When I look at Japan, I see a glimmering of things to come. As a beginning, please read the following article over at Jesses.
In particular, take a look at this chart published over at Jesse's. If you click the chart you can see a larger image.
OK, now lets look at things from the long view….the really long view, well past the end of the boomers and the x-er’s and such, out to the point 80+ years from now. Japan will be sitting on a population about half what they have now. They will have reached it through tight immigration controls and natural deaths. The price will be a “stagnant” economy and an homogenous culture. I think that in the eighty years coming up the age makeup of the Japanese population will revert to the historical norms of a 7-10% aged population, which will strip away another 15 of so million folks, leaving a population around 50 million. This is a good population for that country, right around where it was prior to the turn of last century, and within the carrying capacity of the land.
But let’s take a look at their “stagnant” economy. They still have public health systems that easily outstrip those in the USA. Their standard of living is high. They have unemployment and underemployment, but who doesn’t? They don’t allow immigration, so the kumbaya folks call them racist.
So we are looking at a system in Japan that will effectively reduce the population to manageable levels in the time-frame that will also witness the end of fossil fuels as an economic driver. In my opinion,, every nation will have to address the population issue in this same time frame. It looks as though the choices being made by the Japanese will allow an orderly transition to a low-energy Weltanschauung with the culture and population intact.
Contrast this with the actions of the US. We are currently trying to restart a growth engine. Each time we manage to get it started again, we will run against the energy wall and go into another downward spiral. We have lost control of our borders and have mass movement of non-citizens within the country. These non-citizens have some of the most prolific population growth numbers. We contribute huge amounts of our energy in maintaining a military presence throughout the world.
So, if we are to begin to make the transition to the way that the world is inexorably headed, we will have to begin making the same decisions that the Japanese have already made. We will have to shut down our borders. We will have to reduce birthrates. We will have to bring our military to a rational point well below the 5% or so where it resides now. None of these are out of our reach.