The Empty Playgrounds of Tomorrow: Europe's Negative Growth

July 03 2008 / by jcchan / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Culture   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

By JC Chan

In the next eight seconds 34 babies will be born to the world. Of these five will be from India and four will be from China. In ten years China will be the dominant English speaking country in the world. With world population exploding and shifting so dramatically, it’s easy to envision a future with billions more humans inhabiting Earth than do today. But that may not be the case.

Consider the scenario presented in the sci-fi film Children of Men (2006), a bleak vision of Earth in 2027 where humans have mysteriously lost fertility and the ability to procreate. In one scene, a scruffy-faced man named Theo, played by Clive Owen, and a woman named Miriam walk across the dreary rust of an abandoned school playground. Sitting on the squeaky swing set is the African woman they are protecting, miraculously nursing in her hands the first newborn the Earth has seen in over a decade. Miriam recalls her days as a nurse delivering births. She notes that over time fewer births were recorded until the day they ceased altogether.

“As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices,” she grimly states.

The backdrop for the film is a future England that has adopted a survivalist policy as it attempts to police millions of incoming immigrants into concentration camps to preserve the little remaining natural resources they have left. When I first watched Children of Men, the idea of humanity wiped out by widespread infertility seemed a little far-fetched. Certainly there are many other, more viable ways for us to go: nuclear weapons, terrorism, a nanotechnology nightmare, a super-resistant bacteria strain, asteroids, global warming.

Growing up in the 90’s, schools and media have always drilled into my head the post-war baby boom, exponential growth, limited allocation of resources, and recycling, oh lots of talk about recycling. (Note: I am an avid recycler.) Still, though we can and should do something about issues like global warming and runaway population growth, scenarios like the reality of the 2027 in Children of Men remind us that there may well be other formidable challenges on the horizon that may not be so much in our control.

Case in point, a recent NYTimes Sunday Magazine article by Russell Shorto entitled “No Babies?” addresses the very real possibility of population decline. Shorto examines the sleepy Italian town of Laviano in Southern Italy, a spectacular sight with magnificent steep slopes and wild poppies adorning medieval fortress ruins of a fortress, in which a population of 3,000 has fallen to just 1,600 and still dropping.

This has caused such alarm that the Laviano’s mayor has created a new fund to give any woman that would rear a child in the village, a sum of 10,000 euros ($15,000). Though the plan has resulted in a slight uptick in residents, Laviano is still steadily losing population. (cont.)

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Beta’s Eyes

November 23 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger
Category: Technology   Year: Beyond   Rating: 5 Hot

At some point in the not-so-distant future, somewhere on planet Earth…

Beta Bogdanovsky’s Italian Cācio-model translator spoke with a decidedly male monotone, and had the vocabulary, albeit in 13 languages, of a 3rd grader. Her dog’s translator was nearly as well spoken. Then again, Tóse was a smart dog, an Illyrian sheepdog whose eyes expressed more care than those of most people, and he almost certainly had the capacity to communicate on levels beyond the short sentences programmed into his collar.

“Iz vee NEH tuh,” she said in Bulgarian to a rotund bearded man blocking access to the window seat next to him. A roundish silver and gold box hung from a beaded chain around her neck, and a small bas-relief profile of the Roman god Mercury spoke the Greek, “Syghnomi.”

Excuse me.

The man’s posture shifted to make way even before he looked up, and when he did lift his head he was eye to eye with Tóse. Expressionlessly he made a symbolic attempt to scoot his plastic bags out of the aisle, and Beta sided into the seat, setting her gear on the floor between her feet. Tóse sat on his haunches in front of them both. Beta wondered why it was that people could not seem to rein it in in crowded public places and on trains.

As the ARMA Speed Tram pulled away from the passenger bay, the lights in the tramcar faded slightly as they always did between stations, and Beta closed her eyes and relaxed her neck, as she always did when she was commuting. Bitoli was five stops from the sea, as the tram tunneled through the Korab and Pindus Mountains, and then there were six more on the other side of the water before reaching Monopoli. This trip would be an opportunity to shut her eyes for approximately 2 hours, which was a very good thing, because Beta’s eyes were very tired.

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