Thinking about Cognitive Dissonance

Thinking about Population and Economic Growth

Cognitive dissonance is the psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously holding conflicting beliefs. [1]

So it is with the worlds population and a long list of man made crisis leading to a lower standard of living for more and more people and extinction for more and more species. Recently CNN reported on the demographic “crisis” of lower population growth. Lower population growth needs to be our singular goal.

China’s population shrank in 2022 for the first time in more than 60 years. The population fell to 1.4 billion with implications for growth and demand. [2]

India’s population will overtake China this year with a population of 1.4 billion. The “demographic dividend” of low wages for rich corporations will continue creating unrest as the economy cannot create enough employment. As a result India has a toxic combination of poor education and lack of jobs, a corporate dream of jobless growth.

Japan’s population crisis is due to one of the lowest birth rates and highest life expectancies in the world. Nearly one in 1,500 people in Japan were age 100 or older. With a rapidly aging society, a shrinking workforce and not enough young people to fill the gaps in a stagnating economy.[5]

Like Europe; Japan has a high cost of living, educated women and limited space meaning fewer couples having kids. Tokyo with 37 million residents and no natural resources has stalled since its asset bubble burst in the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the average real annual income declined from $50,600 in 1995 to $43,300 in 2020.

South Korea recently broke its own record for the world’s lowest fertility rate, with data from November 2022 showing a South Korean woman will have an average of 0.79 children in her lifetime – far below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population. Japan’s fertility rate stands at 1.3, while the United States is at 1.6.

Canada has insanely increases its immigration levels since the late 1980s to increase its population and drive down the cost of labour. Since 1988 Canada has flooded the country with immigrants increasing the levels to over 400,000 per year. Canada a country of mostly barren rock and gravel brings in three times more immigrants per capita than then the United States.

The problem is always said to be “numbers of people 65 and above is surpassing the working-age population…we no longer having abundant, cheap labor to drive growth….productivity will need to pick up to sustain the economy’s heady pace of expansion.”

Ignoring the corporate noise and actually looking at the numbers and you discover that is not really the case. Growth of real gross domestic product (GDP) per hour worked averaged more than two percent per year which compounded over a century results in more than a sevenfold increase in productivity. This sustained and significant increases in productivity of industrialized countries far outstrips the demographic “crisis” of an aging population.[3]

The problem is not one of productivity but rather distribution. The major advances in productivity have been channelled into the hands of fewer and few people. The increased population is needed not for productivity but rather to drive down a commodity. That commodity is your wage.

Dissonance between Growth and Survival

What we all know is the notion that to survive we need a planet. The planet needs large swaths of ocean, prairie, rainforest and desert to keep us alive. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson stated “We would be wise to find our way out of the inept, dogmatic economic beliefs through which we wander.”

Since 1970, the global population has doubled to over 8 billion and monitored wildlife populations have declined by 70%. Populations of fish, crustaeans and plankton, those things we depend on for survival have declined by 83% over this time period. We are killing our oceans.[7] We have lost 20% loss of the Amazon rainforest. The 400 billion trees that made up the Amazon rainforest produced 6% of earth’s oxygen.

People can only thrive at the expense of nature for so long. We have threatened the planet for so long and now we threaten our own extisence: energy, food production, growth in housing and commercial development. These are all systems we need to rethink. The problem is us. Its not your individual footprint, its all of us leaving no footprint on a concrete path with which with we have covered the planet.

With no particular goal in mind other than economic growth, unfettered consumption and personal happiness we will grow ourselves into obliviion. We need to listen to what nature is telling us. The canary is singing. Listen, before its voice is stilled.


[2] China records first population decline in 60 years
CNN Simone McCarthy January 18, 2023

[3] India is set to become the world’s most populous country. By Diksha Madhok, CNN January 17, 2023

[4] Why Canada Needs Immigrants

[5] Historical trends Early industrialization

[6] CNN Opinion: Half-Earth Day is not a celebration, but a warning
Opinion by Lydia Strohl

[7] Wired we are killing our oceans