Europe is facing a population crisis of a very serious nature. Home to the 22 of the 25 lowest fertility rate countries of the world, Europe will lose 30 million people by 2030, in spite of the strong currents of immigration. The biggest decline is in rural Europe. As Italians, Spaniards, Germans and other Europeans produce barely three-fifth of the children needed to maintain a status quo in the population. It is due to a triple time bomb: i) Too few children, ii) Too many old people, and iii) Young people leaving the villages in search of better means of livelihood in the towns and cities.
Rural Europe is an interesting study of the demographic change. In a Greek village only a dozen old people are left out of a population of 1,000 a few decades back. With the death of these 12 persons everything will be abandoned. Never has the rural birth rate been so slow as it is now. The governments are devising policies for slowing down the rate of demographic decline. In France and the UK, large parts of countryside are reviving due to influence of families from urban middle class. A Swedish investor has brought an entire village and turned it into a complex of hotels for tourists.
But, once the baby boomers people born at the end of World War II in 1945 start dying around 2020, population will start declining at an accelerated rate and there will not be enough people for every town. Experts call it ?Civilized Depopulation?.
In Eastern Germany, expenditure of $234 billion in rural areas has not brought any fall in the speed of decline of population. Some districts started one room schools, but in many places even this was difficult to sustain. In Sweden, a university is pushing online learning in order to make students stay in their villages while getting education.
Another pioneer in a small town in Spain has started offering ?free airfare and housing? in order to make people settle in a town of about 600. Now this town has 130 families mostly from Argentina and Romania. The town'sonly school now has 54 students.
Increasingly worried European governments are crafting policies to nudge people to have more children. They hope to copy France, which first implemented such policies in the 1930s and remains one of the Europe'sfew growing countries. But, while these measures might raise the birth rate slightly across much of the ageing continent, there are few potential parents around.
In several areas there is a trend for abandoning productive land. But for thousands of years, Europeans have been used to fields and orchards and pastures around their towns. It is now part of their genes.
The landscape called Kulturlandscaft?a landscape shaped by centuries of human care. Today'sunprecedented decline of population, amplified by the shifting economies of farming, puts in doubt the future of many of those precious heritages.
Many Europeans are reluctant just to let nature do its thing. They cry when the woods close in. But, this is the cycle of nature they cannot reverse.