The @PopulationMedia Center is questioning some conclusions of the population analyst Joseph Chamie in my post on Japan’s great diaper shift. (The aging country’s adult diaper demand is almost outpacing the market for baby diapers.)

Here’s a note circulated by Joseph Bish of the Center:

I thought today might be an easy one, but was immediately confronted by a challenging post by Andy Revkin at his Dot Earth Blog. In it, Andy reflects on his experience in Japan this fall, and brings up some data indicating the population of Tokyo may peak by 2020 before moving into the notorious "diaper-dynamic" of Japan (wherein adult diapers are close to selling at the same number as infant diapers in the country). This compels him to reach out to Joe Chamie, who reinforces the notions set forth in a 2010 essay Chamie wrote titled "Global Population of 10 Billion by 2100? - Not So Fast." In sum, Chamie believes that:

1. fertility will come down from high levels more quickly than expected;
2. fertility will remain below replacement level in low fertility nations;
3. world population unlikely to reach 10 billion by century’s end.

There are several areas worth remarking on here. First, Chamie’s initial assertion is at least partially called into doubt by the recent upwardly revised UN Population Projections. For example, here is John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. "In some cases, the actual level of fertility appears to have risen in recent years; in other cases, the previous estimate was too low."For the full UN press release click here (PDF). Also, please note the UN is projecting 10.85 billion by 2100 for the medium variant, not 10 billion as Chamie indicates at the end of theDot Earth post.

Next, Andy relays Chamie’s thoughts that family sizes in high fertility countries of Africa and Asia will continue to decline because of "increasing urbanization, smaller and costly housing, expanding higher education and career opportunities for women, high financial costs and time pressures for childrearing and changing attitudes and life styles." This is a very different “picture” than many of us are familiar with. (In that light, I have re-ran an essay by the President of Worldwatch Institute, Bob Engelman, which was published in Yale360 this summer.

Overall, its not clear to me if the Dot Earth blog goes into the naughty or nice category. But, at any rate, it is good food for thought. And, on that note — Merry Christmas. May we continue towards the ideal of Peace on Earth.

Stunning view of Tokyo from above in wake of an autumn squall.

In @nytimesscience the @garbagegirl chronicles ocean-combing volunteer quest for Japan tsunami debris. (Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw)

In @nytimesscience the @garbagegirl chronicles ocean-combing volunteer quest for Japan tsunami debris. (Photo by Lindsey Hoshaw)

Watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I kept recalling Hokusai statement on life and art:

From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the the age of 70 is not worth bothering with. At 75 I’ll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress. At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself…" [source]

Must-read @Mark_Lynas contrasts Japan & Korea on nuclear: “[U]nnecessary fear of radiation now presents a serious hazard to the world’s climate. Japan’s precipitous exit from nuclear power generation – the day I arrived in Tokyo was the first non-nuclear day in Japan for 42 years – has pushed the country’s fossil fuel demand through the roof, with imports of oil and gas up by more than 100% since last year, their ballooning cost driving a record trade deficit of $32bn. As carbon emissions rise in lockstep, Japan’s leaders are now backing off from their international climate change commitments, which the country has no chance of meeting. Given that wind, solar and geothermal account for less than 1% of Japan’s electricity generation, the country will be massively dependent on fossil fuels for decades to come if the reactors stay switched off. The only alternative is blackout…” Read the rest.

Tepco takes reporters inside the devastated Fukushima-Daiichi site for the first time.

Tepco takes reporters inside the devastated Fukushima-Daiichi site for the first time.

‘Safety Myth’ Left Japan Ripe for Nuclear Crisis

Norimitsu Onishi in NYT: …Over several decades, Japan’s nuclear establishment has devoted vast resources to persuade the Japanese public of the safety and necessity of nuclear power. Plant operators built lavish, fantasy-filled public relations buildings that became tourist attractions. Bureaucrats spun elaborate advertising campaigns through a multitude of organizations established solely to advertise the safety of nuclear plants. Politicians pushed through the adoption of government-mandated school textbooks with friendly views of nuclear power.

The result was the widespread adoption of the belief — called the “safety myth” — that Japan’s nuclear power plants were absolutely safe. Japan single-mindedly pursued nuclear power even as Western nations distanced themselves from it. Read on.