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Gray Planet: The Politics of Global Aging

Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012

In the early 1970s, demographers began to spot a new pattern of human behavior that they had never seen before. In 1970, when Sweden, Finland and Denmark conducted their annual tallies of births and deaths for the previous year, the numbers suggested that young adults were having so few children that they would not succeed in replacing their generation.

This finding contradicted all reigning theories of human population. Until then, demographers, as well as thinking people in general, had always believed that human beings would inevitably produce more than enough children to sustain the population -- at least until plague, famine or nuclear winter set in. It is an assumption that not only conformed to our long experience of a world growing evermore crowded, but that also enjoyed the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas Malthus and Charles Darwin. ...

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