Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The times they are a-changin'

If the demographic trends continue in Australia, it turns out that Australians may soon be as extinct as the dodo:

Imagine a society where children have become an endangered species. Playgrounds are deserted and classrooms empty. The sprawling suburban family home has been bulldozed to make way for apartment blocks. Babies are genetically engineered to outsmart nature. Wealthy 45-five-year-olds are raising a generation of overindulged kids. This could be Australia in 2050. If Bureau of Statistics projections are right, Australia's child population will shrink dramatically over the next 45 years, as women delay child-bearing, have fewer babies, and the population ages. 'When you walk down the street in 2050, it will be rare to see children. You'll be seeing older people,' Ann Harding, director of the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, says. 'Our whole society is going to have to change the way it does things to meet the needs of older people.' Children under 15 make up one-fifth of the population today. By 2050, just 14 per cent of Australians will be children while the proportion of over-65s will double from today's 12.5 per cent. This will push the median age of Australians from 35.9 years to 46.8.
It's funny. Throughout world history, populations have ebbed and flowed, ice ages have followed on the heels of temperate climes, waters have risen and fallen. The problem is that now, with science, we can predict (or at least attempt to predict) these trends. And I keep pondering which is better -- knowing the world is coming to an end, or just wondering why each winter is worse than the one before? As an aside, it's the mini-ice age that gripped Europe from the 15th through early 17th centuries that may go a long way to explaining why people opted for such incredibly heavy, elaborate, layered clothes -- they were making fashion out of necessity. The same mini-ice age, of course, accounts for the first Thanksgiving, when the first Pilgrims needed the Native Americans' help so desperately.