Be very afraid

We have all been made very aware that the population of the world continues to grow. But predicting to what extent it may fall or rise is difficult because demographers use differing models and assumptions. For example, the Autonomous University of Madrid recently argued that, as a result of a steep drop-off in the number of children being born worldwide, the world population by the end of the century would decrease. Yet this month a UN study, which took into account some alarming figures relating to fertility in Africa, predicted an increase.

No doubt further studies will produce different results, but while we await these we should concern ourselves with a more immediate demographic problem. This is the imbalance which occurs when the rate of fertility changes – causing a serious mismatch between a smaller working population and a larger retired population which has to be supported.

We have to accept the plain fact that, as prosperity spreads across the world, so individuals will turn increasingly to methods of contraception and, as occurs in many cultures, to direct abortion. While the Church will be able to ameliorate this through advocacy of natural family planning, experience tells us that the effect will not be large.

One statistic, very close to home, will illustrate this mismatch: in 2010, in the European Union, there were 3.5 people of working age for every person over 65. By 2050 this will have halved to 1.8. Incidentally, Japan, which started a major contraceptive programme after the war, will have an old age population equal to nearly 80 per cent of their working population at that time. Ironically, the Jesuit sociologist Stanislas de Lestapis predicted some 50 years ago that their contraceptive policy would result in the very economic problems which the Japanese have suffered in recent years.

If you will still be working by 2050, be very afraid. If you will be retired by then, be terrified. Remember that the state old age pension is not paid from any invested fund. The bill is met by the current working population. (Public service schemes like the teachers’ pension scheme are also unfunded and will cause huge burdens for the taxpayer in the future. The pensions liability for retired teachers, police officers and NHS workers is already frighteningly large.) How will you feel when you have to support twice the number of pensioners than is the case today?

But of course you can benefit from pension schemes – either your own or your employer’s. Not long ago many employers’ schemes were “defined benefit”. That is, they paid a guaranteed pension, normally index-linked, based on final salary. Such schemes are rare nowadays. Other schemes depend directly on the money invested – by you or your employer. At retirement your pension pot depends on investment success, and your pension income will be based on annuity rates at the time. The results are appalling at the moment; do you want to take a chance? 

Of course you do – hope springs eternal. Good luck, I say. I spent much of my life in the pensions industry, and I was continually amazed by people’s optimism for the future. “Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” was the motto. I even met one man who declined a pension because it challenged the Scriptural injunction: “Take no thought for the morrow.” I have reduced sympathy for those who chose to burn the candle at both ends and are now in the dark.

But these future demands are based on western society where much progress has already been made in warding off mortality, while our family size decreased. Developing countries have yet to face major problems as greater longevity and dramatically lowered birth rates arrive at the same time. These problems will cause civil unrest, and if reduced family size leads to the abortion of female children (already common in many cultures today), then disaffected, testosterone-fuelled young males will be a danger to us all.

Ironically, one partial remedy for Britain would be to increase immigration. If we are failing to produce enough of a working population to support our pensioners we may be able to borrow workers from elsewhere to do so. The idea that immigrants are layabouts attracted by social benefits is ignorantly broadcast by those of our citizens who are layabouts and attracted by social benefits.

The June 2012 report from the Centre for Economic Performance gives us some interesting information. Not only are immigrants likely to be younger and better educated than their British-born counterparts, but there is little evidence of an overall negative impact on jobs or wages. Immigrants, on average, are less likely to be in social housing than people born in Britain. And as yet there is no evidence of the effect of immigration on house prices and rents. Nor is there any evidence that our welfare state provides better benefits than other EU countries. There are concerns about pressures on schools, but there is still little hard evidence on this.

 Indeed, there are potential economic benefits associated with immigrants, arising from their ability to fill gaps in the British labour market – where there are shortages of workers,whether  high or low-skilled. While there may be problems of adjustment in the short term, on balance, the evidence for the British labour market suggests that fears about the consequences of rising immigration have little basis.

Far from looking on immigrants as invaders, we should greet them as welcome guests who can save us from the economic consequences of our low birth rate.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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40 Responses to Be very afraid

  1. John Nolan says:

    Interesting. The Industrial Revolution depended on child labour, as of course did the agrarian economy. A large percentage of the population was under 16. We should not be surprised or scandalized when third-world countries like India do the same. The industrial economy actually employed and paid children which made an important contribution to the family’s income; the same applies in poorer countries today.

