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View Diary: MIT team: global economic collapse by 2030 (246 comments)

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  •  Malthus was wrong. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, congenitalefty, Matt Z

    I remember reading that humans, like other mammals, tend to naturally keep their numbers well below their environment's carrying capacities.  (I would have to go back and dig for a citation.)  This is why we are not seeing mass famines in India or China.

    The problem here is decidedly NOT that poor people are screwing too much.  Rather, the problem is that people like US -- Americans and people living American lifestyles -- are hoovering up enormous amounts of resources and throwing them out in the garbage every week.

    •  Malthus was a pessimist (14+ / 0-)

      but his basic principles were sound. He just drastically underestimated human ingenuity and ruthlessness - its ability to come up with new and innovative answers to problems, even though the answers required robbing the future to prop up the present; and its willingness to commit robbery on that scale because it would only matter to "future generations".

      There is no scenario that allows even an East European lifestyle to continue at the current population levels. But we won't take any sane measures to limit, let alone reduce, our population - so Nature will do it for us and we won't like it (if the human species survives to like or dislike anything, that is).

      If it's
      Not your body,
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      And it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 07:40:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He was actually an optimist... (9+ / 0-)

        ...considering that if he had been right, a few hundred million people would have died in the 1800s and that would have been the end of it.

        He didn't foresee fossil fuels and the green revolution, which is going to cause a far more massive collapse than he could ever imagine (perhaps billions dead)!

        It doesn't have to end this way, but of course it will.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 09:22:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I like this quote: (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nulwee, Lily O Lady, Sparhawk, Marie
          No man can say that he has seen the largest ear of wheat, or the largest oak that could ever grow; but he might easily, and with perfect certainty, name a point of magnitude, at which they would not arrive. In all these cases therefore, a careful distinction should be made, between an unlimited progress, and a progress where the limit is merely undefined.
          I would argue that Malthus wasn't wrong, it's just that the limits so far have been undefined.

          "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

          by northsylvania on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 02:24:30 AM PDT

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      •  The important distinction we aren't making (0+ / 0-)

        is the difference between these two problems:

        1)  The Earth has too many people.
        2)  The people on the Earth are consuming too much.

        The problem that Malthus was afraid of was #1.  That's why he focused on the poor and how they were having too much sex, not on the rich and the massive amounts of goods that they were consuming.

        The real problem that we have to deal with is #2.  It's not biologically possible for people to multiply far beyond their environment's ability to feed them.  But it is possible for people to come up with ways to vacuum up enormous amounts of energy and non-renewable resources because they must have flatscreen TVs with OnDemand movie selections and microwaveable pork-and-bokchoy dumplings, which come in disposable packaging.

        Our consumption is what we must put constraints on, not our numbers.

      •  The important distinction we aren't making (0+ / 0-)

        is between these two different problems:

        1) There are too many people on the Earth.
        2) The people on the Earth are consuming too much.

        The problem that Malthus was worried about was #1.  That's why he harped so much on the poor and how they were having too much sex, but did not mention the rich and all the goods that they consumed.

        Malthus' fears never came true, because people cannot multiply far beyond their environment's ability to feed them.

        The real problem we have to deal with is #2.  People in the first world suck up too many resources -- not because they reproduce too much, but because they must have flatscreen TVs with 24-hour OnDemand movie selections and microwaveale pork and bockchoy dumplings in disposable packaging.  The problem is us, not some Indian peasansts living on rice.

    •  The reason we are not seeing famines in India or (9+ / 0-)

      China is that petroleum and natural gas have temporarily allowed the mass production of food through artificial fertilizers and irrigation on a scale not previously achievable.

      That will not continue.

      There are many examples from history which show Malthus was correct.  The first coming to mind are the former Mayan civilizations, but there are many others.  Easter Island ring a bell?

      There are far too many people for the globe to sustain without burning ancient sunlight --- petroleum and natural gas --- which will be running out soon and then what?  

      Malthus will be shown to be correct: the earth cannot sustain an infinite number of people.  The earth will soon limit the overgrowth in horrible ways.

      What a Police State Looks Like: "On one side: soft human flesh, unprotected human skulls, cardboard signs, slogans they chant, armed with belief in 1st Amendment rights. On the other: helmets, body armor, guns, batons, chemical weapons." -- JanetRhodes

      by YucatanMan on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 10:17:32 PM PDT

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      •  I'm too old to expect to see 2050 when (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        the population is projected to reach 9 billion, but I am very curious as to the outcome.

        Would one of our young whippersnappers (who will then be old, like me) please whisper the result on the wind?

        Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

        by Just Bob on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 04:18:52 AM PDT

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