Saturday, October 29, 2005

Good On Ya, Oprah

Some things are truly mind-boggling. Just recently our government seemed to come to the starling realization that Canada should boost its immigration quotas because we are heading towards low and even negative population growth. To be fair, Canada has had one of the best immigration records on the planet; per capita we even do better than the great magnet that is the USA — at least we did last time I really looked at the numbers — but, immigration notwithstanding, our fertility rates point to the inevitability of a future population decline.

What boggles me is that it simply isn't news! Approximately twenty years ago, we were aware of this impending scenario in a high school course that I taught. High school, not university, not a think tank full of post-doctorate genii: High School! In fact nothing but a walloping big change in immigration could alter this fact. Given fertility trends — the fact that Canadian women are only bearing about 1.5 children — population decline is almost inevitable. The same trends are occurring in every developed country by the way; and, this process is even further advanced in Europe than it is in North America and Australia.

By way of note: replacement fertility level is 2.1. If women bear an average of 2.1 children, that is just enough to replace the current population over the long haul.

So, how does this suddenly become newsworthy when my lowly high school students were aware of these trends twenty years ago? It boggles the mind I tell you.

This whole scenario resurfaced in my consciousness just a few days ago when Oprah did a show on Global Warming. Once again, this material is not new, nor should it be news. But it seems that it is. I don't have the time or energy to go into the particulars here, and it's all on her website anyway, but I find it just a tad mind-boggling that not everybody knows about it, really knows about it and is tremendously concerned about it. Once again, high school students in this obscure blogger's classes were very much aware of the Global Warming issue a long, long time ago.

Yes, I know that one scientist in every 49 billion or so, says that s/he doesn't concur. But who wants to take the chance that the almost-solitary naysayer is correct? In overwhelmingly large numbers, scientists believe that human activities are having a tremendous influence on the environment. Back twenty years ago, we were learning that warmer isn't better, that the pace of warming was such that the environment could not properly adjust, that warming meant that weather would be more unpredictable and exacerbated. Droughts might be more frequent and more pronounced, for example; hurricanes too!

I wish to be neither a doomsday prophet nor an "I told you so," kind of guy. All I'm saying is that I shake my head when leaders, countries, and people seemed to be shocked to be now discovering these things — in the year 2005 C.E.

But I will tell you this, however. I will tell you that my hat is off to Oprah. It was just a day or two before that show that I turned to Cuppa and remarked on her great intelligence (Oprah's I mean although I hasten to assure you that Cuppa is a clever lady too). By times, I would like to throttle her (once again, Oprah, not Cuppa) for interrupting her guests ad nauseam, and I have sometimes suggested to Cuppa that Oprah might just as well interview herself every day. But she is a very smart lady, and, beyond that, she is wise. And she has a voice, a very big voice. As she educates the public, perhaps the politicians will begin to do their jobs.

Perhaps I am dreaming, but Good On Ya anyway, Oprah.

(It boggles my mind how many times I used "mind-boggling" in this blog.)



swamp4me said...

Perhaps I read too quickly (for fear that Earthlink would hang up on me)or perhaps I need to go to Oprah's site to fully appreciate the point you are making...
To my mind, slowing population growth worldwide is an excellent thing. Perhaps you are referring to the "whys" of this drop in birthrate...I'll be back after I see what O has to say.

Bonita said...

Darn, I missed Oprah! I'll check her site. And, thanks for pointing out that this is an issue that you taught years ago...well, now people are paying attention, thank goodness.

Anvilcloud said...

Swamp, I was just linking two points -- both things that people should have been aware of long ago and wondering how they could have been missed. The only one mentioned on her show was Global Warming.

Slowing population growth in certain countries and even worldwide is IMO a good thing. But population decline in specific countries will have repercussions. Although it's hard to fathom, they are different issues. Perhaps I should blog that a little more fully someday.

swamp4me said...

I have a window of opportunity to comment! Yes, I am fully aware of the ramifications of uneven population growth throughout the world. I discussed this very issue with my 8th graders when we were studying population and with my 12th graders in physics when we were discussing the effects of humans on the environment. There is an excellent exercise in a program called Population Connection that illustrates the point beautifully.
My confusion with the post stemmed from the apparent linking of Global Warming to population decline in developed countries. So, my bad :)

Still haven't had the opportunity to check Oprah's site (see, I think you are more special :D)

Dale said...

Well put, AC. Mind-boggling. But seriously, I would like to read your thoughts on the possible effects of declining population in developed countries. I think over-population is responsible for much of the suffering in third world countries. But what might happen to Europe and the America's if the population dwindled?

PBS said...

I'm surprised by how many things I thought were common knowledge, weren't, and are touted as news! The examples you gave come to mind and many others like the Ephedra scare. In the early 1990's there were discussions and news that it was unsafe, then suddened only a couple of years ago it was breaking news! Why are there so many things like this? And they aren't treated like reminders but as breaking news stories.

Anonymous said...

I have been a fan of Oprahs for many years. I am sorry I missed this episode. When Oprah speaks .. the masses listen. Sometimes this is a good thing.

Lynn said...

Nice post. So much for the information age.

I think there are two forces at work here. One, the old you don't miss your water till the well runs dry. Two, belief systems will trump the facts until events become undeniable.

I'll leave it there before I launch into one of my diatribes.

Paul said...

Thanks for this post. I read the later post on population and will be back to read the next installment.

Meadow said...

I saw that show and was quite pleased, too.