    At the beginning of the 20th century in England boys left school at 13 and entered the adult world of work. A hundred years on we prolong childhood and adolescence to age 18 and beyond, regarding it as desirable that as many as possible go into higher education, regardless of whether the qualification they emerge with is worth anything, or whether the institution awarding it has any credibility, despite the fact that thanks to John Major it can call itself a university.

    Movement of labour across Europe is not necessarily a bad thing, but the large numbers of Poles who came here two decades ago were drawn by the fact that even low wages over here were high compared with back home. This is less so now, and in the future Europe will be a more level playing field. Immigration from outside Europe is more problematic – the “Islamization of Europe” is not a right-wing obsession but a real cause for concern, and even if the birth-rate of this particular group falls over a couple of generations to the European average, the fact remains that the European average is too low, far too low.

    I am not particularly concerned about population growth world-wide. What I am concerned about is the future of European civilization (and its extension to the Americas). Why I should be so concerned at my time of life is probably ridiculous, but concerned I am.

  2. mike Horsnall says:

    “.I am not particularly concerned about population growth world-wide. What I am concerned about is the future of European civilization (and its extension to the Americas). Why I should be so concerned at my time of life is probably ridiculous, but concerned I am….”

    Probably John because you share that strange sense of unease that I have, of a ship beginning to wallow dangerously- with me, my friends, my family and all that I hold dear, still firmly aboard?

  3. Vincent says:

    It seems to me that, although we can rarely forecast the future with complete accuracy, the future of our population mix is settled by those already born. While this might be varied by welcoming immigrants, this route has to be eventually at the expense of their country of birth. We will be the destination of their brain-drain.

    So this is yet another example of Mr Toad driving furiously in the direction of an inevitable accident. With luck I shall have left the road before then!

    It is a prime example of what happens when governments need to go for election every five years, and do not deal with problems that can be foreseen over a much longer scale.

    Add to that the prospect of global warming and the rising price of energy – and pity your grandchildren.

    Is it possible for the Church (and I mean the whole Church, not just the hierarchy), with its international reach and its excellent social teaching, to exercise its influence here? Or have we disqualified ourselves by our irrelevance?

  4. ionzone says:

    I remember hearing in history that parents were outraged at the idea of kids ‘wasting time’ in school when they (mostly or entirely the church) first established them. If it happened nowadays there would likely be a riot. The thing is though that we don’t need to be afraid of a large portion of the population slowly ceasing to work since, as when women started, the economy quickly balances itself.

    As for overpopulation, there are an awful lot of humans now and we take up an awful lot of room, but it is worth remembering that the entire population of the planet could actually be housed within a surprisingly small amount of space. In terms of food, that is also not a problem, Africa’s problems are caused by external powers that have destabilised it and tyrannical regimes. The only real danger is that small countries like England will end up running out of farmland. However, that should not be a problem – every population increase in history has raised this same fear and it has yet to come to pass. We should be more worried about the population crash, especially in China.

    • John Nolan says:

      In two world wars, despite the much larger number of people engaged in agriculture, we depended for our survival on imported food. Modern farming methods have made us self-sufficient in that regard at least.

  5. Gerry says:

    Any effort to warn us of tough times ahead is to be applauded, but if our younger generation is going to be frightened at the prospect of much lower pensions than they believe they are entitled to they are easily frightened. As long as we get plenty of early warnings about it – as we have just had – the problem should be manageable. They seem to be managing it in Japan.

    The troubles that come from a gradually decreasing population are important, but they are minor compared to the troubles that come from a rapid and relentless increase. The troubles caused by the latter include extreme poverty, hunger, water shortage, civil disturbance, conflict and the migration of huge populations. We can read of these troubles in our newspapers every day as the news comes in from Africa and Middle East to Pakistan, the last region to have little control of the population growth rate.

    Future generations will be astonished at the serene unconcern that religious and political leaders, aid agencies, the population in general and Catholics in particular view these enormous changes.

    I’ve never found a compact method of displaying population increase figures so I’m trying out a new one on the readers of secondsight all of whom I know to be not only brainy but quick on the uptake.

    Here are some examples from the United Nations World Population Prospects using their low estimate in their 2010 revision. The series of three numbers gives the population in 1950, 2010, and 2050 to the nearest million:

    Afghanistan 8, 31, 68. Iraq 6. 31. 73. Syria 3. 20. 28. Somalia 2. 9. 25. Niger 2. 15. 76.
    Pakistan 37. 173. 238. Sub-Saharan Africa 186. 856. 1731. UK 50. 62. 64.

