After Crimea: is ethnicity the new World Order?

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As we watch the unfolding of the Ukraine-Russia standoff, claims of ethnicity are being used as justifications for Russian action. According to Philip Browning, writing in the South China Morning Post, this opens up “a large can of worms with long-term global consequences”.  He argues that the Russian takeover of the Crimea has overturned two pillars of the post-World War Two world order: the permanence of state boundaries protected by the United Nations and “the inadmissibility of ethnicity as the primary identifier of states”. 

It is this second pillar that is of interest to us today.  With Russia claiming that it is acting as the defender of Russians, no matter which country they reside in, many countries in Russia’s “near-abroad” will be feeling slightly nervous.  Eastern and Southern Ukraine holds large Russian populations, as do the three small Baltic states (Estonia was warned by Russia in the last few… click here to read whole article and make comments



Elderly population spurs small business

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At a time when health systems the world over are grappling with a higher proportion of older people in the face of demographic change and increasing costs, baby boomers are stepping in to fill some of the gaps.  Most health systems strive for holistic person centred care, which also focuses on the prevention of illness.  That means thinking about factors such as loneliness and the connection the elderly feel with their immediate communities.  Some baby boomers are seeking to provide this connection by taking up niche small business opportunities – something many of them say is a ‘calling’ as much as a job.

Christine Henck, who is 62 years old herself, is one such example.  She has become a licensed massage therapist and runs a small practice out of her home in the United States.  Her clientele is mainly people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and she also makes house calls.

click here to read whole article and make comments



A father’s love…

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There is a story I came across the other day that I want to share with you.  It is not overly to do with demography, but it does illustrate a few key ingredients that are essential to family life and to the bringing up of future generations: love, self-sacrifice, the desire of good for the other, perseverance and courage. In short, it illustrates many qualities that I think parents should have and that I would like to have in greater abundance.

The story comes to us from rural China: Fengyi township, Yibin county, Sichuan province, about 2,000 miles to the west of Shanghai.  Everyday, 40 year old Yu Xukang gets up at 5am. He prepares a lunch for his son to eat at school. Then he helps his son walk to school, about 7km away over a rugged mountain road. His son, Xiao Qiang is 12 years old but he cannot walk to… click here to read whole article and make comments



“Generation Maybe”

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Are today’s 30-somethings commitment phobes?  In his recent book German author, Oliver Jeges, certainly paints this portrait of his peers, going so far as to call them “Generation Maybe”.  He claims that his generation is indecisive about faith, relationships, work, diet, values and ideology.  Drowning in a world of freedom and a myriad of choices, they flit between possibilities unsure where to settle.

Only yesterday, a friend was telling me about his son and his various career changes.  He tried to give his son as many options as he could, yet, in retrospect, he now thinks it would have been better for his son to have been strongly encouraged into a family business or expected career, as happened more commonly in Western culture historically and is still common in many cultures.  Without so much choice, he claims that his son would be happier. 

What is behind all this indecisiveness?  In an click here to read whole article and make comments



Fertility treatment pioneer calls for caution

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The renowned Lord Winston of Hammersmith is in New Zealand at the moment visiting schools to educate students about infertility and the dangers of waiting too long to have children.  It’s interesting – and a little ironic - that the fertility expert, who pioneered IVF while it was still in its trial stages, is now warning that the rapid advance in reproductive technologies is making people too complacent about having children.  He argues that many such technologies are, in reality, not very effective and cannot beat nature or the ticking reproductive clock.   In fact he goes so far as to contend that it is often an immoral industry which provides a soul-destroying experience for young couples who are desperate to have a baby and are driven to do things like re-mortgage their houses to afford the hugely expensive treatment. 

