Depopulation Boom

Thursday, February 07, 2013

U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves, Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announce the first results of the 2010 Census during a press con U.S. Census officials announce the first results of the 2010 Census during a press conference in Washington, D.C. on December 21, 2010 (Getty Images)

Jonathan V. Last, senior writer at The Weekly Standard and the author of What to Expect When No One's Expecting: America's Coming Demographic Disaster, says Americans face a looming threat of population shrinkage.



Jonathan V. Last

Comments [76]

Amy Phillips Bursch from Washington, D.C.

There is no shortage of American babies. Yes, our birthrate has dipped slightly below replacement -- just like it does every time there's a recession. America is still growing, and growing quickly. Our current population is around 315 million. We're expected to surpass 400 million around 2051. That means finding adequate water, space, energy, and good jobs for an additional 86 million or so Americans. Meanwhile, 16 million American children live in poverty. Instead of demanding that Americans produce more babies, why don't we invest in the ones who are already here? That would probably do more to boost the GDP.

Feb. 08 2013 09:47 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Brian Lehrer was puzzled about social security for seniors leading to couples having fewer children. On one hand, one has children in part to help in one's old age, one might see it as unnecessary if one has social security.

But also, if one is taking care of seniors, one's house is set up to take care of family, and can take care of children, and seniors (who now can't move away) are there to help raise the children. Sounds very human.

Feb. 08 2013 05:57 AM
Paul Cycle3man from Geat Neck, NY

Regarding Overpopulating the earth!
Not to worry about over populating the earth, nature has built in a self regulating mechanism!

I will illustrate what I mean by a simple circumstance and then extend the idea to humans.

During an earlier time of my life I owned and carefully maintained a tropical fish tank. From time to time I would new species to the tank. I loved the variety. And after some time the tank became very busy. After a short time I notice one or two fish became sick with tail rot and sure enough died. And sure enough many of the fish became sick and died. So I cleaned the tank and started over. Add certain point the fish died in the same method as I first experienced. I had a talk with the owner of the store where I bought the fish. He explained that each fish of a particular specie requires a define volume of water in order to survive. If that condition is not met the fish become sick and die.
I believe the same principle applies to humans. There must be a given amount of space that is required to support each human on earth. If the earth becomes over populated good old Mother nature would find a way to kill off enough people by some means (Plague, flood etc) so that those that remain would survive!

Feb. 07 2013 11:04 PM

Mr. Last's assertions are "cockamamy".

Every "Last" one.

Feb. 07 2013 07:11 PM
Larry from Nyack

I wish our friend dboy, whose terse comments can sometimes be right on the mark or even humorous, would in this case explain to which post is he exclaiming "cockamamy" and to which point?

Feb. 07 2013 02:25 PM
David from NYC

After thinking about this for a while.
What this guy wants is a world with more Adam Lanza's, more children
who become lost in the maze of life and with more and more outcomes
that aren't good.

Feb. 07 2013 02:18 PM


Feb. 07 2013 12:38 PM
Larry from Nyack

One of the true tragedies caused by our current economic system deals with land use and food production. To deal with increasing population worldwide, we automated, mechanized and intensified our “industrial agriculture” in the US, creating great profits now to those who got on board [and with the help of Farm Bill subsidies].

We took prime farm land in the 1800’s, originally with dozens of feet of ancient topsoil [much of which has blown or eroded away by farming techniques] and are left with shallow topsoil today.

We irrigated farmland with river water and wells leaving soils salty and unproductive. We discovered major ancient underground aquifers, like the huge Ogallala aquifer [running from South Dakota down to Texas], that we’ve drained dry in some places creating ghost towns where once there were farms, and which will soon be empty leaving parts of the “bread basket” unproductive.

We have funded agricultural research over the past 70 years to produce the very best single kind of corn or wheat or soy for the moderate climate of the past half century, but we’re unprepared for warmer, drier crop growing conditions that are starting already as the climate and oceans warm up.