    For the region as a whole – Africa and the Middle East to Pakistan – the population of 300 million in 1950 has doubled twice since then and is expected to double a third time to 2,400 before 2050.

    (UK figure. Remember that this is the low estimate. The 2050 population is likely to be noticeably higher than this. The same goes for the other countries and the region as a whole)

    • Vincent says:

      Gerry, you’re the expert on these things, so you may be able to explain a point or two to me.

      When I look at life expectancies in Sub Saharan countries, I find they are typically 50 years (compared to 80 years in the UK). The fertility rate, measured by live births per woman, are typically 4 to 6 (compared to 2 in the UK). It would seem that the two measurements are complementary because infant mortality would be high in developing countries – this raising the need for more births..

      So the ideal programme would be to reduce early mortality while bringing down the fertility rate. Presumably there are also social factors, for example, a culture which looks to the young to look after the old. – big families are the insurance of the aged’s future.

      So it looks to me as if a successful programme would entail going through several decades during which the ratio of old to young would place a heavier and heavier burden on the smaller working population to a much more marked degree than the one that Quentin outlines for developed countries. That sounds like disaster – so can you explain to me what the solution would be – or where I have misdescribed the issues.

      Another issue here is briefly described in the CIA World Factbook: “Sex ratio at birth has recently emerged as an indicator of certain kinds of sex discrimination in some countries. For instance, high sex ratios at birth in some Asian countries are now attributed to sex-selective abortion and infanticide due to a strong preference for sons.”

      This discrimination has become more prevalent with the provision of cheap womb scans, identifying gender quickly. I do not know its incidence, if any, in Sub Saharan countries, but I would suspect that the development of a contraceptive culture would lead to this speedily – as it is realised that boys provide contribution to family income, and girls require dowries – on their way to providing domestic service in their new families. Excess of males (as Quentin mentions in passing) is a real threat to civil order.

      How would you deal with this?

    • tim says:

      And remember also that these are estimates – for what will happen in 37 years’ time. In the sixties we were told by prophets of doom that millions of Indians would starve in the latter half of the century – today India is a net exporter of food.

  6. John Candido says:

    It is not only the imbalance between the number of elderly who rely on governmental support, and taxpayers who supply that support, that we need to examine. There is also the futuristic matter of ever rising levels of artificial intelligence and robotics. I am talking about robots that are harmless towards human life, who have prime directives that are solely based on being our servants.

    Once robots are extremely capable of any physical or intellectual capacities, that not only mimic, but go far beyond human talent; what will society be like? Will democratic governments and societies generally, be accommodating to their production and deployment in the economy? I can see lots of very good reasons to have these intelligent machines. They can be used as aids or substitutes for the police, soldiers, to protect vulnerable children, nurses in hospitals, security guards, to protect heritage buildings and our fragile environment.

    There is one other factor that needs to be considered in relation to intelligent machines or robots. And that is their effect on employment. Can you imagine the amount of interest that an employer would have if he/she could replace all or nearly all of their employees on their payroll? Think of it! A highly intelligent robot that can do everything that any human can do in the workplace, without ever refusing to do a task, unless it is contrary to its primary directive of not harming human life, ever complaining or talking back at those in authority, never having to take a break, have lunch, or go on holiday, and can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    If you think that unemployment is too high now, what will it be like when these contraptions are let loose in the economy? In some ways there will be an inbuilt arithmetical or economic correction of sorts, if this technology is employed, to the detriment of human employees. If artificial intelligence is introduced freely and in a wholesale manner, it would displace lots of workers. If ‘lots of workers’ translates to an excessively massive unemployment, a level of unemployment never before seen in human history, how will business owners sell their wares to the public, and will they be able to do so at a price that is above the cost of production?

    If extremely capable robots and machines were to cause mass unemployment, and place a majority of the population on governmental benefits, how can these people afford to pay for the goods and services that they need? Or to put it another way, how can business owners that extensively use artificial intelligence in order to cut their costs to the bone, make any profits if most of the population, and therefore their market, is disadvantaged on Social Security benefits? Robots would need to have a social and economic impact study assessed beforehand, in order to limit the damage that their use would have on the fabric of society. Will safe and intelligent robotics be a blessing to the world, or will they be a curse? It is an interesting matter to contemplate.

