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Malthus - Prophet or Putz?

Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
edited November 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
“The fatal aspect of science is that science gives us the power, but it doesn’t explain how to use that power.”

Thanks to scientific progress brought about by great men the average person in the developed world has experienced a greatly increased quality of life. Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of people are unable to use these gifts responsibly. Irresponsible use of technology has created many major problems such as climate change, pollution, depletion of water and exhaustion of land.

Demographer Thomas Malthus predicted that a catastrophe would occur once the population had risen to a point at which the Earth's resources could no longer sustain the human population. Though he predicted this catastrophe would occur in the 20th century, scientific advancements such as the Green Revolution were able to postpone collapse.

Though population growth is slowing in many of the developed countries, countries such as China and India are in a process of development that is making their people wealthier and expanding their population. Along with population growth comes an increase in resource consumption, and it is expected that the increasingly wealthy citizens of developing countries will come to expect the same comforts as the people of developed countries.

The people of developed countries have already put a great amount of stress on our limited resources, and many people are coming to believe that the Malthusian Catastrophe will occur in the 21st century. In fact, it would seem that the catastrophe has already begun. Poor countries are getting hit the hardest with increasingly severe natural disasters and mass starvation, but it is predicted that even the developed countries will be severely affected by 2050.

Will the Malthusian Catastrophe finally take place, or will scientific breakthroughs postpone it yet again? What events can we expect to experience in 2050? What will the world be like in 2100? If the worst does happen, will humanity be able to recover, and if so, will the harsh wake-up call have been enough to teach humanity to use the gifts of science responsibly?

Hexmage-PA on
«13

Posts

  • TaramoorTaramoor Storyteller Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Ah... the end of the world.

    Always on its way, but never quite arriving.

    1. Technology will be awesome. We're constantly researching and discovering new and more efficient ways to generate and store power and energy, as well as eliminate or at least reduce the amount of waste we produce.

    2. People will never learn self-control. It's just not in our nature. There will always be a large number of douchebags that ruin it for everybody.

    I predict that the Malthusian Catastrophe will always be one of those "Happening in the next ten years" kind of events. Always just on the edge of occurring, but never quite happening. At least not until the Yellowstone Caldera blows and we all get sent back to the stone age.

    Taramoor on
  • CantidoCantido Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I'll show ya. When the chips are down...these, uh, civilized people? They'll eat each other.

    Cantido on
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  • Zilla360Zilla360 21st Century. |She/Her| Trans* Woman In Aviators Firing A Bazooka. ⚛️Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Desalination inefficiency? Solved.

    Science wins again. Damn you science!

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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Taramoor wrote: »

    2. People will never learn self-control. It's just not in our nature. There will always be a large number of douchebags that ruin it for everybody.

    I think it's definitely possible that people could become more responsible in the future, and I certainly hope that if global catastrophe does occur it will at least be an example to future generations for what not to do.

    Hexmage-PA on
  • werehippywerehippy Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Malthus seems to have been more applicable to the pre-industrial age, with the caveat that it was never as dire as he thought it would be, though I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of handwaving away future applications of the idea through science.

    Way back when there really was a negative correlation between population levels and prosperity, with things getting relatively worse until there was either a die off for some random reason or an explosion of new resources through discovery or innovation. Though even this was measured more in relative standards of living than masses dieing in the streets.

    In terms of modern day application, there really is a fair reason for concern. The first world consumes resources at somewhere north of an order of magnitude higher rate than the rest of the world and as prosperity flows that can't hold. Everyone is, quite fairly, going to want more food, goods, and creature comforts and it is a fair question to be concerned about the race between demand ramping up and our ability to do more with less.

    werehippy on
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    HamHamJ on
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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support at a first world standard of living.

    Hexmage-PA on
  • Zilla360Zilla360 21st Century. |She/Her| Trans* Woman In Aviators Firing A Bazooka. ⚛️Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    What is your ideal population level, Hexmage? Three billion?

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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    What is your ideal population level, Hexmage? Three billion?

    Oh, come on, don't be that way.

    Hexmage-PA on
  • Zilla360Zilla360 21st Century. |She/Her| Trans* Woman In Aviators Firing A Bazooka. ⚛️Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Be what way? How many people is 'too many'?

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  • agoajagoaj Top Tier One FearRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Taramoor wrote: »
    Ah... the end of the world.

    Always on its way, but never quite arriving.

    1. Technology will be awesome. We're constantly researching and discovering new and more efficient ways to generate and store power and energy, as well as eliminate or at least reduce the amount of waste we produce.

