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Posts Tagged ‘Demography’

There is much hoopla at the moment about the decline of the American middle class.  I know all about it, since I have been close, but not quite managed to grab one of those hallowed academic jobs which would make my life finally comfortable after years of deprivation.   The numbers in the faculty are getting worse by the year; when I began graduate school in the late 90s, about 75 percent of all teaching was still done by full-time faculty, with benefits, but by the time I was a serious contender on the job market, in 2008, this had shifted to 75 percent part-timers.  Now, only 20 percent of teaching at U.S. colleges and universities is done by full-time faculty.  The profession has literally disintegrated out from under me.  We were told by our professors:  hey, the baby boomers are about to retire, so now’s a great time to be on the job market!  As it turned out, the MBA-efficiency people had figured out that they could downsize everything, and pay everyone virtually nothing, for the same work.  Great idea, right!  Except that the U.S. professoriate has been gutted; there are many geniuses with Harvard PhDs now waiting years to get a tenure-track job, if ever.

The real issue here is the disentegration of the American middle class.  It is now far harder to become a professor, something like 4-5x harder, than 20 years ago; so that the Chronicle of Higher Ed is running ads saying “Don’t to go graduate school.”  And the example of the professoriate is typical of a number of other former ‘professions.’  Most of the writing, editing, architecture, creative design, journalism, etc., fields, in which there used to be an ok number of permanent jobs with benefits available, have been similarly gutted.  Same with teaching high school or even elementary school.  Often the only places hiring are inner-city schools where there is no teaching to be done, but one has to be more of a warden than a teacher, and one is literally in danger of one’s life!  Hardly a middle-class lifestyle.  How many business people go into work fearing that their colleagues may pull out a gun… teachers have to put up with way too much stress, especially urban teachers.  And elementary schools on ‘lockdown’ all the time, because the stupid arse NRA has so much leverage, and has convinced half the populace that they will be safer when packing a pistol?  What is that, the wild west?  In England, almost no one has guns, and somehow, they don’t shoot each other.  In the wild west, everyone had guns, and they all shot each other.  The logic there is pretty plain.

So, the main point being, that many avenues into the middle class which were once mainstays of the populace, are now closed.  Being a professor is not possible, being a teacher is not possible.  Being an office person is about the only career path left.  And yet downsizing has made this much much more stressful than ever before.  Now, to keep a job, you have to literally work 70 hour weeks?  And get ulcers and the like?  Doing what?  Often, incredibly meaningless, tedious work, for no reasonable purpose.   (more…)

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So I was bumming around the LSE bookstore a few weeks back, and found Tim Jackson’s “Propserity without Growth:  Economics for a Finite Planet”  sitting front and centre as a “staff pick featured read.”

And I thought, thank gravy that someone in the establishment is actually beginning to talk about the relationship between population and economics in a way counter to the prevailing wisdom.  As Tim succinctly explains in the first chapter of his book, the current economic model is fundamentally grounded upon one basic mantra, which is that population growth is essential to economic growth.   Economists assume that as population grows, the economy will grow slightly faster, increasing per capita wealth, and thereby making everyone richer.  As Tim points out, however, we’re rapidly coming up against the limits that our planet’s quite finite resources can possibly tolerate, in terms of food growable, food fishable, biological sustainability, waste disposal, not to mention the still not at all solveable fuel shortage problem, and the global warming problem that the oil industry has so successfully spread misinformation about.  I’ve already talked about this stuff in my post “what is the ideal population of the earth.” (more…)

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So, would you want to live forever? 

Well, I would; I think.  Under the circumstances that once you got to about age 25, the doctors could just turn off your ageing process, and then you could go for eternity with the energy and mind of a 25 year old, only you get to add more wisdom.  It’s possible that your brain might deteriorate over a period of hundreds of years, but perhaps, they could keep the cells renewing themselves, or otherwise figure out how to keep them from atrophying.

I write about this subject, not only becasue it is inherently interesting, but also because the doctors tell us that very soon, within a few generations perhaps, we might well be able to ‘cure’ ageing – i.e., stop the human ageing process, genetically.  In other words, we might finally be getting very close to one of the great goals of mankind, which has occupied us as a species ever since we woke up from our animalistic stupor, and began to think critically, and to realize that, guess what, we’re mortal, and further, that that really sucks, in many many ways.  (more…)

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In my recent post “What is the ideal population of the Earth?” (https://triviumquadrivium.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/what-is-the-ideal-population-of-the-earth/), I noted that I am not really keen on the idea of ‘downsizing my personal environmental footprint,’ in part because I feel that everyone on earth has a right to about as much land and space as someone living in North America in the 1950s had.  Is that too much to ask?  On an overpopulated world, however, it’s far too much to ask, because, with overpopulation, land becomes accordingly very expensive–de facto, land ownership is becoming more and more out of reach for most people, even in the first world.   (more…)

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We’ve introduced this here and there in other posts, but the topic is important enough to warrant a header of its own.  In short, we’ve got a big problem, and it’s getting worse fast:  that being, that the earth’s population has just surpassed 7 billion, and the UN projects that it will reach 10 billion before it begins to level off ca. 2050. 

Now, why is that a problem, people all-too-commonly ask?  Well, leaving aside the appeal of a world where everyone could afford to own multiple acres of real estate, and where there would be huge swaths of relatively pristine wilderness to adventure in, we can start with the fact that overpopulation is the root cause of almost every bad thing that Al Gore mentions in An Inconvenient Truth.  Gore mentions this briefly, but he doesn’t dwell on it, since he knows that mentioning population control is even more of a political pickle than his brave championing of environmental issues.  You see, Global Warming = average eco. footprint x number of people.  So, Gore has been focusing on reducing our ecological footprints per capita – which is fine and dandy, but the simple fact is, that if the population of the planet were say about 1/7th or 1/10th of what it is now, we’d have a lot fewer emissions – and, what is better:  everyone alive could pollute like a smokestack, and not have to worry about its impact on the environment.  I, for one, would far rather live in a world where I could drive whenever I wanted, burn wood in my chimney, and leave all the lights on, than have to live in a world where I am allowed 200 sf of space, can’t drive, have a fireplace, or consume anything more elaborate than a bowl of chic peas (which are my favourite bean, by the way–but beans, after all, are only beans).  The point is not to emphasize my own selfish desires, of course, but to point out that this would be the case for everyone–having to ‘go green’ would become more or less a non-issue! (more…)

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