    • St.Joseph says:

      John Candido.
      I agree with what you say about robots, and hasn’t the introduction over the years just done that where a machine can do the work of many That is the ‘work of progress’, Less working hours, more relaxation. Maybe we are seeing the consequences.

  7. Quentin says:

    The July 2013 Which? Magazine has just been published. (may be available in your public library). It has an article on pension provision – which should interest everyone not yet retired.
    Their members’ survey shows that the average pension people think they would require is £15,236. However the average pension pot is £28,000; that would produce a pension of £1500 a year. Add in the State pension – and you’re still only halfway there.

    The monthly amount you would have to save to get £15,236 a year, including State pension, depends on age on commencement and age of State retirement. Here are some examples (see Which? for basis of calculation):

    Age 35 £324 per month
    Age 45 £581 per month
    Age 55 £1422 per month.

  8. John Nolan says:

    The male sperm count is decreasing. It’s all down to the female hormones they put in beer – have you noticed that after ten pints you talk tripe and can’t drive?

  9. St.Joseph says:

    Thank you for your reply.
    I hope I am not being negative ,but will anyone read or even put it into action as a multiple practice.
    It will need the Second Coming of Christ!

  10. Iona says:

    Not only will people who are young now have to support “twice the number of pensioners” as there are today, – many of those who grew up in this country will also have been economically hamstrung by debt incurred in following a university course for which the fees alone have been £9,000 a year over three years, and which may not have led them to the well-paid jobs for which they hoped.

  11. Horace says:

    As Sam Goldwyn remarked: “Never prophesy, especially about the future!”

    • St.Joseph says:

      That is what my mother used to say, and no one knows the future only God.
      However the children said what was ‘going’ to take place in the future by Our Lady’s messages
      Particularly the Miracle of the Sun..
      We believe or I think I am right in saying that the last prophet was Jesus- God Himself.
      I believe His second Coming ( we don’t know when)although He comes every time at Holy Mass and when we receive Him in the Eucharist-as Jesus. Then He will come as the King of Glory and we will look on Him not as the one we have pierced- we may then speak in one voice when we see Him Face to Face. Maybe we will then have a better understanding of the Trinity- Jesus’s last Prayer to His Father ‘May they all be one.
      I thought of that this morning at Mass after the Reading from the prophet Zechariah-then the Psalms, and Galatians 3;23;29 St Paul. Then the Gospel followed by a wonderful sermon.
      I believe that those who do not believe this will worry about the future.

  12. Gerry says:

    TIM, Yes, the population figures are all estimates, even the ones for today, or for 1950, but I believe they do get more and more accurate. By happy chance I’ve just been able to access the 2012 estimates and you can compare them with the 2010 estimates I’ve already given

    Here are the same examples from the United Nations World Population Prospects using their low estimate but using their their 2012 revision. The series of three numbers gives the population in 1950, 2010, and 2050 to the nearest million:

    Afghanistan 7, 28, 49. Iraq 6. 31. 62. Syria 3. 21. 32. Somalia 2. 10. 24. Niger 2. 15. 63.
    Pakistan 37. 175. 236. Sub-Saharan Africa 179. 856. 1841. UK 50. 62. 64.

    Afghanistan, Iraq, and Niger slightly encouraging. Syria and sub-Saharan Africa quite depressing.

    As for India, two events saved the day: The fertility rate fell from 5.9 to 2.6 between 1950 and today. And in the 1960’s the green revolution arrived.

    But remember the words of the father of the green revolution, Norman Borlaug, on accepting his 1970 Nobel prize: “The green revolution has won a temporary success in man’s war against hunger and deprivation; it has given man a breathing space. If fully implemented, the revolution can provide sufficient food for sustenance during the next three decades. But the frightening power of human reproduction must also be curbed; otherwise the success of the green revolution will be ephemeral only…..Most people still fail to comprehend the magnitude and menace of the “Population Monster”.
    Even with these improvements today’s Deccan Herald can still claim that “With nearly a fourth of its 1.1 billion population hungry, India is indeed the world’s hunger capital”
    There was something to be said for the prophets of doom in the sixties. They helped to make people do something about it.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Why can we not distribute our food to those who do not have enough?
      How would you think we ought to solve the menace of the “Population Monster”. that will stay within our Catholic teaching?

  13. ninoinoz says:

    “There are concerns about pressures on schools, but there is still little hard evidence on this.”

