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Crawling from the Wreckage by Gwynne Dyer
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Crawling from the Wreckage

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Crawling from the Wreckage by Gwynne Dyer
Sep 28, 2010 | ISBN 9780307358936

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  • Sep 28, 2010 | ISBN 9780307358936

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“It is his clear-eyed realism, coupled with an apparently encyclopedic knowledge of international affairs, that makes [Dyer’s] commentary so bracing. . . . His analysis is pointed and refreshing.”
 — Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire
“Piercing and provocative.”
 — The Vancouver Sun
“Smart, at times pithy, and always witty . . . Dyer’s collection has something for everyone.”
 — Winnipeg Free Press

Author Essay

In 1950, there was not a single country where the population was not growing rapidly, the average woman had more than five children in her lifetime, and the birth rate was not dropping significantly anywhere. Then came the new birth-control technologies and the rise of women’s liberation ideologies, and in many Western countries the birth rate dropped by half in ten years. As recently as 1974, however, the median birth rate worldwide was still 5.4 children per woman, so the pessimists were still winning the arguments.
They believed that only literacy could spread the ideas and techniques that made birth rates fall, and that literacy would not grow fast enough. Well, literacy has grown a lot faster than they expected – between 1980 and 2000, literacy rose from 18 percent to 47 percent in Afghanistan; from 33 percent to 64 percent in Nigeria; from 66 percent to 85 percent in China; and from 69 percent to 87 percent in Indonesia. But birth rates have dropped even faster than literacy has risen: the global average is now 2.7 children per woman.
Some of the most startling recent drops have been in places where women’s illiteracy is still quite high – Bangladesh and parts of India, for example – so we clearly need a broader criterion than mere literacy. In fact, any form of mass media, including broadcast media that do not require literacy, seems to have the same effect on the birth rate. (Though purely local cultural factors also play a role: Pakistan and Bangladesh both had a birth rate of 6.3 in 1981; now Bangladesh’s is 3.3, while Pakistan’s is still 5.6.)
The global birth rate may be no more than a decade away from dropping to replacement level, 2.2 children per woman. Most developed countries have already dropped well below that rate. This does not immediately stop population growth, since all the children who have already been born will have a child or two themselves, and then live for another fifty years afterwards. It does not solve the environmental crisis either, since all of these seven or eight billion human beings will aspire to the kind of lifestyle now enjoyed only by the privileged billion or so.
But it does mean that populations almost everywhere will start graying within the next decade, and in due course, the old will come to outnumber the young. (The exceptions are almost all in African and Arab countries which together amount to only a tenth of the world’s population.) Based on historical precedent, countries where the average age is rising are unlikely to become aggressor nations. Peace through exhaustion, perhaps?

Table Of Contents

1. Nowhere to Go but Up
2. Afghanistan
3. Climate I
4. Religion I
5. Israel-Palestine I
6. Miscellany I
7. Terrorism I
8. South Asia
9. Iraq I
10. The Post-Soviet Space
11. Iran
12. Africa
13. Oil
14. China
15. How War Works in the Middle East
16. Europe
17. Nukes
18. Of Time and Human Nature
19. Terrorism II
20. The Old Dominions
21. Iraq II
22. Climate II
23. Demography in Action
24. Religion II
25. Latin America
26. Miscellany II
27. Southeast Asia
28. Israel-Palestine II
29. Disaster Politics
30. Japan
31. The International Rule of Law
32. Crawling from the Wreckage

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