    2. People will never learn self-control. It's just not in our nature. There will always be a large number of douchebags that ruin it for everybody.

    I predict that the Malthusian Catastrophe will always be one of those "Happening in the next ten years" kind of events. Always just on the edge of occurring, but never quite happening. At least not until the Yellowstone Caldera blows and we all get sent back to the stone age.

    But what if we had technology that did self control for us?

    agoaj on
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  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    Be what way? How many people is 'too many'?
    9.3 billion.

    9.3 billion, and the world falls off the string holding it. Not rated for that weight.

    Edit: Oh, and putz.

    durandal4532 on
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  • werehippywerehippy Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support.

    I could agree to this idea if your sentence ended with "at a first world standard of living." We could keep a significantly larger population alive if we were willing to have significantly rougher lives relative to what pretty much anyone having this conversation enjoys. If we intend to maintain our standard of living will not baring the rest of the world from raising their level then it seems like a reasonable position to say we're likely to hit a point where that isn't feasible even with a steady population.

    werehippy on
  • Zilla360Zilla360 21st Century. |She/Her| Trans* Woman In Aviators Firing A Bazooka. ⚛️Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    Be what way? How many people is 'too many'?
    9.3 billion.

    9.3 billion, and the world falls off the string holding it. Not rated for that weight.

    Edit: Oh, and putz.
    :lol:

    Zilla360 on
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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    werehippy wrote: »
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support.

    I could agree to this idea if your sentence ended with "at a first world standard of living."

    That's what I meant; I'll go back and change it.

    Hexmage-PA on
  • Zilla360Zilla360 21st Century. |She/Her| Trans* Woman In Aviators Firing A Bazooka. ⚛️Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I think I read a sci-fi short story once about the world approaching a population of fifteen billion. Only by then was there an impetus for us to colonize Mars, but it was already too late. China and North America went to war, and the earth suffered a nuclear winter.

    Of course this wouldn't happen in real life, since America is too heavily resource and manufacturing dependent on China.

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  • Hexmage-PAHexmage-PA Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    I think I read a sci-fi short story once about the world approaching a population of fifteen billion.

    I remember watching an episode of Doctor Who in which the Doctor announced to this companion that the Earth's population at the point in time they had just arrived in was 100 billion.

    I then did a spit-take because of the shear absurdity of the idea.

    Hexmage-PA on
  • GarthorGarthor Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    I think I read a sci-fi short story once about the world approaching a population of fifteen billion. Only by then was there an impetus for us to colonize Mars, but it was already too late. China and North America went to war, and the earth suffered a nuclear winter.

    Of course this wouldn't happen in real life, since America is too heavily resource and manufacturing dependent on China.

    Also: Nuclear Winter is a myth.

    Garthor on
  • durandal4532durandal4532 Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    I think I read a sci-fi short story once about the world approaching a population of fifteen billion.

    I remember watching an episode of Doctor Who in which the Doctor announced to this companion that the Earth's population at the point in time they had just arrived in was 100 billion.

    I then did a spit-take because of the shear absurdity of the idea.

    Why?

    It's not like 6 Billion exhausts every single imaginable avenue to sustain. I mean, plausibility is out the window, obviously, but if you say put sea-cities strung along every inch of the ocean floor, and filled the land coast to coast everywhere...

    durandal4532 on
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  • LindenLinden Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Taramoor wrote: »
    1. Technology will be awesome. We're constantly researching and discovering new and more efficient ways to generate and store power and energy, as well as eliminate or at least reduce the amount of waste we produce.

    I've never been entirely comfortable with this assertion. Certainly, technological advances alleviate the pressures that are required for the Malthusian catastrophe, but this does not imply that population/quality of life can increase indefinitely. It is self-evident that there is some hard upper limit on population* that the Earth can sustainably support. What is unclear is just where that limit lies.

    *at any given standard of living, or combination thereof

    Linden on
  • L|amaL|ama Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Garthor wrote: »
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    I think I read a sci-fi short story once about the world approaching a population of fifteen billion. Only by then was there an impetus for us to colonize Mars, but it was already too late. China and North America went to war, and the earth suffered a nuclear winter.

    Of course this wouldn't happen in real life, since America is too heavily resource and manufacturing dependent on China.

    Also: Nuclear Winter is a myth.

    Interested if you've got a cite on that? Because a cursory glance at wikipedia seems to disagree completely with you.