    Really? I suppose those 3 new Catholic schools opening in West London are made of butter.
    And there is a shortage of primary places overall in London.

    Also, other religions and those of none at all are founding Free Schools, not all of which are ego trips of individuals.

    • Quentin says:

      You might like to check the last of the links below this post – then you will know where the information came from, and to whom you should direct your disagreement. I suspect it will help if you distinguish between general pressure on primary schools and the contribution to that pressure from immigration.

      • ninoinoz says:

        OK, found your reference: a single line in the paper of your fourth link.

        “There has been some concern that rising immigration puts extra pressure on schools. This is an area in which there is still little hard evidence.”

        Clearly, the authors of this paper aren’t Catholic or read the Catholic Herald! But you, sir, have no such excuse. I also notice no source for their statement.

        But even these dopes leave clues in their paper.

        Figure 4 shows London immigration to be (almost) off the graph i.e. not the traditional Catholic heartlands of NW England and the West of Scotland, where there is no doubt spare provision in the Catholic education sector.

        Table 1 shows Poland at the top of the league table of all immigrants. Now remind me, Quentin, where did the Blessed Pope John Paul II come from? Or have you already forgotten?

        “I suspect it will help if you distinguish between general pressure on primary schools and the contribution to that pressure from immigration.”

        How am I supposed to do that when the paper you cite only shows immigrants over the age of 15 years (Figure 5)? I know for a fact that a lot of children were brought over from Poland (my sister’s children attended school with them) and thus were not picked up in the baptism statistics which would give early warning of a Catholic population ‘bulge’. Which brings me to ….

        “The June 2012 report from the Centre for Economic Performance gives us some interesting information. Not only are immigrants likely to be younger and better educated than their British-born counterparts, but there is little evidence of an overall negative impact on jobs or wages.”

        Ah yes, that ‘bulge’ in young people in figure 5. Those in prime child-bearing years. But, those new births don’t count as immigrants, thus blurring the distinction between ‘general pressure on primary schools’ and ‘the contribution … from immigration’.

        Now, Quentin, would you answer me two questions.

        1. Do you live anywhere near West London?
        2. When was the last time you were involved in getting any children into a state Catholic school?

      • Quentin says:

        Thank you for developing your ideas on this subject so fully. I happily accept that immigration has played a part in Catholic schooling in London – since many such families are Polish and London is a hotspot for immigration. However, my summary, and the study on which I based my remarks, was about the general effect of immigration on the country as a whole.

        You may be helped by National Statistics’ view of the problem. I quote:

        “There is no single explanation underlying the rise in fertility in England and Wales. Possible causes may include:

        more women currently in their twenties having children

        more women at older ages (born in the 1960s and 1970s) are having children that had previously postponed having them

        increases in the numbers of foreign born-women who tend to have higher fertility than UK-born women.”

        To give you some idea of scale, the birthrate of women has increased by 18% in the 10 years leading up to 2011. Both this Government and the last Government have been castigated for a failure in taking adequate action over school provision.

      • ninoinoz says:

        “I happily accept that immigration has played a part in Catholic schooling in London – since many such families are Polish and London is a hotspot for immigration.”

        Well, thank you for that. Now, I wonder how this was missed by those “experts” you cite at the LONDON School of Economics. Clearly, someone doesn’t know the city they live and work in very well. Perhaps they use private schools instead of maintained schools, thus being shielded from the whole phenomenon.

        Here’s an article in tonight’s Evening Standard that you might find illuminating.

        “However, my summary, and the study on which I based my remarks, was about the general effect of immigration on the country as a whole.”

        And is the Catholic Herald intended for a general readership? And is the Catholic population of this country evenly spread or concentrated in certain parts? Averages can conceal huge variations. What’s more, surplus places in the NW do not offset shortages in London. Kids can’t travel that far to school.

        “Both this Government and the last Government have been castigated for a failure in taking adequate action over school provision.”

        Let me see. The last Government ended in 2010. Your fourth link’s paper was published in June 2012 and yet it said:

        “There are concerns about pressures on schools, but there is still little hard evidence on this.”

        Wouldn’t it have been better if they had instead said:

        “We’re not Catholics so these Poles won’t be bothering us much, but, in any case, we have sufficient wealth to send our kids to private schools, so let’s not bother sticking our heads outside Houghton Street to do any real ground research.”

        I suggest you review the rest of the paper you cite very carefully indeed, Quentin.

