18 February 2010

Food for a future

It’s fashionable to scoff at Thomas Robert Malthus’ predictions, two hundred years ago, that human populations would grow until stopped by famine, disease or ‘moral restraint’. He wrote before the arrival of modern scientific crop research or contraception, and it’s unfair to blame Malthus for not foreseeing those breakthroughs. However, he was essentially right: the food supply expanded but remains finite, and contraception has not fundamentally disrupted the shape of the population growth curve, which is asymptotically approaching the vertical.

What to do about it is a matter of vigorous debate. To simplify: in the red corner are those who focus on means of increasing supply; in the blue, those who emphasise a dietary shift away from inefficient use of that supply. An Isaac Asimov short story[1] did suggest exploiting the ‘many worlds’ view of quantum physics to disperse a trillion-strong population by placing every family on its own otherwise uninhabited Earth, but that one is a little beyond the reach of even today’s scientific computing power. In the long run, if the upward population curve continues, neither red approach nor blue will do more than defer the problem; in the meantime, pragmatically, both are needed. [More]

1. Isaac Asimov, “Living space”, in Science Fiction. 1956, New York (NY, USA): Columbia Publications.

1 comment:

Geoff Powell said...

Eating less would help.

I complained to my lady Doctor that I cannot get NHS funding for Chiropractic treatment yet a man I know who has a Rolls Royce can get a gastric band fitted under that system. She said, "Don't get me started on that one!" She went on to say that some people have the band operation then buy a muckburger and liquidise it!

Their disease ( unease ) is one of the mind and a few philosophy tweaks, a change of mind, would do the trick