WASHINGTON — Sometime last week, demographers estimate, a baby was born who brought the planet’s population to a staggering 7 billion. That’s worrisome, given the stresses on precious resources such as water. But the underlying trend that has created a crowded planet is not a baby boom in distant, impoverished countries. It’s a phenomenon you can see in your own neighborhood or church or civic club: People are living longer and healthier lives.
As someone who hopes to live to an advanced old age, I can hardly denounce the trend. But we’ll face a slew of challenges — including inevitable economic decline — if there are not enough younger workers to fill the coffers for Social Security and Medicare, to feed and bathe and medicate nursing home patients, to build the elderly-equipped housing and drive the wheelchair-accessible vans we’ll need.