        Changing the emphasis slightly, perhaps the reason for the poor Government response is that birth-rates have been falling so long that it has forgotten how to respond to a permanent increase in the demand for school places, all the civil servants with the requisite experience having long since retired.

        Also, given the inadequacy of the paper you cite, perhaps our so-called ‘elite’ simply don’t have experience of state education (because they don’t use it) and have abandoned religion (thus being purblind to its effects in the very city they live).

        BBC. MPs. Academia. The unholy trinity.

  14. Gerry says:

    ST JOSEPH, I’m afraid it cannot be done without the widespread use of artificial contraception. This is at present against official Vatican teaching, but this will surely change. The last time it was investigated and voted on by the Church was in the 1960’s. One cardinal and two bishops were against change, two cardinals and one archbishop abstained. ( One of these, Cardinal Heenan, indicated later that he was in favour of change) and four Cardinals, three archbishops and two bishops were for change. Also, most Catholics now believe there should be a change.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Thank you for your reply.
      However I do not see how it can change, family planning is allowed, the way it is planned will never change.
      I don’t see how it can. It is totally against the definition of marriage as we understand it.
      What ought to happen in a better understanding of our fertility and a clearer conscience on how to use it within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
      As far as the Cardinals and most Catholic’s are concerned they most probably need
      educating too It is not a majority Rule. There is only one God. It is our concern to stick to the Truth. If children were kept between wedlock there would not be an overpopulation problem. It is not our place to follow the crowd!
      However what one does in private is up to them and their conscience as long as it does not interfere with anyone else’ Just because the Church will say it is right does not necessarily mean it is.!.

  15. Gerry says:

    VINCENT, They say that Lenin was the only person to get past page four of Capital, and that made him the world expert on the subject. I am that sort of an expert.

    I’m a long retired NHS GP but for over sixty years I have been very interested in our Church’s approach to extreme poverty and this has inevitably merged into an interest in the main cause of this poverty – rapid population increase. So I have picked up a bit on the way.

    In the 1950’s and 1960’s ‘everyone’ was interested in population, but all this fell away in the 1970’s when our own population growth became controlled, and when political correctness arrived and a taboo was established against discussing the subject. Only now is this taboo very slowly breaking down.

    I find I can only deal with large generalisations and cannot get down to fine details, so I’m afraid I cannot answer the questions you ask. All I can say is that Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan who dramatically controlled their populations from the 1960’s onwards, so that the fertility rate is about one child per woman, are not as yet living through a catastrophe. Neither is Japan or China.

    Right now, developing countries desperately need family planning clinics and pro-active health workers in every locality, much as the Iranians put in place with such stunning success in the presidencies of Mr Rafsanjani and Mr Khatami from 1989 to 2005.

    Browsing through an eight volume (I think) history of Africa in Blackwell’s I found this: From memory, “In pre-modern times, life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa was just over 20 years. Birth rate and death rate were around 45 births/deaths per thousand, with births mostly a little greater than deaths. The population rose very slowly.”

    Then Europeans came along and with hygiene, sanitation, and improved agriculture, and death rates fell, and life expectancy steadily improved, By 1950 death rates in sub-Saharan Africa had dropped to 28 deaths per thousand, but birth rates remained high at 47 per thousand, so we had a population explosion.

    Then after the war huge international immunization schemes were pushed through. Perhaps the greatest humanitarian effort in history. Life expectancy jumped to over 50 years and was all set to reach 70 in some countries such as Zambia, when AIDS came along. The pharmaceutical companies having just pulled off the biggest humanitarian work in history with immunization programmes are now repeating the feat by discovering means of prolong the life of AIDS sufferers. This will improve life expectancy. At present the death rate in sub-Saharan Africa is 11 and the birth rate 38, an even bigger gap between births and deaths than in 1950, so the explosion continues, and poverty and hunger are widespread.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Gerry .
      I see all the problems you set before us, and I see it through mans eyes.
      We are here also to see life through Gods eyes as Christians. . Man can kill the body but not the soul-that belongs to Him.
      As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says ‘The Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’ preaching. They take up the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham. The Beatitudes fulfil the promises by ordering them no longer merely to the possession of a territory, but to the Kingdom of Heaven:

      We read the Beatitudes we read in 1716 of the CCC -but we also must read the whole definition of them from 1700 ‘ Man’s Vocation : Life in the Spirit..

