The Malthusian Moment?And if there is one…solutions? • should we eat our parents? • or our children? • or our pets?
The conventional wisdom… • we decided earlier was oppressive / anti-progressive in the time of Galileo. It opposed to the heliocentric model and Darwin’s notion of evolution • It now tells us that we are running out of resources. It is intuitively obvious! And a scientific fact! • But can we trust conventional wisdom? Can we make unbiased observations? And can we behave rationally when we gain some insight?
All the evidence suggests that when we consume… • the world is a better place to live, • we are more humane, philanthropic, altruistic • we are more environmentally conscious, • and, alas, that we are still capable of irrational behavior.
High-income countries have the highest energy use per capita. Energy use per capita, in thousands of kilograms of oil equivalent, 2002 Source: World Bank, 2005 World Development Indicators: table 3.7.
Birth and Death Rates, Worldwide Rates of birth, death, and natural increase per 1,000 population Natural Increase Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, 2005.
Notes on Birth and Death Rates, Worldwide Birth rates and death rates are declining around the world. Overall economic development, public health programs, and improvements in food production and distribution, water, and sanitation have led to dramatic declines in death rates. And women now have fewer children than they did in the 1950s. What happens when the lines ‘birth rate’ and ‘death rate’ cross? That is, who will pay for retirement (with a pay as you go system]? And this is already happening in many European countries. All the evidence suggests that prosperity brings about a change in fertility rates. There is then no Malthusian moment looming.
Reaching Replacement Fertility Average number of children per woman Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, 2005.
Trends in Fertility Reduction Average number of children per woman Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, 2005.
Growth in More, Less Developed Countries Billions Less Developed Regions More Developed Regions Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision (medium scenario), 2005.
The lessons… • Compare the demographic graph to the consumption graph. What conclusions are possible? • those who live better and consume more also manage their population growth more successfully. • Those who do not have the wherewithal to consume, want to consume. That is, no one wants to go back to the dark ages.
The vehicle for this transformation • Science = sustained self conscious reflection about nature and society, and how they work together • Science applied [technology] during and since the industrial revolution • great benefits: rising quality of life and responsive political order, pharmaceuticals, sanitation but also produced great liabilities; pollution, Nazi and Leninist ideologies, etc.
Liabilities tempered by: • Judaeo-Christian ethics (humans “made in the image of God”) • Enlightenment values (“all men are created equal…”); popular sovereignty. end of slavery in the 19th Cent, dramatic rise in standards of living, public health and sanitation, all in a system based on constitutional / consensual government.
Solutions? • Authoritarian government to distribute resources as best benefits the collective, or • democratic government with a system of rationing of resources, equal amounts to each, or • application of scientific principles / methods, that is reflection on the problem and assessment of the options; followed by education and persuasion to generate consensus)