A lot of people seem to have trouble putting two and two together. They’re concerned about the demographic problem so many developed countries are facing on the one hand, and on the other they’re worried about global warming and environmental degradation. Perhaps it’s a good thing that one of the nations most threatened by both these problems is Japan. As Mark Steyn points out, her population peaked at 127.8 million in 2004, and will drop to 89.9 million by 2055 if current trends continue. She will, therefore, be among the first nations that will be forced to solve the problem one way or another. Her people are conservative and aren’t good at assimilating foreigners. Even if they were, Japan isn’t an easy place for potential immigrants to reach, illegal or otherwise. It may be that’s a good thing, both for Japan and the rest of us. It will be good for Japan because she will likely be forced to solve the problem without inundating her islands with immigrants whose language and/or culture is alien to her own. It will be good for the rest of us because it will demonstrate that, for better or for worse, the problem can be solved without risking cultural, political and environmental suicide.
Clearly, we cannot put off the demographic problem forever. We and Canada can import the entire populations of Central and South America, and Europe can import the entire populations of North Africa and the Near and Middle East, but, eventually, the problem will just come back. No nation can support an infinite population. The problem must be faced, and, if it must be faced, it is better to do so with a population that is not wracked by ethnic tensions and that is not so large that the available environmental resources can no longer safely support it.
Human beings can survive without national health care programs. They can even survive with reduced social security benefits. They will have somewhat more difficulty surviving on the planet if we degrade the environment to the point of collapse. Our environment is already threatened by excessive population. When will it be seriously threatened? Depending on your point of view, it may be now, it may be at some distant date in the future, or it may already have been decades ago. It doesn’t matter. The question is one of risk. How much longer will it behoove us to risk the environment of the planet by forcing the growth of our populations to support government entitlement programs? I suspect we should have abandoned this dubious method of “solving” our problems a long time ago.
Why? Our environmental problems are obvious enough. The environmental impact of increasing the population in developed countries is substantially greater than similar increases in less developed countries. As for the wisdom of tolerating unlimited immigration by culturally alien foreigners, you might want to ask the Serbs how that worked out for them in Kosovo. For that matter, we have legions of subject matter experts right here in the United States who are quite capable of analyzing the potential outcome of the complexities of population dynamics in such cases. You will find them on any Indian reservation.
It would be wise for the developed nations to severely curtail immigration, accept the natural declines in their populations, and reduce entitlement benefits to sustainable levels. If they don’t now, they will eventually be forced to under much less favorable conditions, and that in the not too distant future. So much seems obvious to me. However, I realize that, at least in the United States, there are powerful blocs of opinion on both the right and the left that, whether they worry about possible declines in our economic and military power, or are concerned their “progressive” social programs will be threatened, are prepared to deny the obvious indefinitely as we stumble into an uncertain future. As a result, for the time being, rational action along the lines I’m suggesting is probably out of the question. One can only hope that Japan, fortuitously protected from the worst of these threats in spite of herself by miles of ocean and cultural taboos, will serve as a role model for the rest of us in the way she solves her demographic problem. Perhaps her solution will be sufficiently elegant to convince the rest of us to follow her example rather than continuing to risk cultural and environmental suicide.