Malthus Redux

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I see that there’s another neo-Malthusian trying to convince us that global starvation and food riots are just around the corner. This time it’s David Archibald right here on WUWT. Anthony had posted a graph showing gains in various human indicators, viz:

120917_1449_Dohumanshar8.png

But David disagrees, showing various looks at wheat production.

Now, back in 2010, I wrote a post called “I Am So Tired of Malthus” … and I am. For those not born before 1800, a bit of history is in order. Thomas Robert Malthus was an English cleric who made a famous claim in 1798. His claim was that population increases geometrically, doubling every 25 years. But the food supply only increases arithmetically. If you are a fan of original documents as I am, you can find his claim here. In it he says;

Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will shew the immensity of the first power in comparison of the second.

To him, this meant inevitable starvation was provably true … hey, it’s mathematics. However, in the event the population disagreed and kept growing … and we didn’t all die from lack of food. Go figure.

But this colossal failure did not kill Malthus’s idea, oh, no. In the 1960s the cudgel was taken up by the failed serial doomcaster, Paul R. Ehrlich. In 1968 he wrote “The Population Bomb”, which starts as follows:

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …”

 

His solution?

“We must have population control at home, hopefully through a system of incentives and penalties, but by compulsion if voluntary methods fail. We must use our political power to push other countries into programs which combine agricultural development and population control.”

Charming fellow, compulsory population control in the US … of course, he’s a tenured Professor at Stanford so he must be right.

Riight … but once the 1970s were over and he had been proven just as wrong as Malthus, did he change his tune? Oh, no … in 1990 he wrote another book called “The Population Explosion” in which he claimed that there would be widespread food riots by the turn of the century.

 

Riight … but once the 1990s were over and Ehrlich had been proven just as wrong as Malthus for a second time, did he change his tune? Oh, no. He now says he was 100% correct, but he just got the timing wrong. It’s all gonna happen any day now, he says.

And David Archibald agrees with him.

The Limits To Growth isn’t discredited, just a couple of generations too early.

Riight … so I decided to take another look, as I did seven years ago, at how much food the world actually has. Per capita food consumption is the best indicator for this. A man can own a thousand automobiles on a given day … but he cannot eat a thousand breakfasts on a given day. So there is no distortion of average food consumption by a few rich people as there would be of average car ownership. Here are the latest figures from the FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Association. I’ve shown the poorest groups of countries, along with the EU countries and the world average for comparison. First, total food consumption in calories per person:

food consumption calories.png

As you can see, people are eating better than ever. The poorest of the poor, the Least Developed Countries (“LDCs”, including the Solomon Islands where I’m writing this) get more food now than the global average in 1961, the first year for which we have data. And in turn, the world average is nearly up to where the EU countries were in 1961 … “widespread starvation”? Hardly …

Note also that the EU countries have leveled off. They are now eating as much as they want.

Nor is this just “empty calories”. Here is the corresponding graph, this time for protein consumption:

Microsoft ExcelScreenSnapz004.png

Again, we see the same pattern. The LDCs are up to the 1961 world average; the world is approaching the 1961 EU average; and the EU protein consumption has levelled out.

So while Malthus, Paul Ehrlich, and David Archibald all assure us that global starvation and food collapse is just around the corner … well, not this corner but the next corner … well, no, I didn’t mean that corner, I meant the corner after that … meanwhile, the people of the world pay no attention to failed doomcasters and grow more food per capita year after year after year.

Now, the increase in food is usually attributed to the “green revolution” of Norman Borlaug. And while this had a huge effect starting in the 1940s and increasing in the 1960s, Borlaug got the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his work. However, a corollary of that is that by 1995 the further gains from the Green Revolution would have been minimal. Paul Ehrlich specifically said that the Green Revolution is what screwed up his predictions, but with the Green Revolution behind us, he reiterated that we’re all doomed to starvation … not.

Are there still problems regarding food? Assuredly, although these days they are more problems of distribution and storage, not problems of production.

Are people working to solve those problems? Again, assuredly, it’s important work.

