Thursday, 22 September 2011

no limits to growth

people who object to the Thomas Malthus "limits to growth" concept and insist on there being no limits to growth seem to insist on seeing things in a blinkered way.

They insist on the ignorance of a balance of the equation which logically must exist. You see for every benefit there must be some cost. There is no free lunch for long.

So (in my view) while it is perhaps possible that the human population can go on and on growing that it will come with some costs and changes if we are to avoid population corrections like famine or disease.

I read an interesting article in the SMH this morning about exactly one of those sorts of changes to the human condition. The American author Jonathan Safran Foer is one of the anti-meat eating campaigners who is now a full on vegan campaigner.

poultry_stuck13_1He writes that the 'factory farming' of meat products (something which springs from the industrialisation of farming which is part of the industrial revolution) is both abhorrent and environmentally destructive. I happen to think he's right. Its clear however that if we are going to feed our population we need to employ strategies like this or quite simply we could not feed our population.

His premise is clearly that we cant tackle our population problem and that need to be ethical in the way we source our food. So for him vegetarian is the only logical choice.

This is where I feel we fail, we don't know how to address our swelling population. Instead we turn to ways to supply it and encourage growth, perhaps because some people get richer that way.

Some quotes from the article:
Modern industrial farming comes at the cost, Foer says, of animal welfare, the environment and our health. In Eating Animals, he writes of chicken factory farms in the US where "illness is always rampant; suffering is always the rule … death is invariably cruel".

One of the worst aspects of factory farming is not just its practices, Foer says, it's that most of the meat is produced this way.
"We have something that is the most destructive thing we do to the environment, to animals and, at some point, the most destructive thing we do to ourselves and we have virtually no alternative. That's really surprising to people."

So perhaps there are no limits to growth, but if everything comes at a cost then the cost of growth is to hide our terrible ethics and pretend that we are nice and lovely people while eating our chicken nuggets.

As western nations approach the sorts of population densities of places like India and China we will have to make greater changes to how we do things in order to provide food for ourselves. Even more so as places in Asia start trying to supply their own populations with food.

Perhaps we'll eventually have to turn to solutions that appeared in science fiction, but then we have to ask ourselves ... will we still be people even if we are the same species?

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