A Timeline:
This is my least favorite subject.  Several years ago I was in Melbourne, Australia for an international genetics convention presenting a poster that showed what information I then had.  Although much new information has flowed in and what I can say is more specific and supported in multiple independent ways, the bottom line has never changed.  We need to make some changes if civilization, and possibly human life itself, is to survive. 

In all innocence, I thought that once capable professionals saw what I was proposing, once they saw what the question was, they would leap onto the problem and not turn it loose until the truth was clear.  The world does not work like that.  I believed in a myth.  Still, there is nothing to be gained by rolling over and dying.

In those cheerful days, people would come by and look at the evidence.  The Mesopotamian experience was the bulk of it.  Among them was a young man who looked and asked, “How long do we have?”  I hate that question. 

How long we have depends on what we do.  Or maybe it is too late to fix it.  I don’t know.  Nobody could no.  Nobody has ever tried to fix it.  It might be easy. 

Fixing it requires two things.  One is recovering the ability to have children in adequate numbers for survival.  The other is adopting strategies so that there are not too many children.  For me, strategies to reduce fertility are rather distasteful.  The only one I like is this: 1. No sex outside marriage.  2. No marriage until you can afford children.  I don’t mean until you can borrow money to have children.  I mean you already have the money or at least a reliable income that is sufficient to bring them up and educate them and no debts. 

If that were the rule, then I would not expect we would have overpopulation.  Getting such a rule established is beyond my wildest dreams.  I have trouble even getting people who themselves have had trouble having children even to listen to what the cause is.  But there are plenty of people who are willing to talk about and even take measures directed toward reducing the number of children among people who cannot and will not be able to support them after a fashion most would think acceptable. 

All right.  I am talking only about one side of a problem.  I know that.

Another problem I have with the question, “How long do we have?” is that I don’t know what it means.  How long until what?  How long until the first society crosses some point of no return and is doomed?  When does civilization collapse?  Or how long before the last ancient, sickly, terribly lonely person released that last breath?  That would be quite a span.  Furthermore, I identify four different populations that are in different conditions: most developed part of the world, less developed part of the world, least developed part of the world and a few countries that do not now seem to be affected.  So there are many events to reckon.

Before I start, 2 things: first my plans.  This more or less wraps up the new science I have to offer.  There will be more, but at present my next big data set will not be ready for a few months or maybe a year.  Meanwhile I plan to continue with the novel I started earlier.  At some point in late March I hope to make the contents of the DVD I have been mentioning available.  Such plans are always subject to change.

The second thing is to review the apparent fact that a population can paint itself into a corner genetically.  Consider: once the reproductive rate falls below 2 per woman, there will be a lot of only children in the population.  If that low birth rate is a matter of choice, abstinence or whatever, well and good.  But if that rate is maximal and due to having let the gene pool get too large, then a clock starts running.  Conservatively, suppose at that moment all children are “only” children.  Then after a generation all children are only first cousins.  After 2 generations they are only second cousins and so forth until after 7 generations all children are only seventh cousins and there is absolutely nobody on earth they can marry and expect to have 2 children.  If it takes 3 generations to go from a robust neither-inbred-nor-outbred population of high fertility, then it takes 10 generations to go from healthy to doomed, which is consistent with the fact that civilizations seem to last up to 300 years and no more.

But this scenario ignores 2 things we know.  One is the camel back curve.  That is, during mid course of that 300 year period there is a fertility crisis.  Apparently the gene pool gets so small that is able to recover; it recovers the first time but not the second.  But the process we just reviewed suggests no mid course crisis.  The second fact is that, as is evident from the Icelandic data, the damage done to the gene pool by excess size accumulates over generations.  You don’t only decide what your fertility will be for yourself when you choose a marriage partner.  You choose for your children and their children and so forth. 

So yes, that process paints you into an inescapable corner if it is the only thing going on, but in fact things happen much faster.

