The news in the Times this a.m. was chilling…

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.

With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

The dinosaurs disappeared because they could not think outside the box.  It looks like we might go the same way.  The above description has everyone looking for band-aids instead of a cure.

For a species to survive, it must sustain a sufficient population to provide for its needs.  Assuming a roughly equal split of 50% female and 50% male population, every woman must produce two children in order for a population to remain constant in size.  That assumes, of course that there is no infant mortality.

Realistically, a developed country, with good healthcare and maternal support, one could probably sustain a population with a 2.2% birthrate.  The problem is, we do not have that.  World wide, the total fertility rate is 2.3% to 2.5%, but that also includes developing countries that have higher infant mortality rates.

So, the world is in trouble.  That is, to say, “our world” is in trouble.  We cannot sustain our population.  Add longevity into the mix and it gets even more troublesome.  As life expectancy rates increase, there are fewer children coming along to support the aging population.  The United States is in “sub-replacement fertility” mode with a total fertility rate of 2.06%, especially considering that we have a higher infant mortality rate than most developed countries.

The rest of the so-called developed countries are worse off than we are, except for New Zealand who reports in with the highest rate of 2.09.  France is up to 1.89% for the last five years.  But very Catholic Ireland is only at 1.85% and Japan comes in with a rate of 1.2%.  The rest fall in between.  If you want a complete list you can check out the CIA Fact Book.  Wikipedia has a few nicer numbers, but, all in all, the picture looks pretty bleak for us humans.   Then you have to add in things like war and the picture looks even bleaker.  War makes the picture bleaker because it kills off young people.  Worse than that, it breaks them (young people) too.

Yes, War breaks people like kids break toys.  Worse, in this country, we throw those soldiers away, just like broken toys.  Herein, however, may lay our salvation.  If we can ever learn to value people regardless of race or religion, or sexual orientation, If we can perceive the need to care for those less fortunate than ourselves, we might have a chance.  There are enough resources on this planet to care for the people we make.  Technology and productivity is high enough, but we are going to have to cooperate like we never have before.  War and waste is something we can no longer afford.

I think it may have been Kristof, of the N Y Times, who told the story of being in a place like Dafur.  He encountered a child who literally looked like he was starving.  Kristof offered him a sandwich.  The child took a bite and then put it in his pocket.  Kristof asked of the boy, “Are you not hungry?” And, the boy replied, “I am saving it for my brother.”

My friend was telling me about his brother-in-law, in Canada, who is suspected of possibly having lung cancer.   He has to wait a couple weeks for his biopsy and possible lobectomy.   My friend said that would never happen in this country.  “Here you would never have to wait like that.”  I said, “Yes, if you have insurance. **   The problem is that there are millions in this country who have no insurance and would never have even gotten that far, much less the promise of a biopsy in a week or so.”

My friend does not want to change health care because he and his wife have good coverage.  I can understand that, but we have to change.  If we can find a way to live with one another, If we can realize that by helping others, we help ourselves.  Gain does not have to be at the expense of another.

We need to get rid of gratuitous greed.  I loved the concept of the movie about the box, where you could push a button and get $1,000,000 but, someone you did not know would die.  Obviously, the person who would die was the person who pushed the button before you.  Bankers and their ilk are accumulating billions of dollars while people’s lives are being destroyed.  The economy is shriveling up.  My friend has health care but the system that provides it is breaking down.  It is not sustainable.  His health care, incidentally, is being paid for by the state of New Jersey and it is going broke.  I am for living a comfortable life style, but we have to be realistic about how much is enough.  I just built a new house for my wife and I, but inside it is only 1,300+ square feet.  It is plenty for us, a palace to many others.

Greece is going bankrupt because the people who have money do not pay taxes, or, at least, the taxes they should.  We all need to pay our fair share. We can make it but we need to start thinking outside the box.  We need to stop shooting and start educating people.  We can no longer afford bigotry and prejudice and we can certainly no longer afford greed.  Caring for those broken soldiers, only by truly caring for others will our species survive.  It is time to redefine “special interests.”

**Actually I had a friend WITH insurance and she had to wait three weeks for breast surgery even after confirmation of cancer.