We are shocked by two-year droughts in the South but seem oblivious to the 100-year droughts scientists have found in the historic records of dry-lakes in California.

The least we need is more people to deal with what’s coming.

Feb. 07 2013 12:31 PM
Brenda from Brooklyn

I second Bob's view that this guy is an asshole. I can't believe he's allowed to get away with this kind of crap that he claims is science and data while dismissing "annoying" environmental concerns as a kind of a theology. Really!

How about bringing Paul Ehrlich on the show to balance this out this nonsense. Need some "newsy" thing, well, Ehrlich recently published a scientific paper titled "Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?" in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.


Feb. 07 2013 12:20 PM

Henry from Manhattan ~

Ol' jgarbuz has NEVER been burdened by logic.

Feb. 07 2013 12:12 PM
Henry from Manhattan

jgarbuz from Queens said:
“Resources are not limited… There is no shortage of resources.”

jgarbuz from Queens then said:
“Land is one resource that is hard to manufacture.”

Bingo. Less than a third of the biosphere surface is habitable and we still have to grow food on that bit and have enough healthy natural spaces to help maintain the global ecosystems.

Sure, there’s room for more people, and projections are clear, there will be 2 billion more by 2050, but homo sapiens should get used to the idea running economies that are not dependent on population growth.

Feb. 07 2013 12:06 PM

I am tired of hearing WNYC giving precious air time to bogus,
right wing, anti-science commentators. There's a place for those
people that starts with an F, and ends with an X!

Feb. 07 2013 12:03 PM

Larry from Nyack ~

Fantastic analogy - well put.

Feb. 07 2013 11:57 AM

I've got ONE.

...doesn't even cover parental replacement.

I LOVE kids. I wish I could afford more but, I made the decision that the WORLD/NYC can't afford it any more than I can!

Feb. 07 2013 11:55 AM
Henry from Manhattan

Minivans are not emasculating, that’s just some stupid sexist cultural assumption.

A utilitarian vehicle that meets the needs of the consumer (a man with a family) is an intelligent and rational decision, if that’s what we’re taking “masculine” to mean.

If you feel you should be driving a cramped overpriced two-door sports car that achieves some pointless race-car specs to tool around your neighborhood at 35 mph, because you think it’s masculine, well, that’s not all that intelligent or rational and is more emotionally driven decision, what used to be considered a “feminine” motivation in a less egalitarian world.

Keep in mind that the founding fathers of the United States were manly-men who wore wigs, frilly fancy shirts with decorative long coats, and pantaloons with stockings.

Feb. 07 2013 11:55 AM
John A

Just bought the book online. That's a first, JVL and BLshow. Congratulate yourselves. (The Amazon reviews played a strong part too)
Dboy, you're probably gone now, but I believe you said earlier that you had a young kid. So stop complaining! Tony&Sara: LOL!

Feb. 07 2013 11:47 AM
Larry from Nyack

I believe that it's about time that the religious right stop believing that what was written in the Bible 3800 years ago, or in the Quran or in the Book of Mormon, is applicable today: "Go forth and multiply."

We are on the "Spaceship Earth," a lifeboat that has some limits to its capacity. Reaching one of those limits -- food, water, fossil fuels, minerals, investment capital -- will cause a massive decline in the world's population within a few generations.

Part of the problem is the failure of classical economics to deal with the externalities of pollution, depletion and waste. Economists assume we can continue growth forever, which obviously is impossible. They expect continued growth in productivity forever, despite the overwhelming problem today of big business shedding jobs while trained college grads can’t get work.

The average first-world consumer thinks nothing of driving her BWM or his SUV while robbing his grandchildren of a declining fossil fuel resource. Those with three or more children don’t see that their family is increasing 50 percent or more, yet they have not added one gallon of drinkable water, one bit of waste treatment capacity, one more school seat or useful job - - this can’t continue.

