Birth rates decline for many reasons - both voluntary and involuntary. What are those reasonds, and what does this mean for society and for collapse?
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Episode 42 – Declining Birth Rates
Kellan: [00:00:00] Alright, Kory, I had the opportunity to do the research for this week's episode, and we're just going to dive right into the topic. It's something that we've referenced in previous episodes to some degree or another. And I can't remember which of our previous episodes, but at one point we talked about like the Handmaid's Tale, Children of Men... So essentially what we're going to talk about today is all of the reasons why the birth rate might decline. And the implications that that will have.
And for our listeners, if you've just joined the podcast, we're going to be referencing things that were brought up in episode four on overshoot and limits to growth and episode 32, where we talked a little bit about overpopulation versus over-consumption and both episodes on catabolic collapse and episode 35 on microplastics, episode six on the financial system.
Basically, this might not be the best place to start. You'll want to go back and listen to the episodes leading up to this conversation because they provide a lot of context and the things that we'll talk about will make a lot more sense.
Kory: [00:01:10] Yeah. I'm sure any new listener who just jumps in with the most recent episode who doesn't really understand collapse is like totally lost. Cause I'm sure we use words that we've learned along the way. So like Kellan said, if you're new to the podcast, go back, start with episode one and listen through, especially if you're new to collapse.
Kellan: [00:01:29] Yeah, exactly. And as I did some research into this topic, the book that I read is one that was just published this year in February of 2021 It's called 2021 by Dr. Shanna H Swan. And here's the full title, right? The title, if I include the subtitle along with it. It's "Countdown: how our modern world is threatening sperm counts, altering male and female reproductive development, and imperiling the future of the human race."
Kory: [00:01:56] it's a catchy tagline. I like that
Kellan: [00:02:00] a little bit wordy, but that last part about imperiling the future of the human race. You read a subtitle like that and if you're anything like me, your reaction is, wow, that's traumatic. You know, the skeptical side of my brain instantly takes over and I started thinking about, you know, every headline out there is some form of clickbait trying to get you to get hooked into this story. And it seems like it's sensationalizing the topic, but now that I've actually read the book, I'll just say that this is a real crisis.
So anyways, I will rely heavily on that book as my source of information, but I've also looked at a handful of other relevant sources. And by the way, this book is essentially just a book full of data and statistics. It is very research heavy. And I think the point of the author is to provide a lot of proof so that people know this is a real issue, right? There's kind of this Canary in the coal mine type of idea. And she's trying to raise awareness.
So I'll start by just saying that some really interesting things are happening to the human race physically. And we'll talk about some of the social things that are going on as well.
Kory: [00:03:07] But between 1973 and 2011 sperm concentration, which is the number of sperm per milliliter of semen
Kellan: [00:03:16] fell by 52% in Western countries .
So, if you think about that, right over a handful of decades, sperm counts falling by over half by 52%. In fact, that was a number of based on concentration, but the total sperm count fell by 59%. And that's not just one study. That research is based on a meta analysis. So there were 185 studies with roughly 43,000 men. And they weren't selected based on their fertility status. And they controlled for age, health, whether they smoked or not. They looked at geography and environmental exposures. They controlled for all of those variables and found that that's the case. And in addition to declining sperm counts, they're seeing all these trends in declining testosterone and increasing rates of testicular cancer, increasing rates of erectile dysfunction, miscarriage rates are increasing. All of those things are taking place and they continue to take place, at an additional 1% per year.
Kory: [00:04:15] So, real quick, I wanna jump in, is that, is that a linear increase? Like every year, it's 1% for the last, you know, how long have they been measuring that?
Kellan: [00:04:25] Yeah, it's a great question. The author kept referring back to that 1% and I don't know if that's averaged out over time or if they see that consistently year over year. The author doesn't make claims about how far that will go. Right? Whether, for example, sperm counts will get down to zero or whether that will plateau and level out at some point.
Instead, she spends her time during the book, just sharing what they've seen in terms of trends leading up to this point.
Kory: [00:04:49] I haven't read the book, but I believe somewhere in there she makes the statement that something along the lines of, if that trend were to continue, what we've seen over the last 50 years, then by like 2040 something sperm counts would be zero, but I'm pretty sure she's stating within that, the caveat that I'm not saying it's linear and that we're going to continue to digress until we hit zero. But if the trend continued exactly like it's been up to this point, then that's where we would be. So it's just kind of scary to see that trend line as we've seen it.