      We may save our own souls by doing good works-however we have a duty as Christians to save the the souls of others – In the ‘Image of God’ as Jesus came to teach and died for.
      The only perfect world will be in Heaven, we desire to go there but also take as many with us as God allows us to.
      That must be our one true Vocation!

    • Vincent says:

      Thank you, Gerry for your answer. It seems to me that we have a conundrum: how do we control population without going through a long and painful period during which there is a mismatch between the working population and the dependent aged?
      Either way, it seems certain that contraception and increased longevity will occur in developing countries as has happened already in developed countries — only it is likely to be worse.
      I notice that, even in the last few days, the Government is beginning to recognise the ‘pension’ problems menace, and is preparing us for the prospect of reducing benefits for the aged. Better late than never.

  16. Gerry says:

    ST JOSEPH. My trouble is I do not have a brain that can manage philosophical arguments, so I’m not able to understand why the use of artificial contraception is a sin. I simply don’t trust philosophical arguments and one of my favourite sayings is “Logic – a method of reasoning that allows us to be wrong with confidence.”. So what follows is a non-philosophical, very amateur, guess at what has happened.

    It may be that the sinfulness of contraception appeared in Biblical times when infant mortality rates could be as high as 500 per thousand live births, and when youthful deaths were very common, and very high birth rates were needed to keep up the population, especially important at a time when population numbers needed to be high if the nation was to survive.

    But since Biblical days there have been huge changes. Today UK’s infant mortality rate is not 500, or even 50, but below 5; in fact 4.2 per 1000 live births. And also very few young people die. The situation is totally different, and nowadays uncontrolled population growth could seriously damage the environment. The catch is that moral theologians remain utterly confident in their method of reasoning and do not see that these huge changes in mortality rates mean that their ideas should also change.

    VINCENT. Yes, I agree that that is the conundrum. I don’t think we can avoid a painful series of decades. But if the younger generation can see that they are going to have to work longer and get by on lower pensions and with poorer social services, we should be able to manage without too much civil strife. I hope the warnings by Quentin and perhaps soon by many others will help them to accept the inevitable. No doubt, when life at this lower level is described it will greatly upset people, even though to the poor in developing countries it will seem like a description of paradise.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Perhaps if more people ‘studied’ Humanae Vitae instead of just one tiny part, perhaps a better understanding of why the Church teaches it would become clear.
      It is not only the Catholic Church that believes it is against Gods Will not to be open to life. But the infertile time which is only 4 days a month is allowed, however not to be used indiscriminately.
      You may have forgotten that sexual intercourse is sinful outside marriage too.
      The teaching of Holy Mother Church is hoping that we as humans will try to live in the Spirit, and She is not here to become part of the world that -Jesus taught we were not supposed to be part of.
      We stay single if we can if not get married. Not fool around with every Tom Dick and Harry as the saying goes, have babies, abort babies by the millions, let the State pay out for their keep, no fathers to support them, sometimes he is unknown. People of the same sex having children, from another’s ovum? Child abuse rape, etc.No wonder the World is in a mess.
      Do you honestly believe that is what Paradise is all about.
      Obviously I am seeing a different picture than you. It does not take much logic to understand all that! Just a bit of common sense!

      • St.Joseph says:

        Correction to above ‘fertile days that are only 4 days a month-not infertile-that is the rest of the Cycle. Enough time surely there to have sexual intercourse within marriage.

  17. Gerry says:

    ST JOSEPH. What I meant was that even during the painful adjustment decades the standards of housing, water and food supply, health and social care, and pensions in the UK would be so far above the standards of the poor in developing countries that while we were grumbling, kicking up a fuss, and believing we were having a terrible time, the poor in developing countries would think we were living in an earthly paradise.
    We’ll be onto another secondsight subject tomorrow, so I’d better stop, interesting though all this is.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Gerry. Thank you.
      It pleases me to know that we do have our Catholic and other Christian workers in underdeveloped countries, also in this country, charities raising money and most of all with our prayers. We are not all grumbling! Some can make do and mend!
      There are some people who don’t know how to economise or get their priorities right!

    • Quentin says:

      Singalong, the article you cite is certainly very frightening. We are not talking about 2050, we are talking about 2014/5/6. When push comes to shove it is the old and the moribund who are most likely to be at the end of the queue. A good gauge of a society is how they treat its weakest members.

      We must hope that the situation will not be as bad as this description, and we must continue to watch developments carefully.

  18. Bristol1 says:


  19. Iona says:

    test, please ignore

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