6/19/08 - the yellow peril

In today's encore excerpt - the current outpouring of opposition to immigration reflects similar outpourings at many points along the way in American history. One such example is the fear of Asian immigration in the early 1900s. However, not only was that fear unfounded, but fundamental global demographics have now changed:

"In 1907, William Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner published a two-part Sunday supplement which warned that 'the Yellow Peril is here.' Hearst was hardly alone in his prediction that 'Japan May Seize the Pacific Coast.' Those who did not fear outright invasion feared being out-bred. ... 'If California is to be preserved for the next generation as a 'white man's country' there must be some movement started that will restrict the Japanese birthrate in California.' ... How different it is today. Fertility rates in Asia have reached such low levels that population loss is inevitable throughout much of the region.

"When asked how long it will take for the world's population to double, nearly half of all Americans say 20 years or less. This is hardly surprising, given the sensations of overcrowding all of us feel in our day-to-day lives and the persistent reports we hear of teeming Third World megacities. Yet looking beneath the surface of events, we can see that world population growth has already slowed dramatically over the last generation and is headed on a course for absolute decline. ... These predictions come with considerable certainty. The primary reason is the unprecedented fall in fertility rates over the last generation that is now spreading to every corner of the globe. In both hemispheres, in nations rich and poor, in Christian, Taoist, Confucian, Hindu, and especially Islamic countries, one broad social trend holds constant at the beginning of the twenty-first century. As more and more of the world's population moves to crowded urban areas, and as women gain in education and economic opportunity, people are producing fewer and fewer children.

"Today, global fertility rates are half what they were in 1972. No industrialized nation still produces enough children to sustain its population over time. ... Germany could easily lose the equivalent of the current population of East Germany over the next half century. Russia's population is already decreasing by over three-quarters of a million a year. Japan's population is meanwhile expected to fall by as much as one-third. ... Yet the steepest drops in fertility, and the most rapid rates of population aging, are now occurring in the developing world. ... Today, when Americans think of Mexico, for example, they think of televised images of desperate, unemployed youths swimming the Rio Grande or slipping through border fences. However, because Mexican fertility rates have dropped so dramatically, by mid-century Mexico [and most of Latin America] will be a less youthful country than the United States."


Phillip Longman


The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to do About It


Perseus Books Group


Copyright 2004 by Phillip Longman


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