The lead story in a recent Sunday Tribune (1/27/13) was a warning about the “dangerous pattern” of declining populations in various American cities, suburbs and states.
Focusing on the Chicago area, the headline screamed, “Where are the kids?” The report went on to offer dire scenarios about the declining number of children and how this will impact the social and financial stability of the region.
On the one hand, I believe the article offered a series of stunning statistics that we have to deal with. According to the U.S. Census Bureau from 2000 to 2010, Illinois had a 6.2 percent drop in children under 10 years of age.
This statistic has an immediate impact on school curriculums and budgets, and theoretically has a long term impact on the number of future workers, and the number of tax payers who will be able to sustain pensioners and the other social/medical support systems necessary for an aging population.
I do not have any issues with the numbers and problems highlighted by the article. But I do not think the problem is really as much about under population as it is an issue of demographic shifts. Yes, these changes need to be addressed, but for me, the real issue facing Chicago, Illinois, the United States, and the world is not under population, but over population.
According to National Geographic Magazine in 2012, the population of this planet surpassed seven billion people, and according to some demographics, our population will be nine billion by 2050.
Seven billion, nine billion…and ??? Frankly, these numbers represent a much larger threat and problem than local demographic shifts in school age children and an insufficient tax base to fund social service agencies.
I believe that the single greatest threat to environmental, economic, and social/political sustainability is over population. The needs and demands of seven billion people endanger the very foundations of life itself. As a people, and as a planet, we need to ask ourselves some very hard and basic questions. Looking beyond the particular issues of local demographic changes, given our present and future expanding population, can we, in the near future, provide food, water, energy and social/economic opportunity and hope for all?
Al Gini is a Professor of Business Ethics and Chairman of the Management Department in the Quinlan School of Business at Loyola University Chicago.