Photo courtesy of the Downtown Victoria Business Association

FOREST INK: Paradigm shift needed in our economic theories

This theory is used by Negative Population Growth, Inc.

The forest industry is not the only business dealing with the dilemma of job losses due to large companies trying to get the competitive advantage. The use of artificial intelligence, robots and a variety of inventions have been blamed by many workers for their loss of jobs. Some would argue that these non-human replacements may be what is needed to get us through the “interim period of negative growth.”

This theory is used by Negative Population Growth, Inc. (NPG) a national non-profit membership organization. It was founded in 1972 to educate the American public and political leaders about the devastating effects of overpopulation on our environment, resources and standard of living. They believe that the nation is already vastly overpopulated in terms of the long-range carrying capacity of its resources and environment.

We urgently need, therefore, a National Population Policy with the goal of eventually stabilizing our population size at a sustainable level, (far below today’s), after an interim period of negative growth.

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Most politicians, big business and its supporting economists call for growth as a solution to all our problems. Apparently, they believe in perpetual growth, which is a mathematical absurdity on a finite planet. There must be limits. Science is demonstrating that human population and consumption in the United States and the world are already far too large and are destroying the natural systems that support us. We must eventually stabilize our national as well as world population size, so that they would be sustainable indefinitely.

Since 1972, NPG has been making that case. A more stable sustainable world population is proposed to be 2 billion or the population that existed in 1930. It is 7.4 billion today with 80 million additional people added this year.

Present day economists would point out the following: Negative population growth will lead to a decrease in working populations and an increase in elderly populations along with a decline in the economy. The only solution is to invent a new system because none of the current systems (communism, capitalism, fascism or dictatorships etc) can support a massive aging population. As the elderly population increases, taxes will have to be raised to take care of them with less people working to pay the taxes. This leads to a viscous cycle where more money is spent looking after elders and less money is used for the younger generation.

An alternative way of looking at an aging population is where once labour intensive industries are switching to automated/robotic labour, often reducing the number of workers in a community with the remaining workers being better paid and more productive. Artificial intelligence may replace the majority of office workers in the next few decades, leaving the smartest and luckiest in the personal service sector. The conclusion is a declining population may well be a sign of a productivity increase, wealth creation, and prosperity.

While this conclusion may not be supported by traditional economics we will have to accept that some countries are experiencing the negative population phenomena now. In 2017, the Population Reference Bureau released a fact sheet showing that the top five countries expected to lose population between then and 2050 were: China: -44.3 per cent, Japan: -24.8 per cent, Ukraine: -8.8 per cent, Poland: -5.8 per cent, Romania: -5.7 per cent, Thailand: -3.5 per cent ,Italy: -3 per cent and South Korea: -2.2 per cent.

READ MORE: Replanting badly damaged forest landscapes in B.C.

Once these countries get through the interim period of negative growth there will be fewer people every year making less demands on the limited world resources like food, cultivated land, water and energy. It is time for the world economists, politicians and the consumers to rethink old theories so our new population dynamics can prosper and get us out of the over-population dilemma we find ourselves in.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

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