Kellan: [00:05:18] Yeah. There's so much that's unknown. And like with anything it's really difficult to forecast. But to think that in each of those areas, the declining sperm counts and testosterone, the increasing cancer and other sexual dysfunctions. You know, in the increase of miscarriages and some other things that we'll talk about, the fact that all of that has happened to such an extreme degree and that it's not plateauing yet in my mind is pretty alarming.
So we'll dive into a lot of those crazy things that are happening and why this could be a major contributing factor in collapse. But first I want to just take a step back and I think it's worth laying a little bit of a foundation of understanding. We have all sorts of hormones in our body, and when it comes to reproductive hormones, you think about testosterone and estrogen, but when it comes to any of our hormones, we need just the right amounts and the right timing of their delivery. And you know how effectively they're transported to where they need to go. All of that needs to be really precise.
And then regarding reproduction, you think about all the processes that have to work just right in, in males and females in order for conception to occur. And then regarding actually the building of a baby, a lot of things need to go just right during the development of a fetus, and it was mentioned in the book multiple times that the most important time for a man's reproductive health is actually while he's still a fetus in utero. And so you think about all the processes within our bodies that have to take place in just the right way, and you factor in not only the hormones, but also, you know, all the nutrients, all the chemicals, there's kind of this Goldilocks principle that it can't be too much or too little, things have to be just right for them to work the way they're supposed to.
And in fact, when it comes to just how sensitive our bodies are, when you think about hormones and chemicals and things like that, she makes a comparison to a single drop in an Olympic size swimming pool. Right? When you think of certain hormones or certain chemicals that, that small of an amount, proportionally, can make or break how things work with him, our reproductive systems.
Kory: [00:07:17] Yeah. It makes it, let me think of like, when, you know, we've talked about how complex and sensitive ecosystems are several times and how there are so many different factors that all have to be playing in the right way at the right time, you know, the circumstances of earth for life to even be here, and the reason why we don't see life flourishing and other planets is because it is so complicated and it makes sense that that same principle is true about human development.
Kellan: [00:07:42] Yeah, I agree. I, when it comes to reproduction, at least in humans, frankly, our reproductive systems aren't that efficient, you know, she mentioned in the book at best, there's only a 30% chance of pregnancy. She mentioned that even for couples that are trying to get pregnant, that are trying to do everything right, that are making sure that, you know, the timing with the woman's cycle is all lined up. There's still even then only a 30% chance of pregnancy. And that's with people that don't have any sort of sexual dysfunctions or health issues that that's between healthy couples.
But what's interesting is that fertility rates are going down for both men and women of all relevant age groups. And so more and more people that are trying to start a family are unable to, and somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 children are conceived through sperm donation each year in the U S and that demand just keeps going up. It's a multi-billion dollar industry.
So anyways, that's kind of the gist of it, right? We're seeing these issues increase at really alarming rates.
Kory: [00:08:47] But so with how big of a deal this is and how impactful those numbers are, you know, 52% decrease over 50 years. Why isn't this something that's being talked about more because this book is the first that I had heard of it. And, you know, I feel like if it's been continuously happening over 50 years, that we would be hearing about it from other sources as well.
Kellan: [00:09:06] It's funny you ask that because I feel like I've asked you the same question when we've talked about other things, right? These really terrifying effects of climate change. Or issues with peak oil or any of the other things we've talked about. It's like, why don't more people know about this? Why isn't it being talked about more?
And in this case, a lot of the research is really just emerging. But even then, I mean, she's trying desperately to build awareness. At one point she compares at least part of it to what took place with widespread awareness around asbestos. You know, back in the day, asbestos was in everything. It was really commonly used. And at some point people started to realize it's extremely toxic. It causes major health issues. And she mentioned, you know, I don't, I don't remember the details of it, but at one point somebody kind of rang the alarm, raised the flag and said, this is a serious health issue. And that it took years even after that, before people really started to care and for it to catch on and for anyone to make any changes.
So these trends have been going on for decades, and there are groups of people that are very aware and very worried about it. And we'll actually talk about some of that later, because you know, for anyone listening on this podcast, who's worried about how much we're using resources, how much we're wasting, how much damage we're causing to the planet. Your initial reaction might be. Hey, this doesn't sound like a problem. That sounds like a good thing. And if you've got a whole collection of people who feel like declining birth rates is to our advantage, it's going to be hard to get the kind of attention that you need to on an issue like this.
