One more threat.
One of the key subjects dealt with in this site is the threat posed to the planet and its people by hazards such as asteroids, comets, or gamma ray bursts, to
name but a few. To this list we now add one more - the dangers posed by declining fertility, whether male or female.
Continued fertility may be something we take very much for granted and it goes without saying that the propagation of the human race depends on it. Without
fertile individuals there is no chance of replenishing our species and the human race would become extinct in a very short time. It follows then that any threat to human reproductivity is
something to be taken very seriously. This is made all the more important because as this feature illustrates fertility is in decline, populations are diminishing, and there is clearly a
problem that needs to be dealt with. But are we doing enough to solve it? This short feature takes a look at the implications and their impact on the world of the future.
Sharply reduced birth rates.
On the face of it a declining population may not seem a bad idea. It was not too long ago that many experts feared a population explosion that would lead to a
world that was overcrowded and unable to provide for itself. Now the situation has changed quite dramatically. In many parts of the world populations are in sharp decline. At least 60
countries now have a birth rate substantially lower than the level needed to maintain themselves at a useful level. This is particularly noticeable in the Western World where birth rates have
slumped quite dramatically.
However this phenomenon represents more of a voluntary decline in population as people either refuse to have children or have them later than was once thought normal.
Far more worrying is the threat posed to population levels by declining fertility. For instance a whole wealth of studies provide chilling proof that male sperm
counts have declined at least 50 per cent within the last 50 years. Many experts find these figures alarming and emphasise the need for yet more detailed studies to not only find out the true
extent of the problem but also pinpoint its causes and possible remedies. They warn that failure to act now could leave us open to an infertile timebomb that may eventually come to threaten
the entire human race with extinction. However not all experts agree. They point out that most studies were conducted with poor control group comparison and say that in some nations there is
even evidence of population growth together with increased fertility.
The truth is that most scientists now accept that worrying changes are taking place in the human reproductive mechanism, and one thing is for certain -
population levels are in sharp decline. We have already seen that part of the reason is a purely personal choice of not having children or postponing parenthood until much later in life. This
trend is reversible but in the meantime will heap dramatic changes on the social fabric of the world of the future.
Problems for the future.
In many western countries, particularly in Europe it is estimated that by the year 2025 there will be an extremely large age imbalance. The elderly will far out
number young people in the under 20 category and this poses alarming problems for self administration. Mainly these involve difficulties as to how such a society will provide for itself when
most of its citizens are retired and elderly. Some believe that the only way of doing this is by relaxing immigration laws and making up for the short fall in workers by taking in immigrants
from countries with a superior birth rate such as those in the Middle East.
Not far off.
At present birth rates the above mentioned scenario is largely unavoidable and already we are witnessing the advance signs of this. Western nations are seeing
huge gaps in certain professions and these positions are increasingly being filled by qualified migrants who are unable to find suitable employment in their country of birth. This looks set
to become a continuing trend through all categories of skill, and the face of the western world is set to change quite dramatically.
Some quite rightfully point out that the arrival of vast numbers of immigrant workers is bound to cause problems of social integration. Indeed tensions already
exist, but although short term difficulties may occasionally produce unwanted headlines the integration of people from around the world does present a unique opportunity towards greater
understanding on a global level. In this respect the current situation could have a positive outcome in producing a greater solidity of respect and tolerance.
Although decline in birth rates because of personal decisions on a voluntary level will undoubtedly lead to a fundamentally altered world perspective it does
little to threaten the continuity of the worlds population. On the other hand declining fertility does have alarming implications. Too little research has been done on the subject and we are
no nearer pin pointing its causes. Vague theories involving global warming, pesticides, or increased radiation
from household items have all been mooted as possible causes but so far there is no tangible or definitive evidence that any combination of these is responsible for this worrying decline in human fertility.
And yet we need to find the reasons, and find them fast!
While it is true that not all nations have seen a similar decline, the truth is that if the next fifty years shows a similar drop in fertility then the human
race will be pushed to the very boundaries of extinction. Consequently it is imperative that we find answers if for no other reason than our continued existence may depend on it.
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