I was at that too-rare Chicago event last night, a book publishing party. This one was held for the brilliant Ted Fishman, author of China, Inc. Ted’s new book, Shock of Gray, addresses the multitude of issues involved with the aging of America’s (and the world’s) population. As with all of Ted’s writing, the book bursts with ideas, and listening to Ted talk about it can shake up anyone. For my part, I was put in mind of how the 2008 financial crisis betokened a reckoning still yet to be fully felt, I believe, in terms of how our standard of living the past fifteen years or so became ever more debt-inflated and unsustainable. The air must come out, and with it will go a lot of that borrowed prosperity. This is necessary for us to get back on sounder footing, but it means something no one (in America, at least) really wants to face: deflation. Less debt, less froth, just plain less.
This in turn put me in mind of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which (among the many other things it does) puts forward a rather hard-headed case for decreasing population, and by doing so decreasing the unsustainable levels of stress all of us humans are placing on the environment, animal and plant life, supplies of fresh water and fossil fuels, and all the rest of the Earth’s resources. Ted’s book suggests (among the many other things it does) that whether we realize it or not, this decrease is already happening, and it’s time to pay more attention to what it means.