Kory: [00:10:34] Yeah. That makes total sense. Just where it's so new people haven't heard about it yet. Really. And the ones that do hear about it, reject it. And some people, the ones who are kind of looking for this type of information, a lot of collapse aware people would welcome it and say, oh, well, this is good because it's going to decrease consumption.
Kellan: [00:10:49] All right. So let's talk about how this is affecting both men and women. On the male side of the equation you know, we mentioned that sperm counts are going down, but that's only one part of it. The health of sperm is measured in a number of ways, not just sperm count. There's concentration, which is what we talked about before. Also vitality, which is how many of the sperm are actually alive. Motility, which is their ability to move in a way that allows them to reach and fertilize an egg. So apparently ya know in some cases, sperm just kind of move in circles or they move really slow. There's zero chance of them actually reaching and fertilizing the egg. And for context, with horses, in order for them to be considered fit for breeding, they have to have a 60% motility. For dogs it's typically 70%. For humans we say you're in an okay range. If you're anything better than 50%. So concentration, vitality, motility. Morphology, is kind of a size and shape of the sperm, you know, if you think about what an actual sperm cell looks like, it's kind of like a mini tadpole and if there's any sort of deformity in the shape of the sperm, you know, if the, if the tail of the sperm isn't long enough or can't propel the sperm the way that it needs to, that's an issue. Anyways, in each of these factors, if any one of these goes down, it decreases your fertility. But if multiple go down it drastically decreases your fertility.
So if your sperm have an issue, just in one of these areas, that's one thing. But if there's an issue with even just two of these areas, suddenly your fertility decreases at a much larger rate.
So to think that every single one of those areas they're seeing decreases is scary. And on top of that testosterone levels have been declining. You know, she says 1% per year, since 1982, and testosterone is a key to healthy production of sperm. What's interesting about that is that for men that do testosterone therapy, you know, if they have like a testosterone patch, it actually causes more issues with infertility, your brain registers that you've got this additional testosterone and signals to your body that you don't need to create more. And so you would think testosterone therapy would help with fertility, but it actually is being considered as a form of birth control because it can drop sperm counts to zero.
Um, there are also increasing rates of erectile dysfunction. The interesting thing is that it's happening more and more in younger men, apparently 26% of men who seek help for erectile dysfunction are under the age of 40. And they don't know all the reasons for that. It could be a result of, you know, smoking and alcohol. It could be because people seem to have higher anxiety these days, which has a major effect on fertility and also sexual health. It could also be that there's more pornography consumption. Apparently pornography can deplete dopamine reserves due to overstimulation, or it could be a result of a lot of the chemicals that we're exposed to.
So we've just listed several ways in which men are being affected. Women are also being justice strongly affected in their fertility? It depends on which region we're talking about, but there's one Danish study that basically showed a Danish woman in her twenties is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35 years old.
To mention just a few of the problems on that side of the equation. They're seeing an increase in what they call diminished ovarian reserve. DOR, which basically means less eggs and less quality of eggs and a higher chance of miscarriage.
In fact, for women of various ages in the U S from the year 1990 to 2011, the rate of miscarriage increased again, 1% per year. There've been a lot of reports of a decrease in sexual desire, and that's among both men and women of all ages. It reportedly affects 69% of women over the age of 40. In the U S and in other areas, girls are starting puberty earlier, more and more frequently at the age of even eight years old. She talks about how that can create a whole range of other issues.
As we kind of blend into not only the physical issues that we're seeing, but some of the social issues as well, this one kind of has crossover between the two, but you know, it's always been the case that it's harder for women to get pregnant as they get older. And now women aren't even considering having children until they get older. So to compare and contrast just a little bit , if a woman is aged 25 to 35, she'll have a 25 to 30% chance of getting pregnant if the timing is right and she's healthy, a 10% risk of miscarriage and a one in 900 chance of having a baby with down syndrome. But if a woman is age 40, then she only has a 10% chance of getting pregnant if the timing is right and she's healthy. She'll have a 40% risk of miscarriage and she'll have a one in 100 chance of having a baby with down syndrome.
