Japan Sees Shrinking Population as a Good Thing

The more I think about population growth the more worried I become. I wrote my novel Patriarch Run, in part, as a therapeutic release for this anxiety. However, all the activity in the lead up to the October 4 release of the thriller has given me some peace of mind. For example, I recently received an amazing email from John Seager, President and CEO of Population Connection. John cited some facts in his email that were really uplifting and concluded:

...the facts demonstrate that we’ve made more progress on meeting the population challenge than on any other issue of similar global magnitude.

I simply wasn't aware that that much progress had been made.

There's another piece of good news. From talking to many leaders on the population issue, I've learned that the population taboo is not as big an issue for millennial's as it was for prior generations. Which means the problem is easier to talk about. Which makes it easier to take action.


As for the final piece of good news: yesterday I read an article in Reuters. Before stumbling across this article, I thought population reduction was certain to create big economic trouble. Now I'm open to other possibilities. Here's an excerpt of the article:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan's aging, shrinking population was not a burden, but an incentive to boost productivity through innovations like robots, wireless sensors and Artificial Intelligence....
"I have absolutely no worries about Japan's demography," Abe said in a prepared speech at a Reuters Newsmaker event, noting that nominal gross domestic product had grown despite losing 3 million working-age people over the last three years.
"Japan may be aging. Japan may be losing its population. But these are incentives for us," he said.
"Why? Because we will continue to be motivated to grow our productivity," Abe added, citing robots, wireless sensors, and Artificial Intelligence as among the tools to do so.
"So, Japan's demography, paradoxically, is not an onus, but a bonus."

Japan seems to have a very intentional approach to the size of its population. The idea is to let the population shrink to 100 million people by 2060 by raising the fertility rate from 1.4 to 1.8 births per woman. The replacement fertility rate would be about 2.1.

I wonder what it would be like for us to consider an ideal size for the U.S. population. To be intentional about our birth rate so that we don't experience unintended, catastrophic consequences to exponential population growth. At the very least, we should be talking about it, right?

Benjamin Dancer

Benjamin is the author of the literary thriller Patriarch Run, the first book in a series that will include Fidelityand The Story of the Boy. He also writes about parenting, education, sustainability and national security.

Benjamin works as an Advisor at a Colorado high school where he has made a career out of mentoring young people as they come of age. His work with adolescents has informed his stories, which are typically themed around fatherhood and coming-of-age.

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