the grandchildren’s generation
Sorry, not finished yet!
(This chapter will describe the grandchildren’s generation as seen by the author: composed mainly by the offspring of the Undeveloped of today, who will adsorb the Developed’s culture and technology. Basically they will be the Kunta-Kinte’s grandchildren. The author does hope that they will remember where they came from, and will be much more sensitive to the welfare of Mother Earth).
And now, after writing so much all around, I will get to the point: Let’s present the Grandchildren’s Generation.
Until now I avoided the direct use of tables, graphs and figures within the text, sending the reader to other web sites for more precise and authoritative information, but to understand the Grandchildren’s Generation essence, I need a more visual approach, so I suggest the reader to “jump” to the hyperlinks of this paragraph in parallel of fluent reading.
In order to characterize the Grandchildren’s Generation, namely the people that around the middle of XXI century will ‘take over’ the job of managing our society, we will take a look at some Statistics graphs called Age-Sex or Population Pyramids. Those graphs are defined as bar charts (histograms), arranged vertically, that shows the distribution of a population by age and sex at a determined time. By convention, the younger ages are at the bottom, with males on the left and females on the right. The orizontal axis shows the absolute population or, more often, the percentual fraction of the age group (usually of 5 years), within the population of some country/society. The whole population is represented by the total area covered by the bars of the histogram. An age-sex pyramid ‘freezes’ the population distribution ‘as it is’ at a determined time, but it may be regarded also as a single frame of a dynamic distribution over time, for you can plot a sequence of graphs, each one of them showing the population distribution every five years. Animating the slide-show you will see the bars climbing upward, as the people in an age-group get older and replace the upper bar. The ‘standard’ graphs look like a pyramid, since in a typical population there are many youngsters and less old people, beginning from a broad basis at the bottom of the graph and terminating with a vanishing tip around age 90. This standard pyramidal pattern, though, may assume a quite different form in diverse populations and in the same population in different times. In a typical developing country (Mexico) the basic pyramidal form is maintained (in this specific case the bars at the bottom of the pyramid are about the same length, showing a reduced infant mortality in the last years). In a typical developed country (Finland) the graph looks quite different. Here the base of the pyramid is narrowing, showing that less and less and less children are born every year. Let’s take a look at the pyramids of a developed country through the XX century: The USA population pyramid of 1900 resembles that of a today developing nation, but the graph is quite different from the 1960 and 2000 USA sex-age pyramids. Sometimes the asymmetrical shape may be the consequence of particular events. The population graph of Germany in 1946 shows a bottleneck (sometimes called a “bite”) around age 25-29, especially among men. The cause: World War II. I found a beautiful example of Japanese ‘fussiness’ in the well explained population pyramid of Yokohama. Between the classical war “bites” and Baby-boom “bulges”, seen also in graphs of other nations, you can see the footprint of a special once-in-60-years astrological event: 1966– The Fire Horse Year (women born in that year are believed to bring misfortune). Beyond that curiosity, the graph is interesting, because it divides the population in three main groups: the Child Population (0-15), the Productive Population (16-65), and the Aged Population (over 65). Another special case is a ‘reversed pyramid’. Sun City, Arizona is a Retirement Community. The main age group is around 75-80, with almost no population under 50. Sun City is the extreme case of a community composed entirely of aged people, with a spare productive population and no children at all.
Let’s now look at Population Dynamics. A population changes in size and composition due to an input-output process: people are born and die. Obviously the newborn occupy only the bottom bar of the pyramid, while dying people can influence the size of any bar, since people die at any age. When the birth rate is greater than the death rate (more people are born than die), our graph assumes the ‘classic pyramid’ form. When less people are born every year, the histogram slowly reverses, until it assumes the ‘reverse pyramid’ form of Sun City. The input-output process, though, has another component: Migration. People can join or leave a community anytime in their lifetime. The dynamic size of a population is expressed as the Growth Rate, which is the net increment (positive growth rate), or decline (negative growth rate), due to Births+immigration minus Deaths+emigration.