Kory: [00:15:40] Yeah. It seems particularly interesting because like you said, not only are women becoming less fertile earlier, but they're also waiting longer to try on average. And so the window of time in which to have children is decreasing, like you said, for both physical and social reasons.
Kellan: [00:15:58] Yeah. You know, the roles of men and women have kind of evolved and shifted over time. Women are much more focused on building a career than they were in previous generations. People want less children, you know, if we're talking in generalities and like you said, they're choosing to have children later and there's a lot of reasons we can point to for that.
You know, one of those is urbanization. Back when most people were farmers, your children were an asset, they were going to be able to help you in your work after, you know, not very many years. But at least financially children are more of a liability, especially if you're in an urban area and in our modern culture, children are expensive.
Kory: [00:16:34] And I think that distinction is still true today of developed versus developing nations, you know, in the US our birth rates are much lower than in developing nations in Africa, for example. And it's because in Africa, those children, in many cases are still assets to the family. They can still help, you know, on the homestead or the farm or whatever it is. Raising a child isn't that expensive. It's one more mouth to feed. Where in the west, now it's another car and a wedding and college and fancy things like diapers and all this way more expensive stuff that we do in the west. That they really don't have even as a luxury in developing countries.
Kellan: [00:17:11] Yeah. It's a really good call-out that this stuff isn't the same everywhere. But one thing I found is that across the world, birth rates are decreasing. There are a few countries in Africa where birth rates are not decreasing. But aside from that, you know, in each continent around the world where you've got people living, you're going to see that downward trend.
When we talk about developed versus undeveloped nations and the fact that it's in more developed nations, that we see people having less kids they've been able to correlate that really heavily to education.
Additionally, it's probably not a surprise that as contraception becomes more available people have less kids. In the book she also spends quite a bit of time talking about a shift in how people identify themselves. You think about how much more prevalent it is for people to openly talk about and distinguish themselves as gay or lesbian or transgender or any of the other classifications that weren't typical in previous centuries. And there's so much that goes into that topic, but suffice it to say it plays a big part in the birth rates of children and how families are formed in our modern society.
Kory: [00:18:18] Yeah. That makes total sense. Um, I think in past centuries and even decades, there's been an expectation for the roles that people were supposed to play in society. And it was much more oppressive for people to be able to express themselves and who they truly felt they were in the past. And so they would force themselves to fit into the societal molds. And they would marry and they would have children. Whereas now we are beginning to be in a society that's much more accepting. And so more people are willing to express who they truly are and live their life the way they want to live it and not feel like they have to follow the mold that society puts them in.
So going back to all these physical problems that we're having with reproduction, like what is the cause behind all that I know you mentioned a couple, is there one that's way more prevalent than others? Is it a combination of a bunch of different things? What did you find out in your research?
Kellan: [00:19:06] Yeah, it definitely is a combination of a lot of things, but the biggest culprit is the chemicals that are in our environment. Like we talked about, we have this delicate cocktail of hormones, particularly testosterone and estrogen that are heavily impacted by the presence of a lot of the chemicals we have in our modern society. And these chemicals, we breed them. We eat them. We absorb them into our skin getting about pesticides and herbicides. And so many things are loaded with flame retardants.
There are so many pollutants in the air. You know, there's this long list of chemicals that cause damage and that we are continually exposed to. And it's not just a theory that these chemicals have an effect on reproductive health, like there's cases over and over again of, you know, a pocket of people in a certain area that are all of a sudden having a huge spike in miscarriages or a huge spike in infertility. And they trace it back and find out all those people are working at the same factory.
Kory: [00:20:01] Screw you Nestle
Kellan: [00:20:05] yeah. So it can be people's workplaces or in certain areas where they start to see these issues with infertility or reproductive problems. And they find that there's a chemical that's been leached into the water, right. Or they've done plenty of studies on animals and testing chemicals on animals and they can see very clearly the way that sperm counts drop.
So a lot of these chemicals come from plastics and plastics are in everything, right. We talked previously about microplastics. And my head was spinning when I went through the book with just all the different chemicals and they all have their acronyms, but a few of the main ones, there's valet it's, which typically make plastics more soft and flexible, kind of more pliable. You hear about BPAs that make plastics harder. PVCs or polyvinyl chloride are used, you know, in a number of ways to increase the versatility of plastics.