I shall make some assumptions.  I shall round things to the nearest 10 years.  For instance a generation lasts thirty years, and things are timed to the nearest decade.  Another assumption is that a society needs some men who are under 50.  I have heard, but cannot now document, that NFL football players, Russian men, keelboat men and Harvard Medical School graduates die on average in their fifties.  The thing these men all have in common is the habit of pushing themselves to their absolute limits.  Most of the members of a society may be able to operate in their comfort zone, but life being hard there are going to have to be some who give it their all.  Perhaps modern life is softer now, but I am pretty sure that in the past this was true, and I shall assume that it will continue to be true. 

So we shall start with the developed world.  The Great Depression was a time in America when the birth rate was low.  There was also an economic decline greater than the one we are in now.  There were also droughts.  (No I can’t blame the droughts on fertility.  It was just a coincidence.  And the fact that tree rings were small when birth rates were low for the Anasazi of Longhouse Valley was not drought but a reduction in cultivation of the trees.)

So we can time the developed world from the beginning of the Baby Boom.  According to my mother, in early 1942 the nurseries were beginning to fill up.  (Five years later they were utter pandemonium.)  The boom is credited to World War II, but that does not seem to be the case.  The pregnancies of the first of the baby boom were established in 1941 when there was still peace.  We shall call the beginning 1940.  That should be roughly half way through America’s career.  America, or at least that part of America consisting of people whose ancestors survived the depression, collapses in 2090.  That is the time when the youngest man is 50.  So he is born in 2040.  His mother is 40, so she was born in 2000.  She is now 10 years old in about 2010.  Her mother is now 50.  The American birth rate, like that of the rest of the developed world, fell below replacement in 1980 as we can see from the UN data.  The last of the women who were going to grow up and have a normal number of children were born 40 years before.  That was 1940.  That was the last year in which a fall below replacement could have been avoided.  It is also the year of the beginning of the Baby Boom.  Much has been said nice about the generation who fought World War II, but they appear to have been the ones who sealed our doom.  But there was really little they could have done.  The stage had already been set in the years before 1940, and they did have a war to fight; besides the birth rate seemed fine in the years after the war.  The beginning of the first cycle would have been 150 years before mid point or about 1780, which is close enough to the beginning of the US as an independent country as to make no difference. 

The proposition that the last girl who will ever grow up and have children in the developed world is support by the age distribution of German children.  Younger and younger children are the fewer and fewer there are.  If you carry it out, the last should be born in about 30 years, just like in America.  Germany is the only country in the developed world that counts Germans as those born of German parents, not just who happens to be living there.  So no other country in the developed world has statistics that are of much use. 

So here is our timeline for the developed world.

Urban mating strategy dominates the culture – 1780.
End of the first cycle and the last chance for rescue 1940. 
Last normally fertile woman born 1940.
Birth rate fall below replacement – 1980.
Last fertile woman born – 2000.
Last child born – 2040.
Society collapses when youngest man is 50 – 2090.
Last person dies at age 100 – 2140.

We looked at the Mexican birth rate.  Like the German one it is in a linear decline.  It falls to zero about 20 years after Germany does.  Mexico does not have many immigrants to cloud the issue, and emigrants do not alter the statistics as much as immigrants do, since those who leave probably have about the same birth rate as those who stay.  It is immigrants who will have a different birth rate.  The Mexican birth rate probably follow that of the less developed world (not including the least developed world).

The least developed world according to the UN statistics is about 30 years behind the less-but-not-least developed world. 

That leaves a few countries, mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa, which are now untouched by fertility decline.  We can call it the Healthy World.  That may seem an odd term for a place burdened with famine, war, tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria and sleeping sickness, but by the most important measure – fertility – they seem all right.  Left to themselves they should flourish indefinitely.  But they are not being left to themselves.  As the book God is Back makes clear, strenuous efforts are being made by both Muslim and Christian worlds to proselytize them, to covert them.  Now, so far as I know, they are largely Animist in their religions.  They believe that the world is alive and every plant animal and object has a spirit.  I may be mistaken.  But I am pretty sure they are highly traditional.  That will change as they convert, as they are doing in large numbers.