At the beginning of XX century most nations had a positive growth rate, but at the end of it most developed countries show a negative growth rate, while most developing countries have a slowing down, still positive, growth rate. Beginning from the ‘70s, the developed countries are experiencing a population decline. The causes of it are quite different from the past. The developed countries are no more involved in bloody wars, nor afflicted by deadly epidemics. They just make fewer children, because of late weddings, voluntary family planning, career and so on. In the past childbearing was the consequence of sex, and child weaning was the ‘old-age insurance’. Now children are almost a nuisance for a comfortable life. You can have sex. You mustn’t become pregnant. You can have retirement insurance. Without weaning children. Anyway, with such a ‘wonderful world’ around, with nuclear weapons, pollution, metropolitan crowding, urban violence, radioactive and harmful substances all around, what’s good in bringing a child upon Earth? Now the shrinking bottom bars of the age-sex pyramid are climbing upward, reaching the Productive Population range . A few decades more, and the most developed countries will resemble Sun City, Arizona or even Solaria in Asimov’s ‘The Naked Sun’: a sparely populated, high-technological society, where the productive work is done by machines… Well… Let’s not go too far, after all that’s just good Science Fiction…
The Picture is quite different in the Developing countries. They still believe in children. Children is Joy, Children is Blessing. Children is the better future of a not-so-good present. Demographic projections show that over the next 50 years there will be massive population growth in developing nations. The natural resources, even if better exploited than in the present, will hardly sustain the future population. Herds of ‘underdeveloped’ will seek for new pastures and that will result in large migration from developing countries into the western, developed nations. Actually the migration is already happening. For some developed countries the fact is barely new. The USA development, that brought the nation the place it is, was carried out thanks to the once-poor European fellows: Irish, Italians and others. Now they are rich. They don’t come anymore, but there is plenty of Mexicans to fill their place. The ‘old’ immigrants, like the WASP population, are aging as well. The mean age for USA immigrants, until World War II, was around 35, then arose gradually until the ’70s, and now is back to the former value, thanks to the newcomers from Latino America. Old people stay home. Young people take the risk to begin a new life abroad. How all this will influence the population pyramid? There will be changing age distributions in the population. In the past, the U.S. had a population pyramid, with many young people and few old people. In the future, the population will resemble a rectangle, with about as many older people as younger people. However, this will differ greatly by ethnic group. The U.S. will have a young immigrant population and an aging white population. In 2000, the U.S. population had a majority of about 71 percent non-Hispanic whites. By 2025, non-Hispanic whites will be 62 percent of the population, and this will fall to 55 percent by 2045. In the European developed countries the picture will be similar, but with a substantial difference: The elder ‘retired’ population will mainly be composed by ‘native’, while the young ‘producing’ middle bars of the graph will be essentially filled by the ‘Extracomunitary’: Moroccans in France, Turks in Germany, Albanians and Africans in Italy, and so on.
The above picture, however, is misleading. As we shall see, it does not take in account a very important process: The Underdeveloped’s Development.
New immigrants have some peculiar, well known, characteristics. They don’t speak the host’s country language well. They don’t like the taste of local food. They stick one another, living frequently in poor ghettos. They are considered by quite a few ‘native people’ as annoying weed in an otherwise tended lawn. New immigrant’s offspring, however, speak the local language fluently, they eat cheeseburgers instead of chili con carne and they have friends of different extraction. Their children speak the original language with a terrible accent, only to please their grandparents.
It will be interestig to look at a age-sex pyramid that shows, separately, the cumulative percentage of immigrants and ‘old residents’ for each age group. I was not able to find one on the web. Perhaps some reader will take the challenge: try to plot an age-sex pyramid, where different colors indicate a different ‘immigration status’. Use blue for new immigrants, green for pure ‘first-generation’ offspring (both parents were immigrants), yellow for pure ‘second-generation’ offspring (all four grandparents were immigrants) and finally red for offspring whose families resides three-or-more generations in the country. The histogram will look as the title of this book , with all the colors above, and some more intermediate hues, because of mixed situations: some people will have a ‘native’ grandmother [red] (by father’s lineage), and an immigrant mother [blue] as well. Children of ‘blue’ people will be ‘green’ and their offspring ‘yellow’. Quite complex, isn’t it?
The bottom line of all this is that a couple of generation from now, all the western developed countries will be a potpurry of people whose ‘ancestors’ came from everywhere, each one of them with his/her own cultural heritage. Three generation from now, and our grand-grand-children will hardly be able to say where they came from. Mix together all the colors of the spectrum. What do you get?
Sorry, not finished yet!
(Who will be Kunta Kinte’s grandchildren?)
Sorry, not finished yet!
(This paragraph will review the achievements of the future generation).
…After many years of hard work, our grandchildren will be able to leave to the following generations a restored and sustainable Earth. Their grandchildren will live in a better world, with plenty of energy for leisure. Perhaps they will use it to chat with the Extraterrestrial living far away. But this is Philosophy or Science Fiction and, as I said at the beginning, it is not the purpose of this book.
If you had the patience to read all the previous pages, you might have reached the conclusion that something of what was written in them makes sense. If I was lucky enough to get your attention, perhaps you are now a little more concerned about the Earth’s future than you were before, and you are wondering whether you can do something about it. Don’t bother: you will overcome the concern about the future as soon as the present will keep you busy.
As you understood, I am very pessimistic. To my opinion neither the present generation nor the next one will ameliorate the situation. On the contrary, the truth is that Humans will accelerate constantly the pace of environment disruption until is almost too late. But what is true in general ought not to be true individually. In fact you can do something, but, please, do not think big. Just pay a little more attention to your immediate nearby environment and care a little more. The best you can do is to teach the lesson to your own children as soon as they can understand it. Any little boy or girl taught in the kindergarten to respect wild flowers will preserve them also as an adult.
You can do very little, it is true, but very little is better than nothing, and if you still remember the fat driver’s story, think that the very same synergic effect that might doom our existence on Earth, works exactly in the opposite direction as well: if many of us give their little contribute, the effects will be much greater than we can possibly expect.
This is a relay race. I hope I took my modest part in it writing these pages. Now I am passing the baton to you. Run a few more steps and, when you are tired, pass it over to the next runner, without dropping it. But remember that this is a very long race. Neither of us will see the finish line. Neither of us will win a medal. Our grand children surely will not give us one to the memory. The most we can expect from them is a phrase like: “Wow! They knew they were ruining the world, and they did almost nothing to avoid that!”.
If you choose to do something, do it, whatever you choose. It is worth to deserve that “almost”.