And if you remember from our previous conversation, when we did talk about microplastics, plastics are in like pretty much all cosmetic products. You think about any scented soaps. You think about face washes and shampoos and sunscreens, deodorants, makeup, hairspray, whatever it is, you get all these chemicals that are loaded into cosmetic products. You know, mattresses and cushions, even like kids' pajamas, they're required to put flame retardants in them.
And you might see some sort of a product that says BPA free and you're like, woo. But she talks in detail in the book about what she calls regrettable substitutions. Where it's like, yeah, they pulled the BPA is out, but they just added something else that might be just as toxic or it's completely untested, we don't even know yet the damage that it might cause .
As you can imagine, there's all sorts of reproductive issues caused by cigarette smoke and not just traditional cigarettes, but e-cigs. Ya know, marijuana, there's issues from alcohol. Even as you think about all the chemicals that we're always exposed to and all of the hormones that we have to interact with those you add on top of that, the hormones that we eat whenever we consume meat. Ya know most processed meat is loaded with these hormones that has been proven to lower sperm counts. And women who eat more of this processed meat while pregnant, their male children end up having lower sperm counts.
So yeah, chemicals is the main thing, but another big one is obesity. Obesity is linked to all sorts of health problems, but particularly reproductive health issues and our obesity rates keep going up.
Another one that they're still trying to figure out is that they've linked lower sperm counts to how much TV you watched. And they thought like, if you're sitting on the couch in one position for a long period of time...
Kory: [00:22:44] you basically, I just don't have the proper airflow.
Kellan: [00:22:46] Yeah.
Kory: [00:22:47] Got it.
Kellan: [00:22:48] But that's not actually the case because in other scenarios, you know, where people are in working conditions where they're really hot, they don't see the same kind of issues. So they don't really know why. Um, but especially for people that watch a lot of TV, they have much lower sperm counts. There's also lower sperm counts if you don't get enough exercise. Whether you're obese or not a lack of exercise causes that sort of an issue.
Kory: [00:23:13] It sounds like there could be some causation versus correlation stuff there too, because a person who sits and watches a ton of TV is probably not a person that's doing a lot of exercising. And so it may not be the television itself, you know, it could just be that that sort of lifestyle of that person is generally living.
Kellan: [00:23:28] Yeah. It's a really good, call-out the way I'm wording. It might sound like I'm saying, Hey, these things cause these reproductive issues, but we know correlation isn't causation. I think the way she phrases it over and over again in the book is that, you know, lower rates of exercise are associated with lower sperm counts.
which by the way, that's the case except when it comes to cycling.
Kory: [00:23:49] The seats, man, they got to make those things softer.
Kellan: [00:23:53] Yeah. Those aren't doing any favors to anybody's reproductive systems.
And this, again, even with that example of exercise, there's this right balance, the whole Goldilocks principle again. If you don't have enough exercise there's issues, if you exercise way too much there's issues. Especially with women, ya know moderate exercise is when they're most fertile, but they've seen issues with menstruation when women exercise too much. Higher stress causes issues with sperm health and with menstruation and with libido or sex drive. Antidepressants can cause reproductive issues. And we know there's an increase of antidepressants being consumed. Even Tylenol apparently causes sperm issues.
So anyways, going back to your question, chemicals are what's pointed to as kind of the, the major culprit, but it's only one factor. There's all these other things about our modern lifestyle that are causing us to see this decline in reproductive health.
Kory: [00:24:49] And so it seems like, you know, for a person that's wanting to have children, there are things that they can do to give themselves the best possible chances, but you cannot avoid all these chemicals. I mean, even the most remote villages in the Amazon are still getting microplastics rain down on them, washed downstream in the rivers, growing in their plants. And it's just another symptom of sort of this crazy consumerism lifestyle that we've created for ourselves globally.
Kellan: [00:25:16] Yeah. The author actually attempts to tell you all the ways that you can try to avoid the chemicals, for example, caused by plastics. And I started trying to make a list of all of them, and it was a long list. There would be a lot of things you have to do if you want to try to completely avoid them. For example, don't handle receipts because when you purchase something and they give you a receipt, there's chemicals there. Get rid of air fresheners and scented candles. Don't have carpet.
Kory: [00:25:41] Don't have vinyl floor.
