Population?

William B. White WHITEWB at JCCW22.CC.SUNYJCC.EDU
Thu Jun 5 18:09:31 MDT 1997


From:   NAME: Bill White
        FUNC: HUMANITIES
        TEL: 326/371                          <WHITE, BILL AT A1 AT JCCV03>
To:     IN%"rushtalk at athena.csdco.com"@MRGATE at JCCW22


Gary wrote:
>>From the moment mankind took the step toward civilization, the race
>began.  And for thousands of years, not hundreds , technology has had
>the upper hand.  It is technology, the ability to make useful tools,
>the ability to use resources, which moved man from the ranks of other
>animals.

>How many years need to pass before it becomes clear that the
>predictions of Malthus and others are lacking?  They are lacking
>because they completely ignore the adage, "necessity is the mother of
>invention", that when resources become tighter, alternatives are found.

        I agree that the predictions of Malthus are lacking, and I said so.  I
disagree that  necessity inevitably causes invention.   Historically, many
states have needed an"invention" to overcome the phases of overpopulation,
intensification, and depletion, but the "invention"  did not arrive on their
cultural scene in time to avoid the down cycle of famine, war, infanticide, and
cannibalism.   True agrarian fudalism was rescued by captalism (new mode of
production), but only after the standard of living of the average European had
declined to the point that the general  health of the marginalized population
could not resist plagues in the fourteenth century, killing a third to a half
of the population.

> I also fail to see the evidence that "depletion leads to lower
>standard of living".

        Neolithic culture, Mayan, Aztec, Late Vedic,  European medieval. . . .

>It is not mere coincidence that the explosion in technology and
>population have occured at the same time in history- they are direct
>resultants of each other.  And it is more than oil that has forestalled
>the predicted doom.  It is the combined growth in knowledge, led by the
>growth in population and technology.  Apparently, technology and
>knowledge grows geometrically with population.

        Yes, a population must reach a critical mass in order to effectively
harness  certain technologies.  However, a rise in population, in and of
itself, does not predict that a technology will emerge to support it at an ever
increasing standard of living.

>There are many problems about the statement on energy use and oil
>reserves.  First, there is very little relationship between reserves
>and actual quantities.  It is an incorrect assumption that we know of
>all the oil reserves, or would even try to find out.  It completely
>ignores alternatives, some of which are known, other that are not.  And
>finally, you could make such conjectures about vitually anything and
>show shortages in the near future.

        Many people are pinning their hopes on a new energy source to replace
fossil fuels.   Presently, oil is still king.  The rest is hope.  I, too, have
hope.

>There is another phenomenom that needs to be considered.  It is the
>countries with the largest consumption that now have the lowest
>population growth and birth rates.  Where does this fit into these
>models?

         A cultural phase is not the same as the complete cycle.  In the past
cultures have used infanticide, war, and cannibalism to limit population
growth.  Technologies of birth control, sexual behavior, and abortion help to
limit population growth.    A culture or State may try to limit population
growth in order to preserve or even increase the standard of living (as
appropriate to its  mode of production and distribution).  An unrestricted
growth in population, unaccompanied by a sufficient technological boost,
intensifies the  consumption of finite resources; depletion typically results.
This is not a doomsaying; it's just what has happened in the past.   Some
futurists believe that through continuous technological revolutions, we can
overcome past cycles of cultural history.  It is, after all, a brave new world.

Bill White



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