Artists and art forms signal the upcoming trends, typically unconsciously or subconsciously.
In 1997, the most influential book in my life was Siddartha by Herman Hesse. It was my first glimpse of the idea of minimalism, which was called asceticism in the book.
In 1999, in art school, the artist I found most intriguing was a woman named Andrea Zittel, whose work was an early precursor to the ideas of lifestyle design and minimalism. Daniel called it living purposefully.
As humans gain technology, quality of life, and other markers of civilization, their birth rate drops precipitously. (I shouldn’t have to call this out, but anything below 2 isn’t replacement) Yes, the world might have too many people on it right now, but the graphs at the link above should lessen any worries about future overpopulation. Read through the list of birthrates sorted by lowest to highest, and you need to go 75 places down the list before you get to a birthrate of 2.0 (Ireland.)
If you read the wikipedia article about population growth, there’s the usual hemming and hawing about whether we will continue to see elevated growth, leveling off, or decline past 2050. I suspect much of the inclination towards projections of increased population growth is leftover confirmation bias- as recently as 2003 I remember hearing a lecturer at PopTech giving a talk about the exponential population growth we will see in the future. (I can’t remember the speaker’s name. It would be interesting to see how much they have clung to their narrative.)
Humans are rightly worried that their overconsumption and the impact on the environment and the earth. Yet, as our lifestyles get more comfortable and more secure, we produce dramatically fewer children. (Or, to state it another way, when birth control methods are culturally and socially accepted and available, women don’t have many babies.)
Of course, population decline looks ugly economically unless you can encourage people to immigrate to your country.
So could it be said that the widespread fascination with minimalism, tiny houses, and simple living is just a mirror for this reduction in the creation of humans that we are seeing on a vast scale in developed nations? Is it a mirror for the replacement of the one compelling narrative that is innate in all species, the creation of more of themselves?