Interviewed on New Zealand television this morning, he said that he wants to make… click here to read whole article and make comments



With low population growth, the fat cats flourish

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I have just read a very interesting piece in the Economist about a book by Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century. This book looks at the links between demography, growth and inequality.  Essentially, demographic growth feeds into economic growth, along with productivity growth. To increase economic growth, one must either increase the number of workers or the output that each worker is producing.  According to Piketty, the world’s economic growth since the birth of Christ has been roughly equally due to an increasing population and increasing productivity.  Thus, in the century ending in the year 2012, the world economy grew at roughly 3% a year. Population growth was 1.4% and per capita output grew at 1.6%.  

Now however we are facing a century of slowing population growth. As the Economist argues:

“Projections from the UN indicate that global growth… click here to read whole article and make comments



Food keeping pace with population

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Many people have a vague idea that too many people could have something to do with the existence of hunger in the world.  This is often used as an argument for population control.  If there really wasn’t going to be enough food for your children to eat, certainly that would be a valid reason for families to decide to limit their size (notice I said families to decide and not governments or anyone else to impose a decision).  However, in fact, the problem is largely despotic individuals and inequalities in food distribution. 

This week the Environmental research web reported that “crop yields have largely kept pace with population expansion”, largely because new research has boosted crop yields.  We are learning more every day about better ways of doing things.  The Atlas of Population and Environment also reports that:

Over the past four decades, worldwide food production has more than… click here to read whole article and make comments



Ukraine: another problem for the beleaguered nation

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While we watch the terrible news unfolding in the Ukraine and hope that things do not descend further into anarchy and violence, it is interesting to note that Ukraine’s longterm problems don’t end with a bad economy, a fragile government, a dangerous neighbour and a potential breakup of its territory (as if that wasn’t enough!) According to the International Business Times, the demographic outlook for Ukraine is extremely bleak:

“The country has a staggering shortage of men, which has partially resulted from their poor health, poverty and short life spans.”

Although it currently has a population of 46 million, Ukraine is facing a future of long, steady population decline.

“EuroMonitor estimates that by 2030, the population of Ukraine will fall to 42.6 million, a 7 percent decline from 2010.

‘Every year, 200,000 more people die than are born,’ said Rumane Verikaite, a EuroMonitor data analysis… click here to read whole article and make comments



Rwanda twenty years on

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Rwanda, like Cambodia, is a place of recent atrocities which I was shocked to learn about in my teens.  Like many, I had a progressive view of history and was surprised that man’s nature had not moved on since ancient cruelty and barbarisms that I vaguely knew about.  Had men really done such terrible things to other men so recently?  Unfortunately, I have now changed my innocent view that atrocities were something only committed in ancient history, and instead wonder if in some areas we might be worse than ever before.  The United Nations Secretary General recently commented during events to acknowledge the 20 year anniversary that:

"The Rwandan genocide was an epic failure of the international community to take action in the face of atrocity crimes...We know more keenly than ever that genocide is not a single event, but a process that evolves… click here to read whole article and make comments



An ageing India

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Today I want to share with you a very interesting piece written by Dr Pascoal Carvalho for the FIAMC (the World Federation of the Catholic Medical Associations) about the plight of the elderly, particularly in India. I will leave Dr Carvalho to speak for himself, and will confine myself to highlighting in bold the parts of the article which particularly resonated with or interested me. Enjoy!

“In our society there is a tyrannical dominance of an economic logic that excludes and at times kills, and of which nowadays we find many victims, starting with the elderly.” These were the words of Pope Francis in his message to the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), which is currently holding its plenary assembly on the theme of “Aging and Disability”. “Health is without doubt an important value,” the Holy Father continued, “but it… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Welcome to Demography Is Destiny. We launched this to counter two media memes: that humans are a cancer which is destroying our planet and that world population is spiralling to unsustainable levels. The real story is that intelligent and inventive human will rise to the challenge of climate change and that our real problem is the coming demographic winter. The editors of Demography is Destiny are Marcus and Shannon Roberts, who live in Auckland, New Zealand. Send them your comments and suggestions. 

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