So I applaud the lowering of both the birth rate and hope the future population size decreases by rational means not by the catastrophes of war, famine, drought, and plague. We are nearing the major dislocations we’ll have to face due to oceans rising, with tens of millions of Americans facing relocation from low-lying areas this century. Better to face that reality now than to worry about some future failure to continue the good life and its so-called entitlements. The lifeboat is much too full already.

Feb. 07 2013 11:46 AM

Fortunately for him, this guys is a far better talker than he is a thinker!!

Feb. 07 2013 11:46 AM

"College costs are so high because there aren't enough students to spread the cost over."

Beyond moronic.

Feb. 07 2013 11:44 AM

"Abortion from Larchmont


Feb. 07 2013 11:43 AM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

"Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time. For y'all have knocked her UP ..."

Feb. 07 2013 11:43 AM
Ed from Larchmont

College costs are so high because there aren't enough students to spread the cost over.

Feb. 07 2013 11:41 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Throughout this interview, I couldn't help but think of the famous line from "Blazing Saddles" which ends "...but not the Irish!"

Feb. 07 2013 11:39 AM


Feb. 07 2013 11:38 AM
Brian from Lower Manhattan

The guest said the environment has improved in the past 100 years. Let's take 1 topic: the ocean. The ocean has degraded at an alarming rate since the population explosion over the past 100 years. Coral reef bleaching, fishery decline, dead zones, floating plastic islands... The list goes on and on. This can directly by associated with the increased need from a growing population. Now take a look at deforestation, global warming, desertification, species extinction, polluted water ways, air pollution...

Feb. 07 2013 11:37 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Soyinka calls gayness a "personal choice".

Feb. 07 2013 11:35 AM


Feb. 07 2013 11:34 AM

John A: the curse of private health insurers is one example of an obstacle everyone can relate to. But by all means hijack the subject to accommodate anti-feminist men when women are responsible for more of the burden...we're accustomed to it.

Feb. 07 2013 11:34 AM

Folks might have more children if the party that he's represents were NOT AGAINST every single program designed to support families and children!!

Number-crunching KLOWN®!!

Feb. 07 2013 11:30 AM
Tony from Canarsie

I'm detecting a distinct 18th century xenophobia vibe from your guest. Not that I'm surprised, being that his magazine supports the modern-day Know Nothing party.

Feb. 07 2013 11:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Resources are not limited. The sun provides massive amounts of energy. We have only begun to use it. New materials, such as nanotubes, are being created in laboratories and will soon be making up many of our new products and structures. THere is no shortage of resources. They just have to be used more judiciously. And we don't need suburbs. Most people will be living in mega cities soon, if not doing so already. Suburbs take up too much scarce land. Land is one resource that is hard to manufacture.

Feb. 07 2013 11:28 AM
David from NYC

More poor people having babies, sounds like a plan to
keep the poor poor.....

Feb. 07 2013 11:28 AM
MC from Manhattan

Most Mexicans I see here in New York City are from the south of Mexico. They are largely genetically Native Indigenous in their racial make up. They remind me of all my relatives in Arizona and New Mexico. As a Native American, I am very happy and proud to see my people return here after being pushed out.
They belong here as much as I do. When I see them with 3 kids I often say to my self "two to replace and one for the race!"


Feb. 07 2013 11:28 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

I wonder what his solution to the destruction of our water supply through fracking. What kind of future are we leaving the next generation. HE wants us to make more kids at the expense of making those very lives much more miserable than our own.

Feb. 07 2013 11:27 AM


Please, go procreate on Mars!!

Feb. 07 2013 11:27 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The data may not be subjective, but interpretations are.

Feb. 07 2013 11:26 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Wow. Just focusing on the white middle class? He's a joke. NEXT!

Feb. 07 2013 11:26 AM

I hear so many men discussing this topic in terms of dry numbers, and no one ever thinks to ask if some women simply have the desire to bring a child into the world.

Feb. 07 2013 11:26 AM
Jeff from East Village

Did guest really refer to oldsters as "drooling and watching 'Jeopardy' ?" That says more about the guest than he knows.