    L|ama on
  • Golden YakGolden Yak Burnished Bovine The sunny beaches of CanadaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    If we ever hit 100 bil people, everything would be massive arcologies and processing plants dispensing nutrient pastes to small apartments. I think it's possible for the world to sustain us if we live like that, but there'd be an end to everyone having 3 cars and 7 bedroom homes (except for the few douchebags that Taramoor mentioned, who likely run the place). It'd have to be like Brazil, basically.

    Golden Yak on
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  • BlackDragon480BlackDragon480 Bluster Kerfuffle Master of Windy ImportRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    I would describe Malthus as a prodigious putz, that had some interesting ideas, however his theories have started falling apart since the industrial revolution hit it's full stride in the mid-1800's.

    With the current rates of change among factors of a possible Malthusian Catastrophe, I just don't see one occuring without some major event (nuclear war, or some outrageous climate shift that stretches the bounds of credulity) causing a precipitous acceleration towards one.

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  • CycloneRangerCycloneRanger Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Garthor wrote: »
    Zilla360 wrote: »
    I think I read a sci-fi short story once about the world approaching a population of fifteen billion. Only by then was there an impetus for us to colonize Mars, but it was already too late. China and North America went to war, and the earth suffered a nuclear winter.

    Of course this wouldn't happen in real life, since America is too heavily resource and manufacturing dependent on China.

    Also: Nuclear Winter is a myth.
    No, it isn't.

    CycloneRanger on
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    Aegis wrote: »
    There's basically two approaches to this.

    On the one hand you have the traditional Malthusian arguments that we're rapidly going beyond our carrying capacity and if we don't do something drastic, we're going to run out of food/resources/room/etc.

    Then there's the other, Collaborative approach method by Condorcet, that argued that as a country industrializes it'll naturally stop having as many kids as it's more likely to have it's population now spend time to enjoy themselves than worry about dying.

    Guess which one has had hundreds of years backing up it's assertion. The only issue is that Condorcet's approach takes time (duh). So you have to figure out whether the increase in population in the shortterm can be managed. Which I am not seeing as a problem. The UN is figuring that the planetary population will stabilize around 9-10 billion by the end of this century. Given technological advances that have made us thrown Malthusian worries about food out the window in the last few hundred years, I'm rather optimistic that in the next hundred years we'll figure out a way to provide for a 50% increase of our current population.

    Helping developing countries develop now to provide for the billion or so we currently don't provide for would be a good start.

    Yeah, I'm pretty firmly in the Condorcet camp.

    We need to figure out how to reduce resource consumption per capita, rather than try to reduce our capita. The latter with self-correct, while the former will only get worse.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

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  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support at a first world standard of living.

    Cite.

    HamHamJ on
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  • AegisAegis Fear My Dance Overshot Toronto, Landed in OttawaRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Oh hey, Feral posted my post. Thank you Feral!

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  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support at a first world standard of living.

    Cite.

    The Wikipedia article on ecological footprint is very well-sourced: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_footprint

    It cites the work of Bill Rees and Mathis Wackernagel, who developed the notion of the ecological footprint. Most of the other books and articles on this subject are going to be based around their work.

    In it, the world biocapacity is estimated to be 2.1 hectares per person. The US is using 9.4 hectares per person. We'd need 4-5 more earths to support the entire population living like the US.

    That said, the phrase "standard of living" is really tricky. We had a previous thread where we got into the nitty-gritty of what it means to have a first-world standard of living. If you bought produce from local farmers rather than farmers situated 300 miles away, is that reducing your standard of living? If you bought a 1600-square-foot home with a more intelligently designed floorplan rather than a 2500-square-foot home with a less efficient floorplan, is that reducing your standard of living? If you lived in an area with good public transportation rather than an area where you have to drive everywhere, is that reducing your standard of living?

    I think it's inarguable that the way we maintain our standard of living in the US is unsustainable, but the key thing to consider is that changing our lifestyle to be more sustainable can be done without greatly sacrificing quality of life.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support at a first world standard of living.

    Cite.

    The Wikipedia article on ecological footprint is very well-sourced: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_footprint

    It cites the work of Bill Rees and Mathis Wackernagel, who developed the notion of the ecological footprint. Most of the other books and articles on this subject are going to be based around their work.

    In it, the world biocapacity is estimated to be 2.1 hectares per person. The US is using 9.4 hectares per person. We'd need 4-5 more earths to support the entire population living like the US.

    That said, the phrase "standard of living" is really tricky. We had a previous thread where we got into the nitty-gritty of what it means to have a first-world standard of living. If you bought produce from local farmers rather than farmers situated 300 miles away, is that reducing your standard of living? If you bought a 1600-square-foot home with a more intelligently designed floorplan rather than a 2500-square-foot home with a less efficient floorplan, is that reducing your standard of living? If you lived in an area with good public transportation rather than an area where you have to drive everywhere, is that reducing your standard of living?