The work of these missionaries is high minded and noble, but the effect if unchecked will be destructive.  The converts will adopt a new mating strategy – the lethal urban one.  At the outside it will probably be another 30 years before the work is complete.  It might be complete in 10.  So we will snatch 20 years out of the air as a number we can do arithmetic with.  They should be effectively urbanized by 2030, or about 250 years behind the most developed part of the world.  If that seems like a long time, remember, it’s a good thing.  They are that far behind genetically.  Technology could, in theory, be transferred very quickly had the world but the will. 

Just for compactness, instead of saying most developed, less developed but not least developed, least developed and as-yet-still-health, we will call them 1st, world, 2nd, world 3rd, world and 4th world. 

There is one other event to consider.  This might or might not happen.  When if and when civilization collapses, it will no longer be possible to maintain the steady outflow of science that makes it possible to feed the world.  Developed or being developed are strains of grain that are drought tolerant, salt tolerant, herbicide resistant, high yielding and nitrogen frugal.  Not yet all at once, maybe, but some day.  These, often genetically engineered, grains will do much to feed the world, which is expected to reach a maximum population of about 9 billion in about 2040. 

So at what moment is civilization the most imperiled?  I would say that it would be on the day when the birth rate falls to zero in the 1’st world.  There will still be plenty of young people, but with a birth rate of zero it will be clear to all that the population is finished.  Then if the 1st world still has any enemies, and it is a big “if,” those enemies can feel assured that no citizen of the most developed countries will ever be replaced.  At the same time, those citizens will have no reason to make much effort on behalf of a future in which they have no stake.  Science could freeze in its tracks.  The world will have 9 billion hungry on a planet that bar modern science can feed only 2 billion under the best of circumstance.  And circumstances will be, to put it mildly, less than the best. 

It might not happen.  It might be possible to transfer science to those who can still make progress with it.  But so far, the 1st world has mostly provided only a brain drain.  It might be prudent to put more energy into programs that already exist to get the rest onto the high tech bandwagon.

So now we can fill out the timeline:

1780 1st world urban mating strategy dominates the culture.
1800 2nd world urban mating strategy dominates the culture.
1830 3rd world urban mating strategy dominates the culture.
1940 1st world end of the first cycle and the last chance for rescue.
1st world last normally fertile woman born.
1960 2nd world end of the first cycle and the last chance for rescue.
2nd world last normally fertile woman born.
1980 1st world birth rate fall below replacement.
1990 3rd world end of the first cycle and the last chance for rescue.
3rd world last normally fertile woman born.
2000 1st world last fertile woman born.
2nd world birth rate fall below replacement.
2020 2nd world last fertile woman born.
2030 3rd world birth rate fall below replacement.
4th world urban mating strategy dominates the culture.
2040 Possible world crisis.
1st world last child born.
2050 3rd world last fertile woman born.
2060 2nd world last child born.
2090 1st world society collapses when youngest man is 50.
3rd world last child born.
2110 2nd world society collapses when youngest man is 50.
2140 1st world last person dies at age 100.
3rd world society collapses when youngest man is 50.
2160 2nd world last person dies at age 100.
2190 3rd world last person dies at age 100.
4th world end of the first cycle and the last chance for rescue.
4th world last normally fertile woman born.
2230 4th world birth rate fall below replacement.
2259 4th world last fertile woman born.
2290 4th world last child born.
2340 4th world society collapses when youngest man is 50.
2390 4th world last person dies at age 100.

So by now it should be clear as a tear why I hate the question, “How long have we got?”  Nobody is ever going to stand there long enough for me to figure out the whole answer.  Besides, it is infernally gloomy.  And on top of that we might even come to our senses, and the whole thing is out the window.

There are some things I haven’t mentioned, and landmarks that don’t quite fit, but you have to make choices, and that’s my best guess if nothing changes.  As I said, it might be easy.  But assuming that it does not prove to be easier than we have any right to expect, I supposed I can produce a short list.

At what time can we rescue everybody without extreme measures?  Long gone. 
At what time can we rescue anything but the 4th world without extreme measures?  Gone but not that long ago. 
When is there likely to be a crisis?  2040.
At what time can we rescue anything at all?  Any time before 2190. 
How long before we go extinct?  2390. 

If you are disposed to despair, then there is not that much of a pressing problem.  But I still think we can do something.  Besides, I may as likely be too optimistic as too pessimistic. 

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