Feb. 07 2013 11:25 AM
Bob from Brookyln

THis guy is an ass hole. very dumb and anti science. He's annoying.

Feb. 07 2013 11:25 AM
fuva from harlemworld

3 kids can absolutely fit in the back of a sedan.

Feb. 07 2013 11:24 AM

"Mini van", say NO MORE!!

Feb. 07 2013 11:24 AM

This guy is a shortsighted ass!!


Feb. 07 2013 11:23 AM
Juli from Skillman, NJ

This is completely illogical. We have resource scarcity. The more people that exist cause a thinning in availability of resources for everybody. The demand will always be there even if the population goes down. It will just come closer to a satiety level. He is saying that the demand will go down. He is wrong. There will always be demand for what we are able to produce.

SP from NYC below also makes a VERY good point. Humans are overcrowding this planet and taking it away from every other species.

I have to ask what is driving the data in this book assuming the standard manipulated nature of statistics. Is this writer pushing some religious ideology or some other right winged rhetoric?

Feb. 07 2013 11:23 AM
GW from Manhattan

Rising productivity and technological innovation are the answers to many of these problems and unfortunately when we think the sky is falling we often do not factor in this important exception.
Unless you create a politics and economy that supports equal access and a more fair distribution of wealth and access you can not begin the conversation as it is framed

Feb. 07 2013 11:23 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

One solution to lessen health care burden is to allow people to kill themselves when they are too old to take care of themselves. We should destigmatize suicide.

Feb. 07 2013 11:22 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Agricultural societies,when most people were farmers, as was still the case in the US well into the 1920s, the farm was "social security." The children were needed to work the farm, and most old people died early because of hard work and little access to doctors and health care.
Social security came about due to the movement of people from farms to factories. No more land to live off of. No need for so many children to work the land. So some kind of pension for old people had to be created. It was first implemented by Bismarck in GErmany in 1885. Finally got to the US in 1935.

Feb. 07 2013 11:22 AM
Henry from Manhattan

A troubled system dependent on having enough young people to pay into services for the elderly is a far more solvable economic problem than facing an unsustainable human population growth rate on a planet of finite resources.

Feb. 07 2013 11:22 AM
sp from nyc

The speaker's point on Social Security is dead wrong. If we had to support our parents in old age, we would have fewer, not more, children. The money has to come from somewhere.

Feb. 07 2013 11:22 AM

Bob from Brooklyn ~

You're saving a whole bunch of keystrokes!!

Thank you!!

Feb. 07 2013 11:21 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

So now he's attacking social security and promoting religion!?

He's from the WEEKLY STANDARD.

Feb. 07 2013 11:20 AM

Population cannot expand forever. We will have to deal with stabilization or decline at some point. Better we do it before we have environmental collapse, no? And what about economic theories that suggest declining population leads to more equitable distribution of resources?

Feb. 07 2013 11:19 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The issue is not just how many children immigrants to the US have. The other side of how immigrants assimilate is how they consume & pollute, & the US is still doing that far out of proportion to its percentage of the world's population.

Feb. 07 2013 11:18 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

This guest just wants more wage slaves for his corporate masters.

Feb. 07 2013 11:16 AM
Stephanie from Colorado

In the past didn't depopulation happen because of bad societal problems. Today, doesn't a lot of depopulation happen because of birth control? Isn't that a totally different phenomena?

Feb. 07 2013 11:16 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Yes, the fertility rate is an issue. But let's not overlook the importance of raising the existing kids correctly, sustainably. We still need to promote progressive parenting and the adoption of kids who are neglected, in foster care, etc.

Feb. 07 2013 11:15 AM
Mike from Tribeca

How will this effect your boss William Kristol's future profits?