    I think it's inarguable that the way we maintain our standard of living in the US is unsustainable, but the key thing to consider is that changing our lifestyle to be more sustainable can be done without greatly sacrificing quality of life.

    The US is not the first world. Japan is a first world country and has half the US's footprint. The UK has a bit more but still no where near the US.

    The US is exceptional because we have a lot space. We have entire states that have a lower population than some major world cities.

    Using the US as your standard is absurd.

    HamHamJ on
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    edited November 2009
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    The US is not the first world. Japan is a first world country and has half the US's footprint. The UK has a bit more but still no where near the US.

    The US is exceptional because we have a lot space. We have entire states that have a lower population than some major world cities.

    Using the US as your standard is absurd.

    Even at half the US's footprint, Japan is still at an unsustainable ecological footprint. As is all of western Europe, Canada, and Australia.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • HamHamJHamHamJ Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Feral wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    The US is not the first world. Japan is a first world country and has half the US's footprint. The UK has a bit more but still no where near the US.

    The US is exceptional because we have a lot space. We have entire states that have a lower population than some major world cities.

    Using the US as your standard is absurd.

    Even at half the US's footprint, Japan is still at an unsustainable ecological footprint. As is all of western Europe, Canada, and Australia.

    Can you provide (or link) an explanation for how the 2.1 hectares per person value for biocapacity is calculated? Preferably something rather dumbed down?

    HamHamJ on
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    edited November 2009
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Feral wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    The US is not the first world. Japan is a first world country and has half the US's footprint. The UK has a bit more but still no where near the US.

    The US is exceptional because we have a lot space. We have entire states that have a lower population than some major world cities.

    Using the US as your standard is absurd.

    Even at half the US's footprint, Japan is still at an unsustainable ecological footprint. As is all of western Europe, Canada, and Australia.

    Can you provide (or link) an explanation for how the 2.1 hectares per person value for biocapacity is calculated? Preferably something rather dumbed down?

    www.footprintnetwork.org/download.php?id=5 (PDF Link)

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Before we praise Malthus too much, remember that he basically wrote that the birth rate is always geometric and that productivity increases are linear. So he's instantly and automatically wrong already, even if the gist of the idea (that if population growth outpaces capital growth, individual wealth drops) becomes eventually applicable. We have broadly Malthusian ideas, but the guy's only a prophet if Nostradamus gets to be one too.

    Anyway. The 'biocapacity' thing sounds suspicious; surely a neolithic farmer would require more farmland to pull off his slash-and-burn agriculture compared to a post-Green-Revolution farmer? How is biocapacity supposed to be fixed?

    ronya on
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    edited November 2009
    ronya wrote: »
    Before we praise Malthus too much, remember that he basically wrote that the birth rate is always geometric and that productivity increases are linear. So he's instantly and automatically wrong already, even if the gist of the idea (that if population growth outpaces capital growth, individual wealth drops) becomes eventually applicable. We have broadly Malthusian ideas, but the guy's only a prophet if Nostradamus gets to be one too.

    Anyway. The 'biocapacity' thing sounds suspicious; surely a neolithic farmer would require more farmland to pull off his slash-and-burn agriculture compared to a post-Green-Revolution farmer? How is biocapacity supposed to be fixed?

    It's not fixed. It's an estimate, and it can change. From the methodology paper above, written in 2005:
    It is crucial to note that the Biocapacity represents the theoretical maximum resource capacity for a given year. While ecological overshoot by definition reveals the degradation of natural capital, the ecological remainder does not guarantee the sustainability of production practices. Rather, as the Footprint of production approaches the Biocapacity and the ecological remainder narrows, the likelihood that the country will experience environmental stress or degradation escalates, at least over longer periods of time.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Then it seems reasonable to suggest that biocapacity will keep increasing as technology marches on. So this doesn't present an obstacle to supporting the world's population on improving standards of living in the future.

    So this:
    Hexmage-PA wrote: »
    HamHamJ wrote: »
    Except the fertility rate is dropping.

    So we are at this point approaching a peak population after which it will just stay the same as fertility hits the replacement rate. It may even go down if it drops below the replacement rate.

    You know, if global warming doesn't kill all of us first.

