August 27, 2010
A Malthusian future?
Now that's a crowd. Image from the 2008 Olympics by way of wikipedia.
As I've mentioned in earlier posts, Darwin's idea of natural selection was shaped by Thomas Malthus' ideas on population. Simply put, he argued that humans tend to multiply faster than resources do, which leads to hunger and scarcity and all kinds of nasty checks on population.
This turned out not to be the case for industrial societies, which have been able to dramatically increase production and maintain growing populations. There is also a tendency for population growth to slow as living standards rise. But Malthus might have been at least partially right. There have been numerous cases where pre-modern civilizations collapsed due to over-stressing their environment and growing beyond its carrying capacity. Jared Diamond's book Collapse gives several examples and is a compelling read.
The scary part is that if we don't work towards a sustainable approach to economy, energy, ecology and population, we might head that way ourselves. If that happens, it will be more due to our doing wrong than to Malthus being right.
BIG CHANGES. The Recovery Act is making big changes in technology and clean energy, most of which have been under the radar, as Time Magazine reports.
WHILE WE'RE AT IT, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Recovery Act has lowered unemployment by up to 1.8 points in the last quarter. The problem is that it wasn't big or targeted enough, as Paul Krugman again argues here. Now things have gotten to the point were firefighters are being laid off in many cities.
NOT THE BEST PR DEPARTMENT. The Manhattan Mosque controversy might not be sending the best message around the world.
IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING WHY FISH IN THE ARCTIC DON'T FREEZE, click here.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED