Russia still has a lot more farmland and fossil fuels per capita than most of the world. The fact that their civilization is collapsing anyway, due to various cultural and political factors, is just further evidence against the claim that human ecology is driven mainly by the availability of natural resources.

  294. @RedSquirrel

    You should be very careful when looking at things like these and instead look at the bigger picture because it’s to the benefit of the shareholder-plutocrat class. To explain a bit more, for every $1 that Jeffrey Bezos pays in taxes (he pays basically none), he’s getting hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds. For every $1 that Waltons pay in taxes, they’re getting hundreds of millions of dollars taken from the people. Wal-Mart workers are by far some of the biggest recipient of food-stamps because they don’t pay them enough. If Wal-Mart were to pay workers fair share, then the Waltons would be making vastly less money stolen from the people, as will all the Shareholder Class. It’s this process that exploits the people (legal or illegal) and in turn generates big profits for the plutocrats.

    So to take migrants, one of the biggest benefits they provide to the ruling class is suppressing unions and collective bargaining. For every $1 they spend on an illegal migrants wage, they’re rewarding themselves thousands of dollars in not paying a fair wage to someone else. Looking at it from the perspective of illegal migrants as “leeches” is wrong IMO. The plutocrats, the shareholders, are the ones parasitically leeching off society and using an array of tools (migrants being one of them) to enrich themselves at the expense of the people.

    The S&P500 is soaring at all time highs almost every day, yet everyone is actually getting poorer (legal or illegal). The only ones doing well for themselves are the true parasite shareholder class. These “they get $6 in services!” are absolute peanuts, a rounding error, compared to the GDP (a fake number but I digress) and vast sums of wealth being extracted from the people every day. It’s the ol’ adage: privatize profits, socialize losses.

    I’m not going to get into it but IMO this is one of the things Corbyn did wrong was pivoting from a leftist labor organizing and union position to one that supported the upper echelon elite plutocrat position. There (and are) real grievances with how Europe/Britain is using migrants to smash the domestic labor class, and unfortunately it became a bonafide quagmire of straight up real heinous racism on the right with mixed messaging and intentional obfuscation by the media, and he failed to see the trap.

  295. I think what’s generally important to keep in mind – and what’s at least where I live is generally neglected or unknown – is that behind all this curves describing the evolution of some quantity in time there are individual probabilities that govern individual events which add up to the macroscopic trend which the curve describes. Take a sufficient number of dices (20 or more) and cast all of them at the same time. Take out all that show a 6 and cast the remaining dices again. Repeat this for some rounds. This way you model radioactive decay and if you assume that one round equals two days you have a fine model for the radioactive decay of Iodine-131 which is produced in significant quantities by nuclear fission. Draw a graph of the number of remaining dices against the number of rounds and you will find an exponential curve – for larger numbers it’ll become smooth.

    Now the decay probability for a radioactive isotope is usually constant – but the probabilities that govern life on earth are not constant and subject to feedback-loops most of which us humans probably don’t even know about. One process that currently has a very low probability of happening but which might become quite important during a phase of decline is cannibalization. At some point cannibalization will set in and feed of the remaining capital our current society has created. In the meantime, life will push with all it’s might as it’s always doing and will fill every crack and every crater. It’s quite interesting that in the last weeks a few publications came out which described how life has adapted in the forbidden zone around Chernobyl. Today, you will find various species, from worms to wolves which have become radiation hard and immune to genetic damage by radiation. In less than 40 years. How long would it take us humans to figure this out?

    I can’t help but to quote George Carlin once again: “We’re so self important” …. “The planet is fine, the people are fracked.”


  296. In regard to ““five [born] and three [still living]” as to children, that is still relevant in the tropics.

    From UNICEF, “Nearly every minute, a child under five dies of malaria. Many of these deaths are preventable and treatable. In 2022, there were 249 million malaria cases globally that led to 608,000 deaths in total. Of these deaths, 76 per cent were children under 5 years of age. This translates into a daily toll of over one thousand children under age 5.”

    If the malaria vaccine being trialed works that death toll should go down and probably cause a short term spike in population.

    I had cause to look up J.S. Bach the other day and found out about half his kids died in childhood. Mozart did worse, only two of six made it out of infancy.

    On a completely different topic, while trying to resurrect on old 32 bit PC I found Emmabuntüs, “a Linux distribution designed to facilitate the restoration of computers donated to humanitarian organizations.”

    They did indeed have a version that could run on the old hardware, the “new” 64 bit machines really got going about 2007 or 2008. Given Microsoft is requiring newer PCs for Windows (TPM modules first and now certain encryption-friendly instructions) and Apple abandons theirs after 7 or so (they want to sell hardware) Linux is looking better and better.

  297. Lathechuck, that’s the great problem with what Bertram Gross described as turning “economic indicators” into “economic vindicators” — you end up being baffled when the artifacts of your manipulation don’t coincide with reality.

    Blue Sun, I think it’s quite possible that some of them have that intention, but others do not. The current ruling kleptocracy isn’t a tightly organized hierarchy — it’s a loose coalition of power centers constantly trying to shoulder each other aside with all the grace of hogs at a feed trough. Choose any notion you care to name, as long as it doesn’t involve transferring power and wealth away from the kleptocracy, and you can probably find people who support it or at least give it lip service.

    Gnat, that is to say, the accelerating decline in population is multifactorial. I already agreed with that. My point is that it’s behaving as though ordinary population biology is a major, and perhaps a dominant, factor. Not food but energy is the limiting factor right now, which is why population is dropping at a higher rate among wealthier (and energy-rich) nations than among poorer ones. As for the Faustian bargain, I addressed that quite a bit back in the days of the Archdruid Report; you might find this post entertaining.

    Ken, it’s very fashionable these days to assume that cultural changes are independent variables that just up and cause things without being caused. I’m suggesting, by contrast, that such things as the movement toward individualism (along with its concomitant effect on birth rates) is an effect, not a cause — it’s one of the ways that human beings, mostly unconsciously, are reacting to the end of the age of cheap abundant energy.

    Gnat, it was a fave of mine, and came to mind instantly when you mentioned Stand on Zanzibar.

    Slink, I won’t argue.

    Ron, that’s certainly true — and the collapse of vast bureaucratic health care systems, in turn, is another side effect of decreasing energy and resource availability.

    Chris, the difficulty our current vampires face is that they’ve gotten so detached from reality that they think that blood gets voted into existence in corporate boardrooms. They’ve also forgotten that wooden stakes are quite easy to make from readily available materials. I happened to read the other day a quote attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte: “Wars happen when the government tells you who the enemy is. Revolutions happen when you figure it out for yourselves.”

    Nachtgurke, that’s a useful point to keep in mind; thank you.

    Patricia M, a fitting elegy for our times!

  298. @Liquefaction: Great user name for someone who works for the Water Works… My dad worked for our Water Works for the last part of his career as a welder. It took him up on top of some big tanks and down into some large underground tunnels. A very interesting dpt in a city to work for. He still gets together with some of the shop guys for lunch now that he’s retired…

    “I think the sort of overly self-aware ‘irony’ of the 80s-90s+, and amplified many times over through the internet, has created a sort of isolating heightened-self-consciousness to a large swath of younger masses and essentially a sort of self-imprisonment. I don’t know how to describe it any better.”

    I think you hit the nail on the head.

    Anyway, I don’t go out to bars much anymore, mainly because I stopped drinking since 2015, but I will for a band. A lot of the people who used to stopped, for their own reasons. Things changed. I never thought of it as schmoozing though, because managers and such never came out for a beer after work, unless it was a retirement party or something. A lot has changed in the culture since 2000 when I started working full-time.

    I have no idea what its like for others in the trades, nursing, etc.

    I think things will have to reorganize at some point and people will band and get together out of need once again, if not out of want.

  299. @thrown, thanks for the statistics about arable land. You and pygmycory consider it (theoretically) possible to support the current population through a much more equitable distribution of land and of labour. Maybe you are right. I simply looked at the population of China around 1800, when it was the richest and most well organized state on earth, and that was less than a third of its current population.

    More generally, my impression is that people, like other living beings, react to a decline in living standards and/or available space by having less children. Such a decline may come about through reasons of political economy, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s and the chaos post-1991 in Eastern Europe, or because the population is actually approaching the limit of some factor necessary for their current lifestyle. I would suggest we in the West are dealing with both at once right now. In Sierra Leone, which i know personally, natality has fallen almost by half since the 1980s. The last holdouts will arrive there in due time.

    And frankly, if the global population started to shrink soon through a combination of low natality (let’s say 1-1.5 children per pair) and moderately lower life expectancy, I would be glad about it. It seems to me the best possible outcome at this point.

  300. Your Long Descent fellow traveler from the UK, Tim Watkins, has also written on this subject from his country’s perspective – Getting vacancies wrong. I suspect it may have been inspired by you.

  301. Data Point Commentor–re birth control knowledge. As an anthropology major I learned how much was not recorded about some now defunct cultures during the years when mainly men went into the field. In many cultures women don’t talk to strange men, so they certainly were not going to tell the strange Western man about the women’s mysteries of herbs that induced miscarriage or prevented conception, helped with labor or improved milk supply. One professor told of a group that was studied by a husband-and-wife team. The husband “learned” from the men that abortion was strictly forbidden, never happened. The wife learned, from the women that the woman-only fair held every month or so was where women bought certain herbs. In another group a woman who was thought she was pregnant but didn’t want to be would announce that she was starting her period, go to the women’s seclusion hut where no man would venture, do what the women elders told her and go back home after the normal interval. Husband none the wiser. Another professor mentioned an abortion method used in one of the Polynesian islands in which a fiber plug from a particular plant was inserted in the cervix where it absorbed fluids and gradually expanded until the cervix was too open to support the pregnancy. He jokingly cautioned the women in the class not to try it (pre Roe v Wade) since we Western women had not built up antibodies like people in non-antibiotic cultures and would probably get infections and die. Sending women anthropologists into the field was not a complete solution either. Years after Margaret Mead’s research a new investigator reinterviewed some of her informants. That researcher was told that Mead, a young, single, white woman, who was living with the missionaries was given some information that was not true and some that was incomplete because it wasn’t the sort of thing that young women would share with a stranger.

    One thing I noticed years ago when I was studying herbs was that there were certain publications that did not include information about the abortive effect of certain herbs. This was true of at least one magazine published in Utah. I assume that the publishers were Latter Day Saints and didn’t want this information used. I thought it was bad policy since a woman might be carrying a wanted baby and take the herb for one of its other listed uses unknowingly. In herbals that are not concealing the use but use medical rather than common language the key word to look for is “emmenagogue.” I was rather irritated by some women in the early feminist movement who threw out bits of herb knowledge without information about dangers, dosages, etc. I know the feminist writer Robin Morgan reproached Z Budapest, a Dianic Witch, for mentioning pennyroyal as an abortion herb in one of her books. But in common with many such herbs the wrong dosage can be fatal.


  302. One thing humans have done that can’t be undone is mix plants, animals, microbes, and diseases that might otherwise have remained in their own biomes. As populations and communal wealth decreases the fight against successful but unwanted organisms becomes ever harder. Locally we have water hyacinth clogging dams, cabbage moths destroying crops, and many more examples. Nature might come back with a fiercer vengeance than we expect.

  303. Hey JMG

    Something else that this essay reminds me of is the 3-part essay series that Substack writer John Carter wrote on the increase on childlessness in the West. He, as an Alt-right Conservative, of course views it as being caused by cultural factors/propaganda rather than being a logical response to resource depletion, which as a true believer in progress he rejects. It is a fairly good essay series, entertaining and thought-provoking, though I don’t really sympathise with his belief that the increase in childlessness is a moral problem that must be fixed.
    Here is a link to the 1st part if anyone is interested.

  304. @scotlyn (285)

    Thank you for this insight! That does make sense, and when I read your comment I was thrown back to a book I read in the 80’s called bonfire of the vanities. There was a phrase in that book called “the chow” and I realized reading your comment that this is really a PMC jobs program!! Think about all the administration these people will need…..

    I googled that phrase (hadn’t thought about it in 30 years) and here it is:

    thanks again — I do have to say that this forum has the best commenters! High signal to noise ratio! 🙂


  305. JMG,
    One of the most stark bits of evidence for the inevitable decline of population across the globe is to look at a graph of wold population alongside the graph of the use of fossil fuel energy for the last 2000 years or so. I don’t have one of these in front of me at the moment but as I remember world population stays relatively stable over centuries from the end of the Roman Empire on. Things begin to change once the technology for using coal on a large scale comes in to play ( the steam engine). Then world population begins to rise rapidly and then population growth goes exponential with the discovery and use of oil. From there on population growth correlates tolerably well with the growth of fossil fuel use.
    If you accept these two trends ( yes counting world population in 600 AD involves much speculation) then there can be little doubt that population growth for the last 200 years is nearly totally a result of the huge increase in available energy from fossil fuels. There can also be little doubt that as these fossil fuels go in to steep decline ( as they are now) population with follow. Once you recognize this you realize that all the hand waving and gnashing of teeth about cultural factors, available land and advances in organic agriculture have little meaning.
    To quote the great Tom Bender ( one of the founders and editors of the original RAIN magazine), ” civilizations and people who use capital ( fossil fuels) as if it was income live short flashy lives.” That quote is from memory as my Archive of Rain magazines is boxed up in our storage unit but I hope to get them out as soon as the bookcase I am building is finished.

  306. JMG – Following on my earlier comment about “How can we be losing tax receipts, when the President say that workers are thriving?”, today’s WashPost has “Amid explosive demand, America is running out of power: AI and the boom in clean-tech manufacturing are pushing the nation’s grid to the brink. Utilities can’t keep up.” (by Evan Halper) So, it actually turns out that massive data centers, cryptocurrency “mining” demand, and EV battery manufacturing are demanding more electricity than expected (not to mention heat pumps, EV charging, and intermittent renewable generation)?! Who knew? Not the Chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “It makes you scratch your head and wonder how we ended up in this situation. How were the projections that far off?”

    I think maybe I’ll get our my calligraphy pen and frame that last quote! “HWPTFO?” could be a bumper sticker.

  307. I spent my high school and college years reading every science fiction novel I could lay my hands on. I read “The Shockwave Rider” shortly after it came out, in my junior year in college. It quite literally changed my life. I had already taken a class in FORTRAN (yes, punched cards), which was required for my major. But Brunner’s vision of the future internet was so compelling, I decided to change my major and start taking computer classes. And the timing was perfect. I caught the wave of the emerging computer industry. I was getting lucrative job offers after only one year of computer classes. (It helped that I was good at it.)

    I often think back to that time and the way that particular novel really clicked with me. I remember reading that novel and thinking to myself “yes, yes, yes, that is the future!” I get the same sense today reading some of JMG’s writings.

  308. JMG, glad to see you back! One question: the decline process will be uneven, right? It’s on average that investments will lose value over time. That means there will be some investments that will keep increasing in value, nevertheless, and there may even be some that will benefit from the decline. Is that correct? If so, there may be worth trying to identify them!

  309. Darn. I forgot to include the observation that Cincinnatus left his plough in the fields when summoned.
    My comment was, of necessity, overly broad in its strokes. I think of history as Pointillism – each dot is of a colour, but it is only when one steps far enough away that the grand picture becomes apparent. Within any given population at any given time, there are people who manage to do no work at all, there are poor people, there are well-off merchants doing their daily work, there are people who are hyper-busy, there are those who do physical labour, and others who do no actual physical work. But step back until these become but points on the canvas and we can discern an overall attitude as the society produces… grander buildings, more extensive infrastructure, more trade, more general wealth.
    @Lathechuck #266 – I’ll agree that energy is a contributing factor, since we know that the rich farmlands that provided crops to the growing Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Greco-Roman civilizations were far more fertile in the beginning than the exhausted fields which were largely abandoned to regenerative forests for several hundred years during the collapse of each one and provided more food energy to the people and animals working. I will disagree as to how significant this is, since the Greco-Romans (for one) didn’t exploit coal or have effective steam engines, the great civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and of the Mediterranean began their rise with pretty much the same sources of energy they had when they collapsed, viz., human muscle, animal power, and some water and wind power.
    @Vlad Tepes #279 – The strict definition of a Cathedral is (1) the seat of a principal church of a Bishop’s Diocese, containing the episcopal throne. (American heritage Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary). So the continual reconstruction of those various buildings periodically destroyed and re-built were at first very modest constructions in wood and stone. In fact, that timeline supports my contention, as the early European (Spengler calls it “Faustian”) civilization was rising and each successive reconstruction became grander as knowledge increased and the desire to improve was manifest. They were getting better and better at stacking cut stone, a knowledge pretty much lost even before the Western Roman Empire came to its official and ignominious end in 475. Concrete, crucial for the Collosseum and the Pantheon for example, was only rediscovered in the 1700s.


  310. John, thanks for this! My guess is that he simply noticed the same things I did.

    Martin, that happens naturally all the time. Living things are always on the move — horses and camels evolved in North America and didn’t get to Eurasia until the Bering land bridge opened early in the last ice age, for example, and cougars and jaguars evolved from Old World felids who crossed the same bridge in the other direction. Human beings sped the process up a little bit, that’s all. Those successful organisms? As I pointed out in an earlier post, many of them are filling necessary niches, and the mere fact tht they’re inconvenient to use doesn’t make them any less vitally necessary in the natural scheme of things.

    J.L.Mc12, yes, I saw that — I follow Carter now and then, as he’s one of the more interesting of the far-right bloggers these days.

    Clay, yep. And thank you for the Tom Bender quote! My copies of Rainbook and Stepping Stones, to both of which he contributed heavily, are among the prizes of my deindustrial appropriate tech naked hippie library.

    Lathechuck, I begin to wonder if something is causing serious progressive IQ loss among the managerial class at this point. “Who knew?” Other than anybody who was paying attention…

    Cyclone, thanks for this! Me, I read The Shockwave Rider and started orienting my life toward a kind of one-person (or, shortly thereafter, two-person) paid-avoidance zone, and it worked very well. So that’s two of us!

    Bruno, yes, and you and a couple of hundred million other people will be trying to identify those. One thing this means is that we can expect some world-class speculative boom-and-bust cycles; another thing it means is that financial fraud will take place on a more than epic scale. Still, if you want to chase that possibility, have at it — just be very, very careful not to gamble more than you can afford to lose.


    listening now…


  312. Justin Patrick Moore I’m loving this stuff! Thank you. When you’d mentioned playing the saw I knew it’d have to be good.

    But yes… MORE THERAMIN!


  313. Dear Mr. Druid
    I realize you do not do video or podcasts – but for those who do there is a very good interview of commenter Aurelien with Mike Farris on coffee and a mike podcast.
    Concerning population I appreciate when you say the world is overcrowded. I am far from a world traveler, but I have noticed that many places would be better with less people. The arguments of the “breed your way to prosperity” crowd always come down to three things – one is the more people the more geniuses who will go on to develop travel to the stars, two is more people + diversity means more choice of restaurants, and three is better shopping. (Four is more potential mates for weird open border advocates)
    My take is a high trust society requires affordable family formation. See Steve Sailer for more on this. A tribal society is a different set of circumstances.
    As far as African fertility goes, there is some debate as to the accuracy out of Africa as these often depend on the same NGO’s that refuse to count the homeless in the USA.
    Thanks for the article.

  314. The idea that during the decline some investments will make money while on average they will not is probably true, but the inaccurate part is calling those that will make money “investments”. The things that will still make money as the population and economy shrink are those things that have been a staple of the last 30 years of American Finance. By that I mean schemes that essentially strip mine the value ( capital etc) built up in the Economy during the preceding decades as an industrial superpower.
    They start with stripping the value out of companies ( leveraged buyouts anyone) and move on to stripping the remaining value out of households and retirees and farmers. They have pretty much succeeded in stripping most of the economic surplus out of of the younger generations, and have fully geared up the medical and care industries to strip mine the elderly. So most of these “Investments” that have a chance of making money would be more accurately called Rackets than investments.
    Trying to pick and choose from these and come out whole reminds me of a sign on the counter of a Masonary store near where I lived back in the 1990’s. ” We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you”.

  315. Rennaissance Man @ 321:
    ” we know that the rich farmlands that provided crops to the growing Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Greco-Roman civilizations were far more fertile in the beginning than the exhausted fields which were largely abandoned to regenerative forests for several hundred years during the collapse of each one and provided more food energy to the people and animals working. ”

    I don’t think we know that at all. The fertility of Egyptian soil was renewed annually, except for the very rare year of no flood, until the Aswan dam was built. Egypt was breadbasket for Rome, Constantinople and then for the Caliphate after that. I would like to see estimated population figures for all those centuries. Mesopotamian agriculture depended on maintenance of the irrigation canals. Alexander’s soldiers were astonished by the productivity of Mesopotamia, two harvests a year! This long after those soils had allegedly been contaminated by salt. Present day photos of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers show yellow color, plenty of silt, just as in Egypt, but that silt had to be conveyed to the fields.

  316. Bruno – It is a mathematical fallacy that “if an average decreases, then some components of the average must increase.” While it is true that “some components MAY increase”, even a moment’s thought will reveal that it is not required that any component increase. After all, it is possible that all components decrease equally, just as the average does. Or, some components may decrease a little, while others decrease a lot.

    Even within a civilization in decline, one can lead a full, satisfying life. Just don’t expect increasing amounts of money to be a part of it. For example, I have a hobby of making ball-point and fountain pens. (By “making”, I mean that I buy a kit of technologically-advanced metal components from Asia, and combine them with North American wood and my own semi-skilled labor at the lathe, to produce a writing instrument with a wooden surface that is both comfortable and beautiful.) For now, I give them as gifts. At some point, I may try to sell or barter them. Without debt to service, I could swap for meat or eggs, and leave the bankers out of the loop.

  317. @lathechuck #318 It’s predicted that whole computer complex of the world will be consuming 20% of the worlds electricity by 2025
    Curiously that is the proportion of the body’s energy that is used by the brain, yet the evidence that this new electronic ‘brain’ of the world is amping up the intelligence of the system is not there IMO.
    After all WW2 an enormous feat of production, organization, and design was accomplished without this”brain” No GPS to guide fleets of ships across oceans, imagine that! The Empire State Building was completed in little over a year in the 1930’s. The new main World Trade Center building was completed in 2014, 13 years after 9/11. Where I live I drive by portions of the piers and bridges for the California bullet train designed to link the Bay area and Los Angeles.. They remind me of remnants of Roman aqueducts. The plan was finalized in 2005, and at the earliest it may be 2030 before trains run. Compare that to the rapid feat of building the interstate highway system stating the 1950’s across the entire United States.
    I am just old enough to remember 1960 America, a complicated industrial society was run without the new “brain” “Progress” since then has been quite minimal.

  318. Renaissance Man – I think you’ve proven my point, actually.
    As you said “the great civilizations of the Fertile Crescent and of the Mediterranean began their rise with pretty much the same sources of energy they had when they collapsed, viz., human muscle, animal power…” just after saying “since we know that the rich farmlands … [became] exhausted fields which …[had] provided more food energy to the people and animals working.” There must have been some innovation which allowed exploitation of those fertile fields (maybe plows, or domesticated plow-pullers?, maybe bronze axes for clearing the trees?), which were fine on the way up, but of little value on the way down. Muscle is not a source of energy (nor are brains, for that matter), but a way to apply it. On the other hand, some cultures just had bad luck with climate change.

  319. “That means there will be some investments that will keep increasing in value, nevertheless,”

    Oh yes. My old employer developed a process that made high purity silicon using abut one eighth of the electrical power the traditional method used. The net production cost went from $24 per Kg to $12/kg. So that sort of investment would be able to pay back the loan.

    Getting rich by speculation will be finished, but if you can find a better way there will still be the opportunity for a profit. The economy will be shifting wildly as the contraction sets in so you will have to be nimble.

  320. JMG,

    It seems like there should be a somewhat gradual transition from investments making money to investments losing money. It seems like it should more or less follow the sine curve that population does. Perhaps the future is here and it’s just not evenly distributed and you have an example?

    Perhaps that was what was going on recently with close to zero interest rates. I know that it was an attempt to encourage economic growth, but as a saver and not a borrower I couldn’t help noticing that earnings on my deposits and investments were very much not keeping up with inflation and therefore I was actually losing money. Interest rates have gone up, but I’m pretty sure I’m still losing money because inflation (at least on the things I buy, like food) has gone up more.

    Are we already there? Can I assume that all the money I’ve stashed away over 30 years in my “401k” will never have more purchasing power than it does today? That’s a sobering thought, and not at all a pleasant one considering I can’t even get my hands on it without paying HUGE penalties because I am only 55. Maybe I should stop “saving” so much out of my paycheck each month and do something else with it.

    Thank you for the thought-provoking essay!

  321. A1, thanks for these.

    Clay, granted, until the political blowback makes such strip-mining activities too risky. In an age of decline, after all, such schemes can very easily render a society much less able to survive, and it can also spark violent backlashes against the strip-miners. That is to say, there’s good reason why both Christianity and Islam defined usury as one of the most heinous of mortal sins — in Dante’s Inferno, usurers were in an even lower circle of Hell than heretics!

    Slink, zero interest rates are in fact the example I had in mind. That was necessary to prop up corporate profits because the average real (unfudged) return on investments was no longer adequate to support debt at what had been normal interest rates. The challenge in figuring out how to respond to all this, of course, is that money is not the same thing as wealth — money is a set of arbitrary tokens used to control the flow of wealth, and can be gimmicked in various ways so that its value changes independently from the value of actual wealth. Thus it’s an interesting question whether we get hyperinflation, a deflationary depression, stagflation, or all three at different points in the future…

  322. @Liquefaction
    I think that you are true adressing that natality reduction in Spain could not be motivated by the abandonement of Catholicism, because we are speaking about a social phenomenon caused by prosperity due to industrial development; an ascens in the Maslow ‘s Pyramid. But we are speaking about a phenomenon started in industrializated societies and that, in the present days, we are witnessing a diferent process ; depopulation , wich is acompained by deindustrialization and derationalitation processes (acording the historian Andrei Fursov).

  323. Tyler, it seems I missed a chapter of Monika’s saga somewhere along the way. I hope she and baby are both doing better now. I have taken the liberty of adjusting the prayer’s wording slightly so as to support your latest update, as such:

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk; may Mother and child be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery, and be soothed and healed from their recent pains and discomfort in a manner that supports a positive outcome to the pregnancy.

    Please let me know if you wish to revise this edit to the prayer in any way.

  324. @Slink, #332:

    The economy is rapidly bifurcating and inflation is not stopping. The Federal Reserve, just a few days ago, straight up said in a press conference “the 2% inflation target is dead” which means they’re losing control and aren’t actually going to target 2%. Reminder, one man’s inflation is another corporations increased quarterly earnings report. Why would people decide to take less profit and take a hit on their equities?

    If you are holding your money into “safe” things like CDs, Bonds, or Savings Accounts, it’s just being eaten alive. If you keep it in equities, it’ll be exceeding inflation. This means the shareholder class is making out like bandits while everyone else is losing real wages/savings: you’re either on the train or you’ve missed the boat. And if you’ve missed the boat, you are part of the baggage that will be jettisoned under catabolic decline.a

    I see hyperinflation in the future for a number of reasons. There’s been over a decade+ of ZIRP which has translated into honestly insane +500%+ inflation on the stock market. Take a look at $NVDA as a recent example, from a few billion to almost $3 trillion dollar market cap in a span of a year. What happens when resource scarcity continues to increase, and what happens when people take money out of these trillion dollar market cap investments to buy resources? That’s for the reader to decide.

    I’ll also only briefly touch on the petrodollar hegemony that has enabled decades of ZIRP and extravagant money printing: the way USA avoided Zimbabwe situation is because it has strong-armed most of the world into buying the petrodollar at threat of bombs or coups, or economic sactions, or stripping them of participating in the global market if they don’t play ball. US is quickly losing it’s strongarm control and we may see a year, not too far in the future, that the petrodollar dies which will rapidly devalue the US causing internal hyperinflation.

  325. Hey JMG

    You read him also? I agree he is definitely one of my favourite alt-right bloggers since he writes well and writes entertainingly. Btw, I Learned from asking him in a comment section that he reads your stuff also.

  326. Yeah, that’s a good copy. I’m very much trying to figure out how to turn my “money” into “wealth”. It sucks that so much of it is locked up in these retirement accounts. I played their game. I’ve been squirreling away 20% of my income. And now what have I got to show for it?

  327. Hi John Michael,

    If the population continues to increase in your country (via immigration at this stage) and energy output doesn’t increase at the same rate, presumably there is less energy per capita, and people will be feeling poorer because they actually are. Up above in the comments you wrote about food, but from my perspective, the volume of available food is a physical representation of the energy available. You could say the same about any stuff available to be consumed really. Dunno.

    I presume that energy per capita in your country was much greater in the 1950’s? Happy days (please excuse the dodgy pun)!

    The money side of the story is just so weird. And I said to you a year or so ago when the tweaking began, that they were going to really stuff up the entire situation with all the mucking around with interest rates. It boggles my mind to consider what impact that must be having on your countries national debt. If you’ve ever dared look at a chart of the projected debt, it has that unmistakable quality of an exponential curve. Surely your leaders recognise that people in other countries can also read such graphs, comprehend what they mean, then consider their own holdings and take action?

    It seems truly very strange to me that at any point in time, your leaders could step back and away from the perquisites, consequences, and cushion the final blow. A mystery? Our lot down here seem to be following the same course of action. It’s nuts…



  328. Hi Liquefaction,

    In your reply to Slink, I’m left wondering why you presume that other asset classes can’t tank? At a wild guess, debt is propping many of those up, and ask yourself the question: what happens if new debt can’t prop up such things?



  329. One of the significant ramifications of a declining economy is that when on average business’s do not make any profit, no loans or credit will be available to any business. If the chances are that a business will not be able to pay back a loan, trade credit, etc. then it will not make sense for any financial institution to provide credit to business’s.
    This will make most large scale business impossible, and even those ones that might be marginally profitable may fail without the availability of credit. Even something as simple as a modern dental practice is probably not possible once credit dries up. A newly minted dentist would have no way to afford all the equipment they would need without some kind of loans. So things we think of in the current ” third world” like dentists doing procedures with a pedal drill in a drafty shack might become the norm here, not because we don’t have the technology but no one has the credit to afford it.
    We are already seeing this play out in certain business’s already. From what I can see the capital intensive large scale ” white tablecloth” restaurant business is in steep decline. While the food cart ( truck) business is booming. Because it is on a scale where an ordinary person can save up the funds for the truck and equipment and operate it themselves without employees or much working capital.
    This is also something of an answer to those who think that there will be good investments available even though most will not be good. When on average the entire business economy is not credit worthy ( at least on an institution level) then credit will not be available to enable the rare ( profitable ) business to grown and generate the desired profit to satisfy the hungry investors.

  330. For Chris, “Mar 1, 2024 — The US is taking out another $1 trillion in debt every 100 days, Bank of America strategists estimated.”

    Furthermore it’s an election year, so no taxes will be raised and no spending will be cut.

    On the other hand various people have been predicting doom since I was in high school. I remember one book where the guy was saying to invest in “junk silver” which was the old silver based coins still in circulation at the time. Only that could save you.

    If the system implodes few will be surprised, but pretty much everyone will be surprised by the timing and what exactly set it off.

  331. Hi Chris,

    I think I know what you’re getting at, and I think some assets will tank in some degree, particularly fictitious ones, but not yet. As an asset on the global-level, I think USD will tank for example, but in terms of how US people feel experience it, this translates toward hyperflation. But my point was overall being that we’ve printed (through ZIRP and other financial mechanisms) trillions and trillions of USD, not backed by any sort of real material or productive basis without repercussions (yet) due to being the petrodollar. That money’s still sloshing around and desperate to find high ROI.

    Housing prices going from $100k to $300k+ in Podunk, Ohio over the span of a few years, or the stock market ‘growing’ 30%+ yoy (particularly examples like Tesla or Nvidia being valued much higher than actual real productive entities), healthcare costs rising +XX% each year, and the proliferation of exploitative usury through Buy-Now-Pay-Later and readily available credit lines being shoved into everyones faces are examples of there being tons of money sloshing around.

    As cheap energy dwindles, all these fictitious financial instruments and speculative gambling (calling it what it is) is going to head up against that reality is that people need food to eat, shelters, energy for habitat, and energy to make a living. People can’t eat $NVDA shares. The value of a carrot can really only rise because there’s going to be so much money around chasing that carrot. The value of a barrel of oil is going to continue to rise (particularly when all that sloshing money starts chasing dwindling supplies of oil). The value of a house is going to continue to rise as supply gets depleted (climate change and so on) while plutocrats try to move money from private equity holdings to real-world holdings to protect their vast sums of wealth.

    On the other hand, the value of an Apple Share will get deflated because it’s not going to be useful. Things like cars may see deflation because masses won’t be able to afford to maintain them and the industrial base required to maintain them is crumbling.

    The Feds are now saying they’re planning on Rate Cuts again which is only going to make the problem worse with even more money added to the ocean of money sloshing around.

    Ultimately I expect we’ll generally see continued widespread inflation moving into hyperflation as cheap oil goes down and the plutocracy tries to convert all their speculative assets into real-world-assets. Hopefully that makes sense? I was rambling a lot.

    Anyways this is going to be a slow process, something I think we’ll continue to see over the coming decade(s). For now, the parties still hot, hyped up on drugs, and the music hasn’t stopped so the chairs are still empty. This means anyone not on the boat making boatloads of money for simply having money in the finance market is getting left behind, but eventually it’s going to sink and hopefully everyone got a lifeboat reserved. So keep on putting money into that 401k into VFIAX because for now it’s the only thing the system is interested in pumpin’ and only way to not lose existing money to inflation, but the music will wind down as oil winds down and I wouldn’t count on retiring from it when they dump.

  332. @Slink: If you have been putting 20% of your income in a tax deferred retirement account for several decades, you probably have quite a bit of money saved up? The market has been very good, despite what one expects in the future. If you really want to take out the money (which I am definitely not recommending) I believe the only penalty is an additional 10% tax, just on the earnings. And there are a number of situations where you might be exempt from that too. If one is really sure a financial crash is right ahead, that is a small price to pay. But make sure you have a plan for the money.

    Another option (which I also do not recommend) is that you may be able invest the money in gold or other precious metals. Real estate may also be a possibility. Many retirement plans will allow this.

    Let me repeat that I am not recommending any of this. I suspect for the near or medium future, the stock and/or bond markets remain the best choice. The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t know for sure. But these are options.

  333. I suppose this comment is pertinent.
    This week I had a flat tire because of a large screw that had mysteriously embedded itself in my driver’s-side, rear tire. Instead of hauling the car to the nearest tire repair shop, like I usually do, I bought a tire repair kit at an auto parts store and repaired it myself. I guess I’ve absorbed the DIY vibe of the age.

  334. Scotlyn at #290 comments,

    “Hmm, to include “bureaucracy” on your list of types of pollution, I have to say – that is a brilliant insight!”

    I’m fairly sure it was JMG who said it in an aside in the comment section one day. I don’t know what you’ve looked into in this regard, but if not you, perhaps others will find this interesting.

    A very useful book is Parkinson’s Law, if you can find yourself a copy – He was the person who gave us “work expands to fill the available hours,” and The Law of Triviality (how long committee participants spend talking about an issue is inversely proportional to its importance) and so on.

    This ties in with Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy –

    “in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc. The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.”

    Parkinson noted that if you as a bureaucrat felt you were a bit too busy, you’d want an assistant. But you wouldn’t feel busy at 200% workload, only at something between 110% on up, and totally overwhelmed at 150%. So if you got a single assistant, at least one of you and them would be doing a less than 100% workload. This would mean the assistant, doing essentially the same job and regarding himself as your equal, has spare time to scheme against you to achieve promotion to the next level – you’d be hiring your own rival! So the assistant had to be kept busy with pointless busywork – become less productive. Even better, hire not one but two people – being two under you, they would not regard themselves as your equal, and instead of scheming against you for the positive above you, would be scheming against each-other for your job once it became vacant. Of course, we now have 110% of a job spread among 3 people…

    This is why, as Parkinson notes, the British Colonial Office and Admiralty got larger and larger as the Empire and Royal Navy shrank. We see similar effects in large corporations too, of course – thus Musk being able to fire most of the Twitter employees without seeing any detriment to the performance of Twitter in its core functions of allowing strangers to share offensive images and abuse each-other.

    Or thinking about it more scientifically, we can think of how over time steam engines became more efficient. That is, more of the energy potential in the coal actually became motive energy for the locomotive, rather than the coal not being completely burned and leaving pollutants behind (ash, poisonous carbon monoxide, etc). Pollution is a sign of an inefficient process. But the flipside of that is that whatever is making a process inefficient can be described as pollution.

    Thus, bureaucracy is pollution.

    Bureaucracy is of course inevitable in a sufficiently complex human society. See Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies:-

  335. Ron M at #301 comments,

    “One thing that will be a contributing factor to the decline in overall population via increased death rates, at least in the ‘developed’ Western countries, will be the unravelling of publicly funded social and health services. ”

    Recently in Australia we’ve had many debates about taxation. As it is, over half of government revenue comes from income tax. But that means that if we have an ageing population, we’ll have fewer people paying taxes – at the same time as more people want to draw on expensive services.

    The article suggested some tax reforms, such as a land or wealth tax, more corporate taxes and so on. Obviously that kind of change is likely inevitable, and it can probably keep things going for another generation or so. But at some point there’ll just have to be less spending on these things. I’d expect the first change to be dropping the wages of the lowest-paid staff, the aged care workers, hospital janitors and so on. After that the cuts would be on infrastructure – no more individual rooms for aged care residents or hospital patients, waiting lists for “elective” surgery get longer and the definition of “elective” gets broadened (you’re 75 and have cancer? well you didn’t have much longer to go anyway, sorry). And the cuts would eventually make their way up the chain. Over time this would lead to people leaving the healthcare workforce, or setting up privately.

    There would – as always – still be wonderful services available for the social elites. I don’t recall ever finding out what happened to the last Senators of Rome when the barbarians came, I imagine they mostly left a year or two before and went off to Constantinople with their gold and servants – possibly the actually-useful minority of them stayed and became knights and scholars to the barbarian kings.

    Still, the majority would not have these services. And so yes, death rates would increase. However, quality of life might improve. With more people being physically active and having to grow their own food, being more reliant on local social networks of friends and family and neighbours, they might not be alive for as long, but they might live (emphasis) longer.

  336. Of interest, recently there was a report on global mental wellbeing (on six measures). Interestingly, the Anglosphere countries came out as the most miserable in the world.

    ” For the 8 English-speaking countries, the steepest declines in mental wellbeing between 2019 and 2021 were in younger age groups, amplifying the disparity between younger and older age groups already present in 2019. Those aged 18-24 and 25-34 declined between 42 and 50 MHQ points or 14-17% of the scale (Figure 2, left) while ages 35-54 declined by 30-35 MHQ points and ages 55-64 by 15 MHQ points. In contrast, those 65+ did not see much decline over this period”

    Unhappy people tend not to live as long, but they also tend not to want to have children.

    “Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka and Tanzania top the rankings […] Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan (Russian Speaking) are at the bottom of the ranking”

    Since this was an internet survey, essentially all respondents had a smartphone. However, they varied in the age at which they first got one. The researchers found that the later children got it, the happier they were. Perhaps smartphones are like the somewhat-related topic of – let’s call it “adult content” – that if you’ve a good base of personal critical thinking and resilience, you can handle it, but if you’re exposed to these things early on it’s not good.

    Consumption of ultra-processed food was also associated with being miserable. I would imagine this is both cause and effect. Diminished family bonds were also bad for people’s mental wellbeing.

    None of these insights will be a surprise to readers, I imagine.

    “Altogether this suggests that greater wealth and economic development does not necessarily lead to greater mental wellbeing, but instead can lead to consumption patterns and a fraying of social bonds that are detrimental to our ability to thrive. This cautions strongly against purely focusing on economic metrics as measures of human progress and wellbeing. Rather attention must be paid to how wealth is created and used to drive a path of holistic prosperity that is aligned with human wellbeing.”

    The flipside of this is that if being poorer materially does not necessarily make you miserable, but can in fact make you happier (you can’t afford a smartphone until later, you have to eat more unprocessed food, you have to rely on family more), then the coming decades where fewer resources are available to us will not necessarily be awful ones. Tumultuous and chaotic, certainly. But not necessarily miserable.

  337. I am currently reading a collection of George Orwell’s writing. Here is a pertinent quotation from a review of _The Reilly Plan_ by Lawrence Wolfe. The plan in question was for building new communities of houses grouped around greens, with community kitchens, childcare and shopping. Orwell admits that these self contained villages sound attractive but feels that Wolfe’s assmues that the great advantage of the scheme would be to break down what he calls the isolationism of the British, Which Orwell defines as the desire to have one’s own home and keep to oneself. Orwell notes that the British people are better off physically and economically than several decades earlier, but comments that “. . . , so far as anyone can draw an inference from its [_The Condition of the British People, 1911-45_ by Mark Abrams] figures, that we have not grown any happier or any more conscious of a reason for living. The slump in the birthrate, which Mr. Wolfe rightly deplores, has coincided with the rise in material standards. The recent Mass Observation book, _Britian and her Birthrate_, seems to show that the two phenomena are directly connected.” This review was written in 1946. A quick bit of research shows that Britian, like many nations, did have a baby boom related to the end of WW II. However, the boom ended in the late 1960s. So Orwell appears to argue that mere material security is not sufficient to inspire a “reason for living” and that lacking that, people tend to reproduce less.
    Orwell, Sonia and Ian Angus, eds. “22. Review _The Reilly Plan_ by Lawrence Wolfe. _In Front of Your Nose: The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, 1945-1950. Vol. 4_ . New York, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968., 90.
    In another essay Orwell remarks that someday we may have books written by machines and compares such a future product with the methods of the Disney Studios in mechanizing the production of cartoons by individual artists who must subordinate their individual styles. This volume is full of serendipity. It seems that I no sooner read something contemporary about problems in literature or journalism than the same problem in an earlier incarnation turns up in one of the essays I read.


  338. Patricia Matthews re women and careers. Women were not prepared for the sudden rule change about marriage in the 60and early 70s. That is a different situation from a society in which a certain progression is approved of and planned for and in which no one changes the rules mid-way. No-fault divorce jerked the support out from under women without warning and without any framework to move forward. We went suddenly from a very difficult to break contract to one that has little meaning at all. Not just the ease of divorce but the government making men responsible (in theory at least) for any children they beget. Society approving of couples living together without marriage–even to the point of feeling that those who don’t are foolish for not testing the waters. In my scenario women would not be abandoned to support school age children on their own or ty to fit further education in around mothering and part-time work. The idea was that the whole society would be set up on the premise that rearing children early in life with society’s support makes more sense than trying to jam them in between making partner at the law firm or medical group and menopause. Idealistic I know, but can’t plan for change without someone sketching on the dinner napkin.

    Has anyone noticed or commented on the fact that African nations are taking an interest in the problems of Haiti? Kenya, I believe, is talking of sending troops to restore order and I heard at least one other nation mentioned in relation to the current problem with criminal gang led revolt.


  339. J.L.Mc12 #315

    dude is definitely up for colonizing the solar system, which means he either doesn’t understand the numbers or has convinced himself fusion drives are just around the corner
    these tweets paint a less promising picture of life on the high frontier:
    he’s also a bit b***s-out with the racism for my tastes

  340. Slink – So, you’ve been putting away 20% for years, and “what have you got for it?” My question is: what else could you have done with it? If you’d bought a residential property to rent out, would you be happier working with tenants (possibly non-paying, possibly prone to vandalism) and paying property taxes? If you’d put stacks of cash under the mattress, then you’d fall even farther behind on inflation. If you bought precious metals and stacked them in your home, would you be able to sleep at night, or lie awake worrying about thieves? If you’d simply spent it, would you have anything left to show for it? If you’d donated it to a worthy local cause, would your neighborhood be a better place for all?

    Of course, all of these questions apply just as well if you consider taking money out of your retirement savings. What else would you do with it?

    US I-bonds and TIPS are government debt that pays interest pacing inflation. So, no real risk? The catch is that your interest is taxable income, so even while the notional value of the bond keeps up with inflation, taxes bleed off some of that growth. Since the real value of the bonds is constant, the taxes are actually a “wealth tax”, rather than income tax.

  341. The Consciousness Of Sheep has a recent post about population contraction. It makes many of the points I would have liked to write, but then better:

    The link to this video about population contraction on “the Continent” is worth watching (though it goes into Malthusian denialism and mindless optimism about halfway through):

    What is scary are the tradeoffs involved in population de-growth: societies need to do ever more, with ever fewer able-bodied persons. Something will have to give eventually.

    My bet is that very soon Southern Europeans will be begging the Arabs to take over, as long as they guarantee some basic services.

  342. The effects of continuing population growth in Africa over the next decades will depend very strongly on rainfall changes. As far as I can tell, nobody is actually sure how rainfall will change with the projected rising temperatures – whether droughts will increase or whether the Sahara (and Arabia) will become green again like they were in the warmer climate of 8000 to 6000 years ago.

    I search for new publications with some regularity and have now found a rather recent one by Chinese authors that projects a northward shift in the Sahara: “Countries located near the Mediterranean may thus experience higher risks of drought, while the projected retreat of the Saharan southern boundary will be beneficial to the local water availability of proximal countries.”

  343. @Aldarion said, “@thrown, thanks for the statistics about arable land. You and pygmycory consider it (theoretically) possible to support the current population through a much more equitable distribution of land and of labour. Maybe you are right… “

    I just want to make clear here that I actually agree with the broad strokes for our host’s claims about future population. A gradual (not sudden) decline, a deindustrial age where population bottoms off at 5-10% the present number – these actually seem reasonable to me to, notwithstanding my quibbling with JMG about the precise mechanisms by which we’ll get there. (And of course the point that MethyEthyl raised – about cultures that have chosen a more resource-intensive lifestyle getting to the peak/declining population stage earlier – is a valid point that I hadn’t thought of before.)

    I like to bring up statistics about arable land (and the fact that about half of it is used to grow crops that humans don’t eat) because – whatever the fate of the world as a whole – I think that you and I and other individuals are better off focusing on ways that we can make our own lives more sustainable (plus actually growing some of our own food if we have any land) rather than complaining about how the world has exceeded its carrying capacity and has too many people. The latter doesn’t tend to inspire productive action (and at it’s worst, it leads to passionate debates about which races of people there ought to be less of.) In my opinion it is much better to focus on the ways that you and I can reduce our burdens on the earth, without worrying too much about whether or not the rest of the world will follow suit.

  344. >US I-bonds and TIPS are government debt that pays interest pacing inflation

    You’re funny. May I ask who it is who is (w)reckoning that rate of inflation? And whether they have any conflict of interest in being honest about it?

    The question I have these days is whether that crowd has any idea what the real rate of inflation actually is, or do they believe their own lies they tell us? I’m beginning to think they actually believe their own marketing.

    In any case, it’s on you to calculate the rate of inflation, not them. It’s pretty safe to assume whatever they tell you is wrong.

  345. >On the other hand, the value of an Apple Share will get deflated because it’s not going to be useful.

    I dunno. It’s not really a market. So making predictions is rather hard. Unless you have political connections, and then it’s really really easy. Also see: Pelosi and Tuberville. If the 70s repeat, you might be surprised (once you back out the volatility) how stagnant nominal prices become. Notice I said minus the volatility. And nominal. And 70s.

    If we get something like Zimbabwe (oh that could NEVER happen here), then it all goes to the moon. And then keeps going until it reaches pluto. I think at the height of Weimar, Daimler-Benz traded for trillions of quatloos but if you did the math, the whole company was worth maybe 16 of the cars they sold? Things get weird when the money presses start rolling.

  346. >So many people in the mainstream expect a Star Trek Future. What they seem to forget is that future, in Star Trek canon, depends on the arrival of friendly aliens bringing us the technology needed.

    The Star Trek future also talked about the dark ages of the 21st century, where everything was barbaric and post-nuclear. It wasn’t until the 22nd or the 23rd that things got cleaned up. So even good ol’ chipper optimistic Star Trek was expecting some pretty heavy bummers, oh, about – now.

    And then there are the meme pictures of DS9 depicting life in the 2020s and then comparing those predictions to – the 2020s.

    Space. It bums you out.

  347. “Women were not prepared for the sudden rule change about marriage in the 60 and early 70s.”

    You met my mother, and for that matter my ex. The ex in particular had a problem understanding she had to make choices and could not actually have it all.

    “That is a different situation from a society in which a certain progression is approved of and planned for and in which no one changes the rules mid-way. No-fault divorce jerked the support out from under women without warning and without any framework to move forward. We went suddenly from a very difficult to break contract to one that has little meaning at all. ”

    Between 70 and 80% of divorces are initiated by the women. They leaped out of the contract because quite frankly they are paid quite well to break the contract. The Courts still refuse to give men custody of the kids, and that means she gets tax free child support, the child tax credits, head of household status, and child care deductions. He gets taxed at the full singles rate.

    So the obvious question is how to get Family Courts to stop discriminating against men. If it is not guaranteed that they will get the kids women will have an incentive to think twice about leaving, and men will have an incentive to push for better child care support at work and in law. Both sides would end up better off overall.

  348. I never comment, but I just wanted to say, this is a great article. A lot to think about here, and I’m looking forward to the future ones that you mentioned at the end. One part that really struck me is the observation about infinite growth, how our society has been conditioned to take it as gospel that growth (economic and otherwise) can just continue indefinitely. You see this nowhere else in nature, and the very concept has always seemed odd and staggeringly myopic to me.

    There will be a lot of changes in the future, but to me it’s an exciting prospect. Life is what you make of it, there are a lot of perks in our present day industrial society, but there is also a deep, anti-human undercurrent to it. Hyper rationalism run amok. Once you scratch under the surface a bit, few people seem to be very happy overall. Maybe a gradual shedding of this way of life isn’t so bad after all.

  349. Thanks Phil, (345)

    All in, I think I have over $400k in my retirement accounts. Real Estate is exactly what I’m thinking. I’ve been living in this apartment for 34 years and would love to stay here because I’m downtown in a small city where I can walk everywhere I need to go. Also, this is really an old Victorian house that was carved up into three apartments. Therefore, I could stay here and have a guaranteed source of income renting the other two apartments out that should hopefully be enough to keep me fed whatever the currency of the day might turn into.

    The problem is I probably need twice what I have to buy it free and clear, and I’m not willing to go into any kind of debt to do it. There’s a chance my father could help me out, but right now he’s planning on giving the majority of his (several million) dollars to the church. I’m keeping up some slow, but steady, pressure on him but it may take a while and I worry that ship will be sailing before I can get on board.

  350. Dear JMG,

    This week’s subject was one I hoping to see, I have asked you about population greying subject before, but it was an underwhelming essay. A subject with many causes and great consequences need multi-part essay to analyze.

    A non-working hypothese should be discarded, regardless of other options. And a monocausal hypothese for multicausal phonomenon doesn’t work. I am sorry at this stage I just don’t see your suggestion convincing.

    For the commentary group, the population decline is a problem, because while just too much of a thing is harmful, too little is also harmful. And this is a problem that will hurt any society, be they an industrial, a demi-industrial, or a de-industrial society.

    Your population is your labour force; crops and minerals don’t collest and refine themselves.

    Your population is your tax base. Without it you have less public services, which is a bad thing.

    Your population is your consumer base. Without consumers economy pretty much sink.

    Your population is your Know-How pool. Loss of that pool will ruin your everything.

    Also on a topic thats very close to Population Greying, last February was warmest on the record. And since the beginning of 2024 the sea surface temperatures have been higher compared to last year. This summer we may see more new weather anomalies.,Climate%20Change%20Service%20(C3S).

    Have a Nice day

    Berke K

  351. #Alan 342 regarding the Bloomberg article.

    The best comment I saw on that was “I believe the media is in the bargaining phase now.”

  352. Regarding JMG’s response to Clay at 159 on stupid policies. Sometimes I suspect the USA has been infected by a parasite. Some parasites numb the brain of their host; I think we’ve been “numbed.”

  353. >So many people in the mainstream expect a Star Trek Future. What they seem to forget is that future, in Star Trek canon, depends on the arrival of friendly aliens bringing us the technology needed.

    The Star Trek future also talked about the dark ages of the 21st century, where everything was barbaric and post-nuclear. It wasn’t until the 22nd or the 23rd that things got cleaned up. So even good ol’ chipper optimistic Star Trek was expecting some pretty heavy bummers, oh, about – now.

