The 21st century will be a time of dramatic change in the demographic structures of our national population in the United States. There will be many dynamic forces – social, economic, and political – which will serve to facilitate and to adapt to these coming demographic changes. The factors are likely to manifest in continued birthrate decline, population stabilization and, ultimately, the reduction of population, or what some have called national “depopulation”.
The evolutionary shifts in population will have huge impacts on the economy and therefore will be of critical concern for governance at all levels. These changes will be disruptive to the status quo. They will require adaptation throughout the society. They will present both challenges and opportunities. There will be a critical need for public policy dialog in order to anticipate and ameliorate the disruptions and to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by these demographic changes.
The GAIA Foundation intends – through it annual public policy grants program – to promote and facilitate this important dialog with research-based investigations of the critical factors to be considered for this time of social, economic, and political transition.
The GAIA Foundation Grants program has a broad sustainability Purpose, a set of impact-focused Operational Goals, and a Scope statement describing the priority theme for each grant funding cycle.
Purpose: GAIA Foundation grants are intended to encourage organizations and individuals with subject matter expertise to develop innovative niche projects to explore population issues in the United States including: the challenges to our future economic well being; the impact of population on natural resources like water, air, and habitat for at-risk plants and animals; and particularly, the contribution of our human activity to cumulative atmospheric greenhouse gases resulting in global warming/climate change.
Operational Goals: The GAIA Foundation Winter 2023 grants will support:
Research and academic exposition on: The economic challenges of population stabilization in the United States and public policy adaptations to reduce its negative consequences and to enhance its positive opportunities.
Media presentation to translate the insights of first-stage expositions for academic audiences into a more accessible editorial style aimed at the broader public in print, broadcast, and social media.
Scope of Winter 2023 Grants: The upcoming debate – certain to occur over future population trends in the United States – will include a wide range of important issues. We believe that economic challenges will be the first order of concern for political leadership and policy makers. Those favoring population stabilization must be prepared with sound research-based arguments to balance the inevitable resistance of advocates for status quo pro-growth policies.
Project proposals for GAIA’s 2023 funding cycle – limited to ten grants – should give first priority to economic impacts. We acknowledge that economic issues are intertwined with numerous personal, social, lifestyle, biodiversity, and other environmental challenges. And we are aware that certain of these issues will be of greater personal concern to some sustainability advocates. However, while a funded project proposal may allude to other secondary issues, the primary focus must be economics.
The priority theme of this Winter 2023 grant cycle is: Economic Policy Considerations for US Population Stabilization: Challenges and Opportunities for 21st Century Sustainability
Various fields of scientific research now assert that our prolific and highly consumptive human species has overreached and outstripped our planet’s ability to sustain the ecosystems necessary for all animal and plant life forms. Yet policy makers in most developed economies – including the United States – continue to pursue public policies guided by the traditional view of free market economics – that “dynamic population growth is essential to a vibrant national economy.”
Fortunately, there are indications of an evolving societal appreciation of the threats to planetary sustainability posed by an ever-increasing population. There is a growing willingness by individuals to alter their reproductive behaviors that have historically been encouraged by pronatalist attitudes and by incentivized public policies.
One macro-indicator of change in reproductive behavior is the dramatic reduction in US births per woman over the last 60 years following the 1950s baby boom
One personal indicator is the change in attitude of more young adults in the US asserting their lifetime commitment to remain childfree-for-life.
While such signs of moderation in reproductive behaviors are encouraging, we must acknowledge the variability of population patterns. There are ongoing macro-dynamic forces that influence human reproductive behavior: generational, social, economic, and political. We have learned that reproductive decision making can be affected by nationwide pandemic disease, and we are cautiously aware that shifting political attitudes in public policy regarding reproductive health care can cause short term birth rebound effects.
Our grants program recognizes the certain critical factors that have a direct effect on our nation’s demographic future: the expected pattern of birthrate decline, the growth of the elderly cohort, the multiple effects of immigration, and other societal changes. Importantly, it is these factors that will manifest in our changed demographic future toward population stabilization and, ultimately, the reduction of population, or what some have called national “depopulation”.
US Population Trends and Projections
The following four displays of US population trends and projections serve as a baseline for understanding: the pace of past population changes, the predicted pace of future population changes, and major demographic and societal factors impacting the past, present, and future levels of US population.
We welcome your questions, suggestions, critical observations … and your words of support for our initiative to begin the long road to bring human population into balance with our planet earth.