I May Be Irish for a Day–But I’m Glad to Be An American

17 03 2010

It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Naturally, I am decked out in green from head to toe (except for my brown boots–the lime green suede boots I have just didn’t match the shade of green in the rest of my outfit). 

Sporting the new red 'do!

And, I have red hair for this month only (I am a wee bit Irish, so that was my rationale for indulging in a semi-permanent dye job this weekend). 

My co-workers definitely think I’m crazy. They expressed that very clearly last year on St. Patrick’s Day, as well. This year, I’m glad to see that most of the staff stepped up to the challenge and sported at least something green today. 

Of course, it may have been due my threats of pinching them if they didn’t wear green that cowed them into submission. I even threatened to pinch my office mate, Anna, if she didn’t dress her baby in something green. This was a retraction from my first comment to her, that I would pinch her baby if she wasn’t wearing green. I quickly realized how utterly barbaric that seemed, and how it wouldn’t really be poor little Adelaide’s fault if she wasn’t wearing green. 

Anna, for some reason, has avoided the office today. 

However, my husband is supportive of my love of all things Irish today. He’s been practicing his Irish brogue for years now, and breaks it out every March. This morning, he sent me a travel package he found on the internet—a complete trip to Ireland, including airfare, hotel, and rental car, for $539. Luckily, we have absolutely no money to spend on a vacation like this—so it’s not really a temptation. 

Ireland (and Europe) was on my mind today, and I just happened to stumble across an article about the declining birth rate in European countries today. I was struck by a phrase in an article by Barbara Curtis that our culture “normalized abortion to the point that one fourth of the under-30 population went missing” (one fourth!), and her article led me to another article about Europe’s falling birth rate, based on the research of Russell Shorto and an article he wrote for the New York Times. (You can read that full article here). 

Some stand-out statistics from that article: 

  •  The birthrate in European countries has dropped well below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 children born to every woman, to somewhere between 1.1 and 1.4 children
  • In the 1990s, European demographers began noticing a downward trend in population across Europe. A 2002 study by Italian, German and Spanish social scientists focused the data and found that for the first time on record, birthrates in southern and Eastern Europe had dropped below 1.3.
  • For the demographers, this 1.3 number meant that at this rate, a country’s population would be cut in half in 45 years, creating a falling-off-a-cliff effect from which it would be nearly impossible to recover. The ominous new term invented for this phenomenon was “lowest-low fertility.”
  • In 1960, Europe represented 12.5 percent of the world’s population. Today it is 7.2 percent, and if current trends continue, by 2050 only 5 percent of the world will be European.
  • According to Nikolai Botev (population and development adviser at the United Nations Population Fund), in Europe “childlessness emerges as an ideal lifestyle.”

The birthrate is lowest in South Korea, at an average 1.1 children per couple. Japan is at just about the same rate, as well as Thailand. India and China are also extremely low. 

So, how does this compare to America? Last year, we hit 2.1, the highest we’ve had since the 1960s—a number higher than almost anywhere else in the developed world. This number doesn’t include immigration, which leads experts to think we’re definitely holding our own, population-wise. In 1984, the U.S. Census Bureau projected that we would be at 309 million people in 2050. In 2008, the number stood at 304 million already, changing the new projection for 2050 to 420 million. 

What does this all mean to me? 

As much as the rest of the world likes to bash America, they have their own problems to worry about. Big problems, at that. And, as much as I love to pretend to be Irish for a day, I’m sure glad that I’m an American. 

Maybe next year I’ll wear green and red, white, and blue.

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