    And then there are the meme pictures of DS9 depicting life in the 2020s and then comparing those predictions to – the 2020s.

    Space. It bums you out.

    Star Trek as a planet of the week outer space action adventure show is just the window dressing. The deeper and more nuanced themes of Star Trek are overtly about species and civilizational maturity and that was the actual point that Gene was using Star Trek to make.

  354. Lathechuck (353),

    Good question. I didn’t secure a steady, good-paying job until the turn of the century and by then housing prices were already out of my reach. If it had been 10 years earlier, I would probably own my own home free and clear by now.

    But that doesn’t help me with income when I retire. If the stock market/401k goes poof, if Social Security goes poof, or inflation/dollar-devaluation makes the payouts worthless,… I got nothing. Should have taken more fancy vacations, I guess. At least then I would have happy memories to look back on.

    I’ll be 56 soon, and I’ve had a good life, so I’m okay with moving on to what comes after this incarnation. At this point I figure I won’t be able to retire. It will be like the old days. I will work until I’m physically or mentally unable to work, and from there I probably won’t need resources for long.

    It just seems like a raw deal. But them’s the breaks.

  355. @The Other Owen:
    The rate of inflation is very personal. How much your expenses change over time is your inflation rate.

  356. @Siliconguy #361
    A strange game, doctor. As a man, the only winning move is not to play the marriage game. Once upon a time, there was marriage, and both spouses protected one another in old age. That is no more; caveat emptor, never buy what you can rent. Yes, I’m 4chan poisoned on the nature of w*men; but nowadays, if a man desperately want companionship of a f*male and ask me what I think about it, I will only say “Follow your dreams”.
    May we all, men, women, and otherwise in the infinite gender spectrum reincarnate in a saner future world where we might be happy again. I am very, very tired of this bitter, neverending ride.

  357. @Clay re: economic strip-miners: I think they are not planning far enough ahead. We are heading rapidly into an economy where social capital will be far more important to survival than money. And they are not just burning off all they might’ve had, they seem to be strip-mining their own into negative territory. I don’t think this chapter of history ends well for them.

  358. @Siliconguy#361 re: “Between 70 and 80% of divorces are initiated by the women. They leaped out of the contract because quite frankly they are paid quite well to break the contract. ”

    If they were happily married to begin with, being paid well to break the contract wouldn’t have been so effective. I leaped out to save my sanity from someone who undercut me at every turn, managed to put me in the wrong for every response, and could carry on a rant longer than a 20th century Southern filibuster in the Senate. I bugged out, crying, with Dr King, “free at last, free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.” And promptly moved into a residence motel and started looking for work. Leaving behind 90%of my possessions, since there was no room for them in the motel. And walked on eggs around other people, ‘knowing’ my naked self was unbearably offensive to others. How many of those women were in the same boat? Since there are as many domestic tyrants out there as there are ravening shrews.

  359. OT: but a straw in the wind: USA Today’s top 50 books, listed by Genre; i.e. romance, humorous stories, sci-fi. At the bottom of the list was “Dune…..Literary”, followed by “Dune 9Anniversary)…Classic” My, how respectable they’ve become.

  360. “@Slink. I’m sorry to hear that is your father’s plan. I’m sure it is a good church, and of course he is free to do with his money what he wants. But wouldn’t he want help you too? Perhaps you can convince him to leave at least some to you. Or he could buy you the house outright now, and you could donate half the income to the church. Or agree to donate it to the church when your time comes.

    I expect to have something left when I pass, and there is nothing I would rather do than leave it all to my daughter.

  361. @ Chris #339
    “It boggles my mind to consider what impact that must be having on your countries national debt. If you’ve ever dared look at a chart of the projected debt, it has that unmistakable quality of an exponential curve.”

    The one thing we are not short of is hockey stick shaped graphs. None of them going the way folks want them too. 😉

  362. Hey JMG, another fine, timely and a bit contentious essay. I often see demographics and low birth rates framed in a the emotional “it’s a crisis!” article, which of course relies on the assumption an expanding economy is the ONLY economy. I don’t know what to believe on the numbers any longer, as trust in them is long gone, but the trend for many decades has been up and to the right on the charts. If population goes down from here on out, that’s a plus in my book. I bought into the problems with the “Population Bomb” as a kid in the early 1970s. I didn’t consider the reaction by many not understanding how crony capitalism worked, but wisdom isn’t part of most 12 year-old’s views, so I don’t lose sleep over it.

    One thing that has surprised me the most – the change in direction is here and now, where I thought I wouldn’t see it in my lifetime. Then again, I never thought I’d see a check from Social Security either, and I’ve gotten two so far this year. The economic contraction ahead probably won’t be evenly distributed though, so I expect now at some point to get the “old Eskimo” treatment and be shipped out on the metaphorical ice flow. I’m sure the sick-care cartel is dreaming up a fancy name for it now.

    @#215 Liquefaction – I agree that corporate greed drives alienation to make people miserable and consume more. But another driver of this is .gov, supporting propaganda, policies and legislation which promote a higher dependency on government (and thus an increase in the .gov fiefdom), division between the sexes (again, increasing the number and size of .gov agencies), and the old stand-by of fear and crime. Though I watched “Dragnet”, “ADAM-12” and “The FBI” as a kid, it was decades before I realized that was propaganda steered for increasing .gov law enforcement. We still suffer that today, with cop shows, true crime, and intel/spy series being huge chunks of the entertainment industry.

  363. >The rate of inflation is very personal. How much your expenses change over time is your inflation rate.

    So if I were to sell some bonds and promise that the coupon would vary with a rate of inflation that I get to also set…

  364. >So the obvious question is how to get Family Courts to stop discriminating against men. If it is not guaranteed that they will get the kids women will have an incentive to think twice about leaving, and men will have an incentive to push for better child care support at work and in law. Both sides would end up better off overall.

    But think of the poor lawyers! How would they ever make their Lexus payments? I see a grand vision of the future, where we all sue each other into prosperity!

    Or into something. Incentives do work. Be careful what you incentivize…

  365. @thrown: I can understand your argument and sympathize with it. Let’s not forget that the essay is about depopulation, not about population growth. People who restrict their consumption of animal products (and probably other consumption), for the good of the planet and of humanity, are unlikely to have more than two children (if any) and therefore will probably contribute to depopulation. The material outcome does not differ much whether the reduction of consumption and fertility is due to moral arguments or to a pinched budget*. I think depopulation is overall a good thing, but we also need to prepare ourselves for its negative effects, as described in the original essay.

    * The notice came in today that rents have increased on average more than 10% over the last 12 months in Canada overall, and here in my city, too.

    PS: Each continent and country needs to prepare for importing less and less food as transport prices rise. This is relevant for Canada and Germany, and it is relevant for Africa, too. That is why I am looking at changing precipitation patterns.

  366. J.L.Mc12, yeah, I follow him fairly regularly. Even when he’s wrong, he’s interesting.

    Slink, ouch. Not much, and I’m not sure there’s much you can do about it at this point.

    Chris, of course it’s nuts, but it’s a familiar kind of nuts. Do you remember this post from the Archdruid Report?

    Clay, good. You’re paying attention.

    Alan, good heavens. A clue seeps through the many filters meant to keep it out!

    Unappreciated, welcome to the wave of the future.

    Warburton, yep. Life in a falling empire generally does suck.

    Rita, that’s just it — we all had plenty of warning, and most of us went straight ahead into the current mess anyway.

    Disc_writes, thanks for this.

    Blue Sun, I saw that — a definite step in the right direction.

    Aldarion, granted. Paleoclimatological data suggest that the Chinese study is right, and southern Europe will become desert or semidesert while at least the southern half of the Sahara will start getting annual rains and transform itself into savanna — but we’ll just have to see.

    Kyle, I know quite a few people, especially in the younger generations, who feel the way you do. I have to agree; one thing we’ve learned from the great experiment in industrialism is that vast material abundance does not result in happiness.

    Berke, if you don’t like my analysis, why, I’m sure you can find something more to your taste somewhere else on the internet. Since you don’t seem to have grasped the point of the essay, that might be a good idea.

    Phutatorius, I really do have to do another post one of these days about Vico’s concept of the barbarism of reflection, don’t I?

    Patricia M, that’s almost sad.

    Drhooves, the only reason I expected to see it is that I’ve learned to trust the business-as-usual model in The Limits to Growth as a good working model of the future, and this is about where that put the peak of population. As for ice floes, this is one of the many reasons I avoid the “health” care industry!

  367. I realized a few years ago there’s a harsh reality at work here that promises to make things a lot worse: namely, the growing percentage of the population that’s elderly. Simply put, people tend to care more about the issues which affect them; this insight is the basis for democracy, which is also why under certain circumstances it can go haywire. People who are raising children tend to think more about what families need than those who have finished; and so as the elderly population increases as a percentage of the voting population, the incentive for all political parties increasingly becomes to cater to them, and malign neglect of the things which benefit families, but not the elderly, becomes the order of the day.