Feb. 07 2013 11:15 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The problem with the "depopulation boom" is that what you get is indeed, as your guest is saying, that we get many OLD people, like myself, being supported by a shrinking base of young people who will have to work harder and pay more taxes to support us old fogies. Ideally, the demographics should be such that the population replaces itself at an even rate of one for one, or at least two children per couple. And, of course, healthy older people will have to work longer as well.

As for heavier unrestricted immigration, that creates minority ethnic problems, because by definition, a minority is always feeling discriminated against, whether it is true or not. Too much immigration will Balkanize America. Immigration has to be such that the rate of assimilation into American culture is not upset. The US is a nation of settlers and immigrants, but at this point, immigration has to be geared to America's needs today, not in 1880.

Feb. 07 2013 11:15 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Thank you caller for bringing some sense and science into the conversation.

Feb. 07 2013 11:15 AM
Eli Friedmann from astoria

call me crazy...but isn't one of the largest issues on this planet OVERpopulation?
even considering the age inversion issue (obviously a valid concern)....big picture is that climate change among many other issues are due to too many people using too much energy.

Feb. 07 2013 11:15 AM
Ellen from chelsea

worldwide, when women have access to birth control, birth rates fall - this ain't rocket science.

Feb. 07 2013 11:14 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Sounds like this guest is very selfish for producing three kids.

Feb. 07 2013 11:14 AM
john from office

Thank GOD for the Latino people, we will save America!! Keep pushing out those kids!!!

Feb. 07 2013 11:13 AM
Ed from Larchmont

In Russia they're paying couples to have childrena and they're not doing it - some countries are at 1.2 or so.

Feb. 07 2013 11:12 AM
John A

Guys complaining about not enough children. Ready your antifeminist armor. Unfortunately I am at an age where I've essentially stopped caring. To take such a position is just to be the but of antiman jargon in this day and age. Good news is that there is some evidence that the generation after me is mildly postfeminist, I hope for this progress even if it has to come after me.

Feb. 07 2013 11:11 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

What this shows is that American-style capitalism is a pyramid scheme.

Feb. 07 2013 11:11 AM
sp from nyc

Humans are crowding every other species off the planet, destroying the natural world, overheating the planet. All these problems would be solved by fewer people. Definitely we don't need more.

Feb. 07 2013 11:11 AM

I would love to have children, but work is so unstable, rent and insurance so high, that unless I become rich, I don't see how it can happen.

Feb. 07 2013 11:11 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

Warm bodies for the military? The fewer the better.

Feb. 07 2013 11:10 AM

the cost of high quality child care is prohibitive

Feb. 07 2013 11:10 AM
Sara from Forest Hills

Tony from Canarsie -- Being a curmudgeon myself, I ask what took so long?

Feb. 07 2013 11:09 AM
Bob from Brooklyn

People aren't having kids because it costs way, way, way too much to raise them. You can't put a kid through school and pay for your retirement and keep up with basic expenses on the average income. People are in debt because the system requires debt-slaves to function. The game is over.

Feb. 07 2013 11:09 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Being a misanthrope, I say it's about time.

Feb. 07 2013 10:46 AM

Will this segment show that the "pat-ourselves-on-the-back" hubris of the segment on the "Big Drop in Teen Pregnancy Rates" (broadcast on February 6th) was manipulated to showcase and falsely credit "progressive" social policies?

Feb. 07 2013 10:27 AM

are people becoming more selfish?

Feb. 07 2013 10:05 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Precisely. All we're seeing in the economic problems of the country is predicted by demographics: not enough young people to start businesses, pay into social security, pay into medicare.

It's worse in Japan, Russia and Europe (also Eastern Europe, but not in Muslim countries), so we can see where it's going - but it's all the result of abortion.

At a nearby nursing home it costs residents $12,000 a month to stay, Medicare (or Medicaid). How can that be supported with fewer young people?

It's interesting that in hindsight one of the most damaging books ever written was a small innocent sounding book called 'The population bomb' by
Paul Ehrlich.

See the video Demographic Winter.

Feb. 07 2013 08:10 AM

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