A futureworld at a princely price

Paul Hopkins – Talking the Talk

CONSIDER this: on the day the fifth in line to the throne of England was born to Prince William and Kate Middleton (correct, and to call her princess or duchess is incorrect and for another day’s debate), 362,481 other babies came into the world. That’s 15,062 born  every hour or four arrivals on planet Earth every second.

As opposed to that only 10 people die worldwide every six seconds. You don’t need to be a Pythagoras to do the maths and see that the world’s population is exponentially growing and daily from its current 7.3 billion.

Ireland had the highest birth rate among EU countries last year, and the joint lowest death rate. The State’s baby boom saw 63,900 live births recorded, a rate of 13.5 births for every 1,000 of the population. This birth rate was well ahead of Sweden and the UK (11.8 per 1,000) and France (11.7 per 1,000). The figures from the statistics agency Eurostat estimate there were 30,400 deaths recorded in the State last year (6.4 per 1,000), the joint lowest with Cyprus.

‘We are at a critical junction in human history, the intelligence report says…’

So , what kind of future world can the ‘little porker’, and the other 362,480 souls expect to grow up in, specifically when they reach the age of consent?

According to a report released on the day the prince was born, new technologies, dwindling resources and an explosive population growth will in 18 years time alter the global balance of power and trigger radical economic and political changes unprecedented in history. The report by the US National Intelligence Council — who else but American spooks? — lays out dangers and opportunities for nations, economies and political systems due to four ‘megatrends’ transforming the world.

These major trends are the end of US global dominance,  the rising power of individuals against States, a rising middle class whose demands challenge governments, an intractable problem of water, food and energy shortages., growing urbanisation and ageing populations.

“We are at a critical juncture in human history,’’ says the report.

Our world population of 7.3 billion will have risen to 8.3 billion when the prince turns 18. More people will join the middle class, especially in the developing world, and even conservatives forecast that that global class will double to more than two billion in 18 years.

The education sector will both drive and benefit from this growth in the middle class, and economic success will, obviously, be tied to better education. This very much so in the Middle East and North Africa, and also with the education of women — boosting both economic growth and social health and welfare, something to be welcomed .

Much of this growing middle class will flock to cities, increasing the world’s urban population to nearly 60% of that 8.3 billion by 2036. (One wonders how much vast land and property will The Firm be hanging on to by then?)

Rising incomes will fuel appetites for food, water and energy which will be in shorter supply, in part because – wouldn’t you know it — climate change will affect arable land and greater demand for energy could curb the amount of fuel available to make fertilisers and such — changes to likely cause regional conflicts, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, says the report.

Meanwhile, changes in global temperature are happening faster than expected, with the latest data showing such change even greater than 18 months ago.

Not then a pretty picture for a privileged prince and the 362,480 who share his day of birth.

The disaster movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ isn’t the half of it …