Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Survival of the frailest: what will my community look like in 2020?

Via Christian Research. Something useful from the government!!!

The government has provided researchers with a very useful online tool for calculating the UK population for any year between 1992 and 2031. The website provides an interactive map that graphically illustrates the extent to which age profile of the UK will change over the next few years. The mapping tool allows the user to select criteria for studying various age groups from UK level down to every local authority. So, if you’d like to see what the age profile of your locality will look like in ten years’ time, this site will help you plan ahead.

To find out more, use this link

It's actually quite striking. If you set the age range to the 0-15's, it's like watching pools of water dry up on a sunny day, as the drought of young people spreads across the country. Or watch the progress of the over-65s (which I join just after the end of the period) as the map gradually darkens. This raises massive questions about who can support an increasingly dependent population, and throws into stark relief Jonathan Sacks comments a couple of weeks ago about the 'selfishness' of a secular Europe which, through choosing to have fewer children, is sowing trouble for the future.

I'd be interested to see whether the data shows that it's secularism, or economic development, which has the strongest influence on the birthrate. If the former, then that's a challenging correlation for a Darwinian atheist to grapple with. If the evidence shows that, the more secular a society, the lower the birthrate, then in terms of 'survival of the fittest', this is rather interesting. To caricature, the only way a secular society can survive is by importing people from more religious countries to do the jobs.

On the other hand, you could say that giving birth to a child in the West is an act of selfishness, as they are likely to have a much bigger carbon footprint than a child anywhere else in the world. For the moment, falling birthrates in the richest countries are good news for the globe, as they apply a certain restraint to global warming. Not enough mind you.

(housekeeping note: I'm at the Mission 21 Conference in Bath for the next couple of days, so if comments take time to appear, it's because I've not sussed out the wifi provision.)


  1. There are many young people throughout the world who yearn for a better life in this country. Maybe we should let them in.

  2. "I'd be interested to see whether the data shows that it's secularism, or economic development, which has the strongest influence on the birthrate."

    Actually the evidence would point to neither being the case. For example, in 19th century France Catholic Brittany had a much higher birth rate than the Protestant areas (I forget the specific examples and I don't have my notes to hand). This was generally thought to be because the Catholics of Brittany did not practice birth control, following the teachings of their church, while the Protestants did.

    However, in the 20th Century strongly Catholic Italy had a low and declining birth rate (and still does) even in the face of many initiatives to reverse it from Mussolini onwards. This is probably due to a reluctance to support a large family when methods of contraception were available to limit its size. It also suggests that Catholicism's influence was limited by area and outlook, and did not extend to Italy in quite the same way as Italy.

    More pertinently perhaps, Britain's birthrate peaked in the early 19th century when religious observance was low - in the period 1850-1950, when churches were holding record numbers, it declined, although not as far as Italy's. This may be due to the fact that a considerable portion of people of child bearing/rearing age were emigrating, especially to Canada and Australia. However, it has been argued that it was due to the greater use of contraceptives (especially condoms) particularly after World War One (when they were routinely issued to troops to combat venereal disease).

    On the whole I would tend to suggest that the evidence points to the ready availability/knowledge of/effectiveness of contraception would be the most significant factor in population trends, not religious or economic factors, although these may impact on willingness to use contraception in the first place.

    Apologies for the long reply, hope you find it interesting.

  3. I don't see why choosing to limit one's family for environmental reasons is "secular" - quite the reverse; shows one is caring for God's world!

  4. Need to look carefully at these data, as the geographical presentation ignores population density. Where I am (in Plymouth) the issue over the period is the rising birthrate but we are a pin-prick on the map compared with West Devon which has only 20% of the population of the city. Other major conurbations seem to be similar. To me, the main feature is the increasing gap between rural and city profiles.

  5. Nothing to "grapple with" that I can see D, we evolved big brains which are capable of suppressing our Darwinian heritage and the forces of natural selection via technology and culture, that's what the last 10,000 years have been all about?

    Imagine if China and India were officially Catholic countries, would that be good or bad for our planet?

  6. Thanks for the comments, been away and failing to get to grips with the wifi provision.

    Piece in the Times today on population control http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/bronwen_maddox/article6922297.ece

  7. CR link fixed, thanks Matt.