Monday, 04 June 2007

Malthus and Global Change

Nobody wants to be a Doomsday Advocate; life has enough challenges as it is. But…the whole question of global change is rapidly reaching a point where it cannot be totally ignored or played down as something that may happen in the next 2,000 years. Most people seem to accept that it is going to happen; the difference in opinion is when and how bad.
The physical effects of this change will be catastrophic if one listens to the Bad Scenario Advocates, from an ice age to desert formation, flooding, famines and a whole host of terrible scenarios. The possible consequences are as numerous as the predictors. The bottom line is life , if to survive, will be totally different to what we know now.
Most predictions of doom, and there are many, are written or conveyed in a manner that is incomprehensible to Joe Blogg. And if Joe Blogg does not have a workable insight, how can he really appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Most publications are done by scientists and are very specific in the areas they address. The holistic approach is very seldom addressed in a simple and understandable manner.
Given what one sees on TV and the news, if we stop burning fuel, all our problems will go away. It is not as easy as that.
Robert Malthus was one of the original Classic Economists of the late 1700’s. He believed that here was a natural balance between population and the natural resources available to sustain it. An increase in population above the capability of resources to feed it would result in famines, plagues, wars and epidemics that would restore this balance. In a nutshell, he taught us that if population were not voluntarily limited, nature would do it for us, in a savage and brutal way.
His teachings have been dismissed as false. The greatest, and valid, argument against his theory was that it was based on his world being static, i.e. remaining in the 1700’s. He could not perceive the results of the Industrial Revolution, the contribution of fertilizers to productivity, the discovery of combustible fuel and the exploitation of new resources were unknown to him.. This industrial boom raised the ratio of food to population enormously and the population exploded. From the beginning of WW2 to 1970, the world population doubled, and has most probably doubled again.
of the results of rapid industrialization has been pollution in all its forms. The atmosphere and other natural resources are being polluted at a faster rate than can be absorbed and “recycled” by the earth. This has a negative effect on global climate.
The essence of the matter is the exploitation of the earth’s natural resources, or in a nice way, natural resource utilization. If the current trend continues we will reach a point of no return, and the mankind will regress to the point of Neanderthal man.
All this boils down to growth. Is growth good or is growth bad? That depends on each individual, Good will hasten the global change, Bad will slow Mans Development.
The countries exerting the least pressure on resource exploitation, and thereby the least contribution to global climate change, are the underdeveloped nations of the world. Ironically these will be the first to suffer as a result of sustained development.
The increase in population is not the only criteria. It is also a function of the “movement” of levels within the population. Poor people are not happy to stay poor, and over the last 50 years the progress from poor to middle class has been extremely high, and greater consumption is the result. Why would developed nations really want to significantly improve the lot of underdeveloped nations. This would just result in more competition for limited resources and an acceleration in global pollution. It is in their interests to give “aid” in the form of tangible goods “hand outs” to alleviate short term problems rather than a genuine economic development and growth.
This is a Rambling personified. Not much focus.
But, in summary, we are back to Malthus and his model. We are using up our limited natural resources too quickly, and population growth is increasing at such a rate that the balance will soon be too heavy on the population side.
Who knows where and when it is going to end……………….
Climate is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks". W.S. BroeckerThis entry has not been well written, on re-reading, it is disjointed, rambling and has no “golden thread”, so be it….

1 comment:

MoonDanzer said...

Dear Graham, it truly is such a curse to be a thinker isn't it? I know because I too am 1. It is a never ending wandering in my mind concerning this world and the direction in which we are headed. However, believer or not, there is a book which dates much further back than the 1700's in which we have all been forewarned of our destiny here upon earth. I send you wishes for thinking free days. However, I know they are truly hard to come by....when someone is really fully aware and truly cares.