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BLUFFTON ALUMNUS FORECASTS COMING GLOBAL TRANSITIONS

An aging population could signify less domestic unrest in the world, and developing countries are generally becoming healthier and more educated.

"On the whole, things are getting better," says Jonathan Moyer, who studies global trends at the University of Denver, where he is a Ph.D. student in international studies. But "pressures" are still plentiful, adds Bluffton University’s 2011 Outstanding Young Alumnus.

The 2002 Bluffton graduate outlined some of those pressures, along with the positives, when he spoke at his alma mater Sept. 30.

Moyer, who taught in Vietnam through Mennonite Central Committee for three years after graduation, has been forecasting the character of interactions between nations since 2005. That’s when he started his master’s degree program at Denver and began working with International Futures, a quantitative model designed to help policymakers think strategically about economic, social, political and environmental systems.

For his doctoral dissertation, Moyer is modeling emerging pressures on state relations over the next 20 years—a list that includes changing, and particularly aging, demographics.

Over the last 50 years, "the world’s been getting older and having fewer children," he noted, and that "historic transition" can be expected to continue through 2030. It will likely create more budgetary issues for nations, among other potential implications, he said, pointing out that Germany, Italy and Japan are "leading the pack" of oldest countries now.

Never, Moyer continued, has more than 20 percent of a nation’s population been over age 65, but by 2060, integrated models indicate that Germany and Japan, along with South Korea, could near the 40 percent mark.

While the percentage of people over 65 grows, the percentage of younger people is declining. Although that scenario does raise questions about what happens when fewer workers are producing for a larger elderly population, it’s "not always a bad thing," Moyer maintained. A shrinking "youth bulge"—in the 15-29 age range—could mean less domestic social unrest, often fomented by the young, he said.

The transition toward more educational attainment and better health in developing countries is positive as well—"We have seen the HIV/AIDS epidemic brought under control for the most part," said Moyer—but other pressures lurk in a shift in global material power and in climate change.

"Material power" refers to a nation’s wealth and power using military logic, he explained. As of 2005, the United States had roughly 23 percent of the world’s material power and China, about 11 percent. But the most plausible "base-case" forecast—meaning it’s been tested and validated historically, he said—calls for those two percentages to be about the same by 2030.

That doesn’t mean the U.S. is regressing, Moyer added, but rather that the relative growth of China is faster than America’s—as is India’s—and that a Western-centered world is becoming a more bipolar one. "It could become contentious around how India and China are developing," he said.

Moyer is among the five-member leadership team at Denver’s Pardee Center for International Futures, which he stressed is "not interested in predicting" specifics but instead in forecasting likelihood, acknowledging the subjectivity that goes along with it. In terms of climate change, for instance, Central Africa, which already has problems with food production, may suffer the most—but the issue is "a dynamic, complicated thing" fraught with unknowns, he said.

He also noted that carbon emissions are likely to continue growing until about 2040, when a decline may ensue. And by then, said Moyer, citing another major transition, renewable energy sources should comprise a much greater share of total energy production.

International Futures analysis shows use of fossil fuels "plateauing in 2030, with renewables taking off," he said.

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Bluffton public relations, 10/7/11