Monday, September 04, 2006

Food crisis?

I don't have anything like the expertise necessary to assess this article, but it sounds disturbing. How much food can we produce, as compared to how much we need in order to feed everyone? In developed countries, we'll probably be all right. But, as always, the poorest will be screwed.

4 comments:

undergroundman said...

Perhaps Malthus was right after all...

ADHR said...

Doubtful. Malthus' formula is a little too pat. The issue seems to be more to do with carrying capacity being reached plus the natural ways to "cull the herd" (disease being principal) being excessively controlled. There's also a suggestion by some that all civilizations reach this point sooner or later, whereby progress leads to population explosion leads to resource exhaustion leads to collapse. See Ronald Wright's A Short History of Progress.

undergroundman said...

Still, essentially the idea that "all civilizations reach this point sooner or later, whereby progress leads to population explosion leads to resource exhaustion leads to collapse" is a Malthusian concept.

It's too early to make such an assertion. Perhaps in the short-run it might happen, but in the long-run birth will be controlled, our population will stabilize, and we'll be fine (if perhaps a little less free to consume ceaselessly than we'd like). Though my analysis could be all wrong if climate change ect is worth than the right-wing is willing to admit.

ADHR said...

Not really. Malthus moralized the idea: the claim is that population growth is only checked by vice (and natural causes), hence vice is necessary in order to prevent death. The idea that progress entails population entails resource loss entails collapse is materialistic and purely descriptive. It may not be right, but it's not moralized in the way Malthus moralized his views. Remember: Malthus was a social Darwinist, so understanding him requires reading morality into natural changes.

I don't see quite why it's too early to make this assertion. The arguments I've read suggest that our current civilization is repeating the pattern that has led to collapse of historical civilizations. I forget who it was, but someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. If we really are doing the same thing again, and the pattern really has existed at many points before, then it does follow (simple inductive inference) that we're likely to hit collapse.

Birth may be controlled, as may resource use, and we may be able to absorb the effects of climate change, but these are things that require active change in our patterns of living. No change in what we do now will entail that there is no change in what will happen.