Kellan: [00:25:42] Yeah, don't have, don't have vinyl flooring. You can only have hardwood or ceramic tile. Don't have vinyl shower curtains. Get a garden hose that doesn't have those chemicals. Stop using lawn products with chemicals and eat only organic, you know, change your bedsheets and your mattress cover to ones that don't have any of those plastics are those chemicals. Don't heat stuff up in the microwave in a plastic container. You know, there's, there's so many things that it would take a very drastic change in lifestyle for most of us to really be able to avoid these.
So one concerning thing about all of this is that reproductive health issues are linked to an increased risk in cancer of various forms and diabetes and heart issues. Ya know, in fact, they found in one study group, we talked about all those factors in the health of sperm or semen previously. It said men with two or more abnormal semen parameters had a 2.3 fold, higher risk of dying in the 10 years following gathering the data for that study.
Kory: [00:26:43] It's really interesting because now you're mixing in not just decreasing birth rates, but also increasing death rates, a person who is less likely to be able to reproduce is also more likely to have a sooner death.
Kellan: [00:26:57] Yeah. And that kind of leads to, why were we even talking about this in the context of collapse? Like what does this really mean for our population?
Kory: [00:27:04] Yeah, because it seems like in, especially amongst collapse aware people, there's always this big debate about over-consumption versus overpopulation. And like you said, at the beginning of the episode, a lot of people who want to avoid collapse would be thrilled at the thought of less children being born. So it kind of begs the question. What does it really mean if our birth rates decline?
Kellan: [00:27:26] And I think it's worth calling out what we've said in previous episodes, which is that the real issue is consumption, right? When you've got 1% of the population doing 40 or 50% or whatever of the consumption and the waste. It's not that we don't have the resources to support our population. It's that we don't have the resources to support a population that consumes the way we do. And you look at how consumption rates have just skyrocketed. Even among those that aren't in the 1%, right?
Kory: [00:27:52] Yeah. We kind of came to the conclusion that episode, that it's not really strictly about overpopulation. It's not really strictly about over consumption. It's about the amount of people that we have consuming at the rate that they're consuming. It's a mixture of both.
Kellan: [00:28:05] So going back to when you first taught me even what collapse is, right? Collapse is when our complex society is reduced to something much simpler and or the population decreases by a drastic percentage. And so if these trends that we're talking about increase, it will inevitably cause collapse because we'll see the population take a huge nose dive.
Kory: [00:28:26] Yeah. I mean, it's a paradox, right? Like people say that in order for us to prevent collapse, we have to stop consuming as much as we are, which means we need to stop having children and decrease our population. But decreasing our population is literally in one sense, the definition of collapse and it would have economic and financial repercussions that would lead to collapse anyway.
Kellan: [00:28:47] Yeah. So let's say, you know, we talked about the physical issues that we're seeing with reproductive health and how that's leading us to a potentially really grim future. But even if we take those out of the equation and we just talked about the direction we're already going with the fact that people are simply having less kids, you know, in most of the history of the world, birth rates were high and death rates were high. So we stayed at kind of this relative equilibrium, but then, you know, in recent centuries, death rates started going down. And so our growth rate just went nuts. We talked about that exponential hockey curve and how it took so many years to double our population the first time, and then so many less years to double it again and then double it again.
So we see the growth rate go way up, but then birth rates start to plateau and start to go down. And so the only thing we've ever really known is a pyramid, right, where there's always been more young people than old people. But if you look at kind of a visualization of populations in most countries, they no longer look like much of a pyramid, it looks much more like a tall, skinny rectangle.
So what does that do to a society when you don't have that population base of young people that heavily outnumbers the older people? Like you said, it causes a reduction in economic growth, which if you go back to our initial episode on our financial system, we require growth for the system to even continue to operate.
Kory: [00:30:13] Right, you got to have new people to take on the debt that was created by the old people.
Kellan: [00:30:18] Yeah. And you also get decreasing tax revenue, you get a greater use of social security with fewer people contributing to social security.
Kory: [00:30:27] I mean, it seems like social security cannot survive in a situation like that. If there are not enough people paying taxes to cover the current social security costs, it can't be covered. I think a lot of people have this misconception that social security is money that was put away that the social security payments that I'm making now from my taxes are going into a bank somewhere that will be paid back to me when I retire.
And that's not how it is. You're paying for your parents' retirement and your kids are going to be paying for your retirement. And if you don't have kids and just to say in general, if people stop having children, there will be no children to pay for your retirement. And social security is already something that has been a hot topic over the last five to 10 years or so, because it does seem that there's just simply going to be no way for it to carry on.
