A solution to aging societies isn't to add more people
The June 29 Opinion piece "Consequences of a graying world" clearly addresses the issues posed by aging populations. However, promoting increased population growth is hardly a long-term solution. Over the short term, it may pay the bills, but it fails to recognize the increased demand that this population places on the Earth – whose carrying capacity has already been exceeded.
The only viable alternative to increasing population is to pay for services for the aging population by reining in our expectations and for each of us to be fulfilled with the simpler, less costly things of life. Striving to find satisfaction in the accumulation of more stuff and services is not sustainable.
The world is not graying only the people in it. The title and the rest of the piece overlook the context of the negative environmental impacts of more people, particularly more high-consuming Europeans, Americans, and Japanese.
The fact is that humanity is reaching the limit of the planet's ability to support us. We already commandeer something like 50 percent of the Earth's surface for food production and our own habitation and influence some 35 percent more, leaving 15 percent relatively untouched by humanity.
The Audubon Society recently reported that common bird populations in the US have fallen by 50 percent to 80 percent over the past 40 years. Over the next 40 years, the UN forecasts that the total human population will increase by about 50 percent.
We have to realize that, even without the potentially huge negative impact of climate change, humanity faces absolute limits to the number of people the planet can support. If humanity continues to increase in number, then in 40 years the Audubon Society will be reporting the extinction of several common birds.
There will also quite probably have been large losses of human population as well, through famine, drought and other side-effects of our environmental mismanagement.
The amount of freshwater, arable land, and the productive capacity of the oceans available per person will only decrease over time as the population increases Even if we avoid an environmental collapse, the best we can hope for is huge conflict between people for control of these dwindling resources.
Taiwan reforms should help politics
The July 2 Opinion piece "Taiwan's faltering democracy" addresses how Taiwan's hopes for constitutional reform were dashed. The author laments the factionalism prevalent in the Taiwanese system but seems to be unaware of the key constitutional reforms passed in 2005, halving the number of legislators to be elected in 2008 and changing Taiwan's electoral system from a single nontransferable vote system to promoting a mixed–member majoritarian system. These reforms are precisely what is called for to alleviate the problems that the author notes are endemic in Taiwan's democracy.
It is not the politicians and parties in Taiwan that are somehow different from those of other democracies; it is the institutional environment in which they act that promotes their behavior.
Constitutional reforms have been enacted since the important peaceful transfer of power in 2000, and these reforms should drastically decrease the incentives that politicians and political parties have to fight rather than debate and to block legislation rather than to pass it.
St. Louis, Mo.