I find I generally do not agree with this unsupported notion that the population has always got to be on the rise for a country to be thriving. I realize the prevailing notion suggests that the economic models in place depend on the population growing -- I really don't buy it; and even if I did, I would say that depending on the birth rate to exponentially increase ad infinitum is a pretty bad idea in the long run.
The arithmetic of population growth is simple — more citizens need to be added to the population pool than are being lost every year. Natural births and natural deaths account for only part of this equation; the other half is captured by immigration and emigration. In Japan’s case, population dynamics so far have been affected primarily by a decline in births. Given high life expectancies and a generational population boom in the decades following the Second World War, Japan’s population pyramid is top-heavy, with over 20 percent of the population 65 or older. Furthermore, Japan’s current fertility rate, according to the World Bank, sits at 1.39 births per woman — one of the lowest in the world.
I really feel that it's the other way around, and losing more people than we're giving birth to is a really good idea. I feel like the environmentalists really ought to feel me on this, as each person not replaced is a carbon footprint that is not replaced. One less car on the road. One less TV, one less air conditioner, one less refrigerator. From an environmentalist's stand point, not replacing every person who dies with two people who are born would do more towards their goal of reducing CO2 than all the Prius's in the world. The population is 7 billion, wouldn't 6 billion be a lot better, 100 years from now?
I see Japan's population decrease as a positive, instinctual response to a blind, destructive policy of human proliferation. I would describe their population as having been at critical mass for a long, long time. Choosing not to bring more, it's just the civilized thing to do.
I feel like the case for overpopulation is far from established. Yeah, old people are going to live a long time. The solution isn't to pay for it all by demanding the next generation is so large that the senior population is dwarfed by sheer numbers. What happens when the next generation is ready to retire? They need to be dwarfed too? How many generations can the world pull off that hat trick?
Yet here we are, trying to do just that.