You know, when I retire in 30 years, am I going to have access to it? Doubtful.
Kellan: [00:31:18] Yeah. I'm doubtful too. When social security was first introduced in the 1930s, life expectancy was somewhere around 60,
Kory: [00:31:25] Now we're retiring three years to five years after that in general.
Kellan: [00:31:30] Yeah. But back then, a lot of people never lived to get social security or if they did, they'd only get it for a few years. Our system isn't designed to have people work like crazy and then get decades of leisure.
Kory: [00:31:43] And it's also interesting what you said about the tax decrease. You know, we we've talked about how, as we go into the cycle of catabolic collapse, we need more funds to cover the costs that are going to be incurred by the disasters, by the, you know, emergency recoveries, by the problems that are going to need to be solved as arable land decreases and we need to grow more food. As we run out of water and all these other natural resources, we need more money, not less. And so having less taxes is going to make that much more difficult.
Kellan: [00:32:12] Yeah. As the labor force, right, those that are earning a monthly income and paying taxes decreases, and those that are in retirement increases, it's just not sustainable.
You also get increased healthcare demands, right, when you've got an aging population. And there's a big concern for this widening health disparity. Ya know there's evidence that although we're living longer, people today in their forties and fifties and sixties are less healthy than they were before.
And so you think about people not being able to rely on social security, people having to work well past retirement age. Those that don't have resources are going to suffer. And you're going to see people in their old age that are wealthy, that are doing great and they're taken care of, but when the system can't support all those people that are aging that have serious health issues, it's going to be not only an overload on the medical system, but it's going to result in a lot of pain and suffering.
Kory: [00:33:08] You know, it's interesting to think about just in general the situation that we're in right now, for example, with the housing market and how much it's booming. And yet it's because most of these houses are being bought up by large corporations who are then turning them around and renting them.
And people are saying, and I agree with this thought that housing is becoming unaffordable for the current generations, for millennials and for gen Z. We're going to be increasing the amount of people who rent forever and never own homes, which is going to severely limit their ability to build wealth into retirement, to even give them a chance to retire. And so when you add another, these other things like healthcare costs, the fact that they're going to have to keep working well after retirement, just to keep living, the lack of social security, like all of those things added together makes for a very dark future in which a significant portion of the population is poor, is struggling to get by, is suffering well into their retirement years or what should be their retirement years. And on the other side, A very small number of people, like you said, who are well off. And then you have the ultra wealthy who are making all their money off of the backs of these renters, and like you said, it's just not sustainable. And it's hard to picture how that scenario doesn't either lead to, or wouldn't even be defined as collapse.
Kellan: [00:34:24] Yeah, I agree. It's interesting to see the issues that are already being caused by this kind of reversal in the demographic of our population in certain parts of the world. You know, a handful of decades ago, everybody was panicking about how much the population was growing and we've got limits to growth. And we got governments restricting the number of kids people could have, like in China. Well, China just recently introduced a three child policy. They're kind of panicking the other way now saying we need more people to have kids so that we can sustain ourselves, so we can support our aging population.
In 1950 the percentage of people in Japan that were over 65 years old was 4.9%. In 2014, the number of people 65 years or older had quadrupled and was at 26% of their population.
It's kind of an interesting fact. In that same year, 2014, the number of sales of adult diapers surpassed the number of sales of diapers for babies.
Kory: [00:35:22] That is the metric that we needed. So that lays it all out pretty clearly.
Kellan: [00:35:27] Okay. Yeah. The average farmer in Japan is 70 years old. And a third are construction workers are 55 years or older and only one in 10 of those construction workers is younger than 30. Right, so we could list that after stat, but they're dealing with this issue right now and trying to figure out what to do about it, right. Trying to find ways to incentivize people, to have kids.
And here we're talking about kind of a financial strain, but there's so many other social issues that are caused by an inverted population like this.
Kory: [00:35:57] Yeah, that is crazy. And I don't know the numbers. I haven't looked a lot into it, but I know that Japan is for the last couple of decades struggling economically. They have not had much growth they've stagnated. And it's kind of an eye-opener for, I think, the rest of the world in the coming decades.
