"And when I die and when I'm dead, dead and gone
There'll be one child born
In our world to carry on, to carry on, yeah, yeah..."
- "When I Die" by Blood, Sweat & Tears, 1968.
A civilization must obey two basic rules if it is to survive: have children and pass along to those children the culture that made it successful. Fail either task, and the civilization falls.
The "birth gap" is a quantitative measurement we are failing the first rule. Now, when you die, there isn't one child born to carry on. In fact, in Alabama, there is currently a 13% deficit in "carry on-ing."
In recent years many have commented on the impending global population collapse. Perhaps no other journalist has put it in such clear focus as Stephen J. Shaw in his documentary "The Birth Gap - Childless World." In "Birth Gap" he explores several facets of the industrialized world's impending depopulation. We're getting older and having far fewer children. Since Shaw is also a data scientist, he gets to the heart of why this is happening and points to the grim mathematical outcomes if the trend isn't reversed.
The graphic below from the Birth Gap website clearly illustrates the phenomenon. The redder and blacker the area, the wider the birth gap. Those red and black gaps are beginning to spread across the South, and the Wiregrass, like a pox.
Alabama's birthrate (as well as that of the rest of the industrialized world) is falling below population sustainment level. This unabated decline will result in too few workers and consumers to support a healthy economy and aging majority. In the post-COVID era, we are just experiencing a taste of that now. Of note, the illegal immigrants living and working in the shadows across the Wiregrass are also experiencing the same birth gap phenomenon as the native born populations.
When working on my book "Abandoned Wiregrass" I discovered far more abandoned and derelict houses than I ever thought possible. As I drove around the Alabama's cities and towns, I saw decrepit downtowns and once proud structures slated for demolishing, There are many reasons for abandoned homes, but I believe there is a correlation between all these abandoned structures and the growing "birth gap".
If one extrapolates this trends, then it won't just be old derelict dogtrot shacks, like the one pictured here, that will litter the landscape. It will be modern homes and businesses, even those being built now, that will become vacant and fall into disrepair. This may be happening now. Simply put, there may be too many homes currently being built than will be needed.
"Demand is strong right now because of an unusual emotional surge driven by the pandemic. Demographics, which are a better measure of housing demand historically, do not support more construction.." - Dennis McGill, director of research at Zelman & Associates.
In Abandoned Wiregrass, I think I unwittingly caught the leading edge of this coming wave. I had over 700 images for Abandoned Wiregrass alone, mostly taken from 2018 thru 2020, and only a fraction were used in the book. If I stopped and took a photo of every abandoned home I ran across in the Wiregrass, I could fill multiple books. They are far more numerous than you can imagine, and the Wiregrass is not a unusual case. Taking photos of abandoned places has even become a sub-genre of photography called urbex (urban exploration).
I don't know where this trend will end, but I know we will probably be better off with more children, not less. It would be nice to die knowing there was one more child to carry on.
#urbex #abandonedwiregrass #birthgap #populationdecline #abandoned
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