PSTX Seal

Welcome and Introduction

Welcome to the 163rd year of the Texas Philosophical Society. As you know, we fudge a bit. We were inactive for a hundred years, but then we do like our ancestors.

This is the eighth time you’ve met in San Antonio, the first being in 1940. I have a few things I’d like to say about planning. We had a very strong local committee. One of the most vibrant in the group was my friend, Marshall Steves. We’re very sad about his death, but we celebrate in so many ways his contributions to this Society and this city.

Amy Freeman Lee, John Howell, Charles Butt, Everett Fly, Boone Powell—all made significant contributions to our group. Then we’ve had lots of help from Evelyn Stehling, Ron Tyler, and Evelyn’s assistant, Diane Haber. Nothing that I do can ever be done without my secretary, Maryann Vaaler. She’s here today just to listen, but I want to be sure and thank her for her tremendous help.

All of us were so pleased with Charles Butt’s reception last night. Charles, we’re grateful. Charles knows how to do things, and I love to have him as my friend. We’ll be at Patsy Steves’s tonight.

We’ve taken in 21 new members. Sixteen were there last night—a very distinguished group—and we are a much stronger Society with our new members present. Thank you for being here.

We have a difficult time coming up with the topic for discussion. The new president begins his thinking a year in advance, and I was busily talking with anybody that would talk to me last year about what we ought to be discussing, and I recommend to any new president that you talk to Elspeth. Elspeth Rostow gives the best advice anybody could ever get anywhere, and she certainly was helpful.

Then I read Walter Rostow’s book, The Great Population Spike and After: Reflections on the Twenty-First Century, and I think, if anything, it was this book that propelled us into talking about population today. He had several things to say that I just want to bring up in an introductory fashion: the world population today is approximately six billion. It will be ten billion by the middle of this century, 2050.

There was little growth before 1750. Some anticipate little growth after 2050. India and China probably will be about 1.5 billion each by the middle of the century—30 percent of the world’s population—and as industrialization takes place in those two areas, a great deal of change will occur.

We in the United States have abundant resources, but we’ll have to be changing our attitude about the world, and I’m sure this will come up during our discussions today. If in fact we have stagnant population growth by the middle of the century, we’ll have to make changes.

Today 14 percent of our population is aged, 65 and over. By 2030, not even 2050, 25 percent will be aged. There are severe urban problems, and Walt discusses this very effectively in his book and suggests that the United States needs to be at the critical margin. We should be the ones dealing with the problems because we have the ability and the resources to do so.

The Population Bulletin, March 1998, made this statement that I’d like to leave with you as you think about the question of population throughout the weekend. We should not underestimate our ability to find new ways to manage our problems. The real issue is whether perception and politics can keep pace with a rapidly changing world. What it says is that population is tied in and intertwined with so much of what we do and think.

It pleases me to no end to have these five men here to talk about the problem. I’ve done everything that my mental capacity can handle in just introducing the topic, so I’m going to retire to the end of the bench.

Our moderator—and we’ve had moderators now for a couple of years, maybe three—they really do tie it all together. Our moderator today is Dudley Fishburn from London, our renaissance man. Dudley is an associate editor of The Economist. He’s really one of the senior editors. That associate word is a little misleading—The Economist is England’s premier weekly news magazine.

He was a conservative member of Parliament for Kensington in Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s governments. He’s now treasurer of the National Trust, the only non-American to have been on the board of overseers at Harvard and now chairs their library system committee. He was educated at Eton and Harvard, and we welcome him to this podium to moderate our session.

Dudley, we’re very pleased to have you.