    As the number of people with children drops, the number of people who are deeply invested in the quality of schools, or community events, or childhood sports, or the like, steadily drops; and the consequence is that fewer people have children, simply because they feel that they cannot afford to; and as this progresses, the percentage of people who do not have children rises. This creates a positive feedback loop, which probably breaks down at some point, but not before some fairly substantial depopulation.

  368. @JMG: could you supply a link to your first post on “barbarism of reflection”? I think I missed it.

  369. A quote from another article. Better fitted to last week, and also to the theme that resilience and efficiency are somewhat opposites.

    ““The first challenge is that advances in the production of missiles and drones have democratized extremely powerful weapons that until recently were available only to the richest states,” Champion wrote. “The second is a growing asymmetry of vulnerabilities,” with the Houthis “demonstrating in real time just how target-rich developed nations are,” and the US and its allies showing that they have much more to lose than humble Yemenis.”

    And in other news,

    “BUTTE, Mont. — REC Advanced Silicon Material LLC announced it’s shutting down its polysilicon production capacity at its Butte facility. The company says the shutdown is primarily due to regional structural imbalance in supply and demand for electricity.”

    By which they mean expensive electricity and no utility will sign a long term fixed price contract because renewables don’t allow for that. Butte uses the old energy intensive Siemens process to make polysilicon. The product was super pure even by electronic standards, but the production cost was too high. Interestingly much of their output went into power controllers of the type used in EVs and utility scale inverters, not computers.

  370. Phutatorius @ 366. I agree that there is such a parasite as you mentioned. The name of the parasite is advertising (and it’s depraved little sibling, pornography). It astonishes me how the same persons who, quite rightly, IMHO, complain about porn, cannot bring themselves even to consider the corrupting influence advertising has on morals, encouraging folks to spend what they don’t have, mental stability, inducing corrosive feelings of inferiority, and citizenship, promoting what I call a doctrine of the primacy of emotion. Vote for whom or what makes you “feel good”. Never mind qualifications, record of character and achievement, policy proposals or even decency in the conduct of personal life.

    IMO, the purpose of advertising is far more than inducing people to buy certain products. What pervasive advertising does is delineate the outline of what is to be considered “respectable” behavior. Which is high consuming behavior. The new car you don’t need. The matched living room set, when your old furnishings are perfectly adequate. The new fashions, and cosmetics to go along, for women. What all of this does is support the class structure by persuading the poor and working and middle classes that the road to respectability and possibility of opportunity lies in aping the habits and “look” of wealth.

  371. Anonymous, that’s a crucial issue, and will be a major force all the way through the demographic decline.

    Phutatorius, I don’t recall whether these were the first two posts to mentions it, but they’re 11 years old so should be fairly close:

    Siliconguy, straws in the wind!

    Mary, that strikes me as a very useful analysis; thank you.

  372. I don’t know if it fits into the topic of depopulation, but it seems like roving bands of cannibal bandits have overtaken Haiti. They are led by a guy named Barbeque. They call him that because he cooks and eats people. Oh my! Haiti is not that far from the United States. I expected at least a nuclear war to happen before we get bands of roving cannibals! History seems to be unfolding very quickly.

  373. Here’s one aspect left out of this conversation thus far: Why the upper middle class isn’t reproducing despite having the resources to have large families. Women in this class feel immense pressure to work, both from their husbands, social circles, and from society at large.

    Among the people I’ve met in my neighborhood, I am the only person with a housewife, and people treat us like lepers when they find out. Here is what I have found out about them:

    Many men in this class would be aghast to have a wife that “does nothing.” Women also look down on women who “do nothing,” often despite working in professional jobs where they do next to nothing. And, the thing we hear most is, “What about the example you’re setting for your daughters?” which I find absolutely insane coming from people who rip infants out of their mother’s arms a few months after birth and give them to daycare centers.

    It’s bizarre.

  374. Somewhat off-topic, but the Biden administration just announced it “found” $300 million dollars in supposed “cost-savings” which it will use to supply more arms to Ukraine. One wonders what fancy accounting gimmickry they used to come up with this latest slush fund.

    In the meantime, Ukraine is losing the war badly and the US Army is now more than $10 billion dollars in the hole when it comes to funding and supplies thanks to all the previous aid that has been sent, and is critically short on certain categories of munitions. Of course, as most of us here already know, much of that aid disappeared into the pockets of Western and Ukrainian kleptocrats. Indeed, Western media and governments are beginning to admit the Russian military is vastly better supplied than its enemies, with recent reports claiming that Russia is now outproducing all of the NATO members combined when it comes to military equipment and supplies.

  375. JMG
    B at the honest sorcerer has just written an article called the depopulation bomb, based mainly on this post of yours and quoting you.

  376. He is European and the article focuses on Europe. You are his main source, so nothing really new, but nice to see it acknowledged and carried on.

  377. Too many comments already this week from my side, and the week is ending, but there is one thing that I have been thinking about for several months and which I now realize fits in perfectly with this week’s theme.

    In Canada, Germany and Portugal (and probably in many other countries), the lack of affordable houses and apartments has become one of the top political concerns – in Portugal it has just helped topple the government, from what I read, and in Canada and Germany it might. Both Canada (and Québec) and Germany have tried to stimulate residential building through fiscal and other means, but have fallen far short of their goals. There is certainly incompetence involved, excessive bureaucracy, quite possibly corruption. But this must be a top priority for governments, and I think the lacking zeal of construction companies goes beyond what governments can influence.

    It seems to me that the diminishing energy available per capita makes construction more expensive than buyers can afford, and the companies are quite aware of this and are therefore reluctant to build. If the trend continues, each person, on average, will be forced to occupy less and less square meters of the existing apartments and houses. Who will want to raise one, or two, or more children in a space designed for only one or two adults? Or in an apartment shared by more than one couple or family?

    If true, this would be a very direct link between a decrease in energy available from fossil fuels, and greater reluctance of young couples to have (more) children.

    I will now hold my peace.

  378. @Aldarion (#392)

    There’s more to the issue of unaffordable housing than the simple matter of fewer new constructions.

    I purchased my current dwelling 18 years ago at the then-current (but a considered a little high, as it was a sellers’ market at the time) price of $108,000. Listings for comparable properties in the same neighborhood today are asking in the range of $500,000 to $800,000. That’s an increase of about 600%. Over the same time period, my after-tax income increased, but only by about 25%. Do the math.

  379. Can someone link me to more blogs where JMG talks about depopulation? I know he has written in some about how world population will be reduced to 5% of what is now, but I don’t remember the specific blog(s).
    Thank you!

  380. Your article fits perfectly to observations I made in my daily life. Our Kids get schooled at a private school that follows he Waldorf concept, thus the people there are self selected and do not represent the average population. Among other traits two things stand out particularly at this crowd. One is a very high level of hoe production, people are gardening, sewing cloth and crafting things from pottery to houses. The second thing that stands out is fertility. Most families there have three kids, some as many as six or seven. That is way above the German average.

    I think I found the process how your predictions work out. Instead of evenly distributed population shrinkage and evenly distributed behaviour change, I observe that a small subset of the population is basically replacing the majority. A similiar trend can be observed in the US, where populations like the Amish grow while the general population declines.

    That means that the coming population shrinkage will not only lower total population, but the the composition of the populations will also change drastically. I think this trend will partially reverse the effect of mass migration, since most migrants tend to go into big urban areas where there fertility rate drops to low levels after 2 or 3 generations. Furthermore the parts of the population that grow are often very traditional and have a deep connection to their land (how else will you farm and garden?). So I think migrants that want to adopt to a non industrial world have to copy local traditional culture and behaviour, because otherwise they are stuck with a culture that has evolved for a completely different geography.

    I also agree with you idea, that many investments will lose value. However I think that knowing the trend can help to invest correctly. I would assume that settlements that existed before the industrial age will also exist afterwards, while settlements that could only exist in a fossil age will cease to exist. Thus bying property in old city centers may still be a viable investment while suburbia may not.

  381. I have never forgotten shaking your hand in London some years ago and your talk that day which recommended practising the art of ‘disintermediation’ – cut out the middle man and do as much for yourself as you can. it’s been a watchword for me ever since. Thank you for that and thank you also for that stunning obituary you wrote for your wife. What a tribute. Many condolences for your sad loss.

  382. Here in Canada our birth rate is 1.4. Our federal government introduced a $10/day day care program. However, it is income dependant and only lower incomes qualify. For most daycare is running at $1000/child/month. Our housing costs have gone skyward leaving most working adults just struggling to pay for a roof. One of my kids lives in Vancouver British Columbia probably the most expensive City. He pays $1800 for a tiny 1 bed basement suite. His take home pay is 3 k. After expenses he has nothing to save. Building costs in our area are $400/square foot. Builders are losing money on spec houses. In short the middle class dream of home ownership and retirement is dead for all but the higher incomes.

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