Ya know, I think from an environmental perspective, less people being born does result in a decrease in consumption. And for the environment sake, it definitely is a net positive. From a collapse perspective, though, from the way that we define collapse, you know, this is definitely one of the contributors. You go back to limits to growth and you look at each of the, the lines on the graph that we've talked about and one of those lines is population and one of them is birth , and then there's death rate. Those are huge, both contributing factors too and also consequences of collapse is the reversal of those, those lines downward. We talked about a couple of weeks ago with the updates to limits to growth, how in the next five to 10 years, we'll probably really start to be able to tell which of those paths we're following.
And I think a continued decrease in birth rate and increase in death rate, which hasn't started yet, the death rate hasn't quite reversed yet, but it will be a very telling sign once it does, and then followed after a decade or two by a dip in overall population.
And I think one of the hard pills to swallow when it comes to decreasing birth rates, even when talking about the environment and consumption is that it's delayed, right? Like we can stop having children right now and in a lot of ways, the decrease in consumption wouldn't necessarily start until later, you know, 10, 20 years when those people who don't exist are not now buying houses.
Children, of course, in some ways do increase consumption amounts. But the majority of that consumption comes when they leave their parents' household, they go out, they add another house to the world, they're buying products on their own, you know, that sort of thing. It's just hard to say that a decrease in population is a win, because from my perspective, a decrease in population is accelerating the collapse.
Kellan: [00:37:57] Yeah. I couldn't agree more and you know, I've shared my opinion here and in previous conversations around population versus consumption, I don't see a decrease in population as a win. I think a decrease in consumption, including, you know, a decrease in the amount of waste would be a major win, but even if we weren't decreasing our population and we're instead decreasing our consumption, it's hard to see how we could do that and provide the kind of economic growth we need to have to continue to sustain the system.
Kory: [00:38:25] And that's the whole thing, right? We can't, it's not possible. And that's why, you know, I told you in the very first episode, we can't avoid collapse. It's going to happen. And I think this episode really highlights that whole paradox. In the very first episodes, I can't remember exactly which one we basically said from looking at it from a macro level, an earlier collapse would be better in the long run for humanity. You know, we might not drive the environment into oblivion.
We might leave the world livable for future humans. And so from that perspective, decreasing the population if having less kids means that we would be accelerating collapse and it'd be happening sooner. And it would mean that future generations could live just at a very decreased population and standard of living, you know, then maybe that is a win, but if you're looking at it from a more micro perspective, Like, I don't want class to happen in my lifetime. I don't want to collapse now. I don't, you know, and I don't want to collapse the next a hundred years then in that case, you would not want to have a decrease in population, but it doesn't really matter either way it's going to happen. And there's not really a thing that you or I can do about it.
Kellan: [00:39:24] Yeah. And we do talk about things on a very macro level, right? Because we're talking about a system-wide collapse when it comes to all these reproductive issues that we mentioned in this episode, you know, I have family members and friends who've had these dreams of starting a family kind of crushed because they weren't able to get pregnant and it's heartbreaking.
You know, I hope we can be sensitive to that. That that's a meaningful part of life for so many people to be able to have children. And wherever your opinion lies on whether it's more ethical to bring children into this world or not to based on all these things that we've talked about, I would hope that that's a person's choice. It's sad to think people are kind of being robbed of that opportunity or even having the choice to have children because we're in an environment where they're exposed to all these chemicals and there's all these other factors. And I know I've heard the argument that that's nature's way of trying to get things back to equilibrium. But for those individuals, it's not like it's their fault that they've got all of these external factors having a major impact on their reproductive health.
So I would hope the trend doesn't continue, but it doesn't look like it's slowing down anyway time soon.
Kory: [00:40:34] Yeah. And I think to end on that note, it goes back to something that we've talked about a few times and that is that Kellan and I are big on not judging. Everybody has their own lifestyle choices and decisions to make. The decision on whether or not to bring a child into this life. Like, it's a huge part of what drives us just from an evolutionary perspective. And for some people, it is so important and I'm not going to judge someone for having kids. I'm not going to judge someone for not having kids. And I think we feel confident and comfortable in hoping that whatever circumstance you're in, whatever beliefs you have, that you do show respect and compassion for other people who might view the world and their life through a different lens than you do.
Thank you for listening. Feel free to share your opinions with us. We really appreciate those that are supporting us on Patreon. Thanks to the research Kellan, this was an awesome episode.