    The problem is that even if population peaks we still have too many people to support at a first world standard of living.

    remains unsupported.

    ronya on
    aRkpc.gif
  • The ScribeThe Scribe Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    Robert Malthus (1766 – 1834) disregarded birth control, which was somewhat awkward to use during his life, and disregarded the Industrial Revolution, which was beginning as he lived. The relationship between standard of living, population, natural resources, and technology can be seen in the following equation:
    (natural resources x level of technology) / population = standard of living

    As women come closer to achieving educational, economic, social, and political equality with men most decide to have fewer children, or not to have any. Consequently, the birth rate is declining in most of the world. Whether it will decline rapidly enough to prevent the catastrophes predicted by Malthus remains to be seen.

    As usual, the political right stands in the way of what needs to be done. Social conservatives dislike birth control, oppose abortion, and favor large families. Economic conservatives know that more people mean more consumers and more job applicants. By the law of supply and demand, this means higher prices, lower wages, and consequently higher profits.

    The Scribe on
  • FeralFeral MEMETICHARIZARD interior crocodile alligator ⇔ ǝɹʇɐǝɥʇ ǝᴉʌoɯ ʇǝloɹʌǝɥɔ ɐ ǝʌᴉɹp ᴉRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    ronya wrote: »
    Then it seems reasonable to suggest that biocapacity will keep increasing as technology marches on. So this doesn't present an obstacle to supporting the world's population on improving standards of living in the future.

    The problem is whether or not technology marches on rapidly enough, or is adopted widely enough, or doesn't hit a plateau.

    I don't agree with Hexmage's doom and gloom, but neither do I believe that technology alone will save us. Food transportation is one of my big issues, personally, and provides a good example. Public transportation, better city planning, and more fuel-efficient cars can significantly reduce the carbon footprint caused by commuter traffic, but those things aren't going to put much of a dent into the carbon footprint caused by food transportation. Simply, we have to reduce the distance that produce travels to get to your dinner plate - whether that means buying from local farmers or by cordoning off land as urban/suburban community farms.

    If were to hit a peak oil scenario, for instance, you'd see food prices rising significantly, particularly food that's grown out-of-region or off-season. Personally, I'm lucky because I live in California - there's enough agriculture, including sustainable agriculture, within 50 miles of me that it would actually be pretty trivial for me to switch to an entirely local-grown and mostly sustainable diet. I haven't made that transition 100% mostly out of laziness (I like being able to come home and pop a frozen pizza in the oven) but each year I get a little bit better about it (cooking more and eating processed foods less, going to farmers markets more the supermarkets less).

    We're all going to have to make that transition eventually, it's just a question of whether we do it smoothly and relatively invisibly through intelligent long-term planning, or whether it's forced upon us by rising oil prices or ecological damage.

    That's the sort of thing that I'm talking about when I advocate lifestyle changes alongside technological progress.

    Feral on
    every person who doesn't like an acquired taste always seems to think everyone who likes it is faking it. it should be an official fallacy.

    the "no true scotch man" fallacy.
  • Pi-r8Pi-r8 Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    The Malthus idea that people are just going to keep having more babies until there's not enough food to feed everyone is stupid. Short of a damn APOCALYPSE, it's not really that difficult to produce enough food for everyone to live on. I'm pretty sure the US alone could produce enough food for the entire world right now, if we wanted to. It might require devoting our whole economy to it, and producing nothing but grains and beans instead of the inefficient ranching of animals that we do, but we could do it if it was really necessary.

    The reason people are starving in the world today is not because we can't produce enough food, but because we can't get the food to the people that need it. If a child in an African village is starving, there's no easy way to give him food, even though there's plenty of charity organizations that are trying to do that. But if the region is stable and peaceful, it's fairly simple to end starvation there.

    Overpopulation is only an issue for third world countries, anyway. Pretty much every country in the world has experienced a declining birth rate as the people's average income goes up. So basically if we can just fix the sociological and economic problems that some of these countries have, the rest will take care of itself.

    Pi-r8 on
  • QinguQingu Registered User regular
    edited November 2009
    It's weird that highly developed countries have extremely low, even negative, birth rates.

    It's weird and incredibly convenient.

    It makes sense, because who the fuck wants a lot of kids when it comes down to it. Except religious people. And lo and behold, religiosity has a negative correlation with economic and scientific development as well.

    Qingu on
  • ronyaronya Arrrrrf. the ivory tower's basementRegistered User regular
    edited November 2009
    The United States has the highest GDP per capita among the G7 and is the most culturally religious, so the relationship is hardly simple.

    Although I don't dispute that strong religious institutions tend to be present in low-growth areas.

    ronya on
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