But while no one knows what tomorrow may bring, me, I’m not going to concern myself with people feeding themselves. Seems like we’re doing rather well on that score, with no sign of an impending disaster.

Best to all from the warm climes, join me over on my blog for my further adventures in a Least Developed but Most Interesting Country, the Solomon Islands.

w.

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262 thoughts on “Malthus Redux

  1. It is the same thinking of Malthus and Ehrlich. The idea that we will stay essentially stagnate in technology as time marches on. That somehow we will not find a way to increase production and so forth. That being said, his idiot problem seems to be one that is entirely self correcting. If the food riots come and people starve, won’t the population decrease significantly all by itself? Again, this is the kind of thinking that we can’t count on technology, but we can count on the statistics of today concerning population. I think they are in search of a problem to solve since the whole global warming argument is swarming before them. It was one of the reasons I suspect that they picked CO2 as the pollutant. If it really was, then you have a case to regulate population.

    • It may well be the case that it is not only more likely, but nearly inevitable, that human population will crash due to some reason completely unrelated to lack of food or other resource.
      After all, the biggest (haha…get it?) and fastest growing (gotcha agin!) health issue in the world today is…wait for it…obesity!
      Even in what were not long ago considered poor countries, people are getting fatter and fatter.
      Now, if we wuz only gettin’ fat and happy, ‘stead o’ fat and panicky.

      • I realise you’re probably joking, but it does raise an interesting point.
        I have seen it stated that, globally, today more are dying from obesity than from starvation. But the obesity-related deaths are probably far smaller in number than starvation-related deaths a hundred years ago.
        And of course the global statistics for average life expectancy are getting better all the time.
        Chris

      • I never said or meant to imply that I thought obesity was going to crash the population or is a major killer.
        In fact, available evidence seems to indicate that the negative health effects of being overweight are greatly exaggerated.
        I merely point out that rather than scarcity, we have an ever increasing overabundance of food.
        Before large numbers of people starve to death, it stands to reason that food prices will simply go way up.
        At this point in time, food is a minor expense.
        Growing up in the sixties and seventies, we ate far more austerely and spent more money doing so.
        The point made by the author is a ridiculous one, and ever more prevalent obesity is evidence that such is the case.
        Other evidence is the amount of food which is simply wasted in places like the US…as much as half of all food produced is thrown away uneaten.
        People throw away food that is still perfectly good, and do so regularly.
        Stores do it, restaurants do it, consumers do it…
        People make more than they can eat and then toss any leftovers in the trash.
        People throw away food items that have passed the expiration date, or even the last sale date, with no regard to whether it is actually spoiled or unsafe or that anything is wrong with it at all.
        Regarding mortality…there are a lot of things which could caused large numbers of human deaths having nothing to do with food…such as a global pandemic, outbreak of war, natural disasters, etc.
        Food is way down the list, and one of many possible reasons for such, and so logically it is more likely to be something else.

      • Chris – food more abundant and comparatively cheaper. The greens are working overtime to screw the economics up, though, destroy agricultural advances and civilization itself.

        But you are right that no one is talking about the obesity problem as an ironic backdrop to the idiot Malthusian arguments. The beautiful people would be quick to brand you anti-diversity, гасisт, misogynist (fat and thin male deplorables of course are not included in the diversity fold).

    • The original words of Malthus that Willis has dug out are instructive. Looks like he wasn’t actually wrong, he was merely the first guy to place too much reliance on models. And he, also, ignored the feedbacks…

    • That’s always been the head-scratcher for me about the whole “we’ll have so many people we won’t be able to feed them” line.

      So somehow people are not subject to the same forces that keep other populations in check?

      Any real shortfall in food must end up in the eventual shrinking of a population, the seeming willingness of some populations to bear children even when the prospect of feeding those children is poor notwithstanding.

      By the bye, that mystifies me: some populations will curtail their reproduction for seemingly the most trivial of reasons such as the awful prospect of having to move to the suburbs. Others will continue to reproduce and bring children into circumstances in which there is no hope of anything other than a short life of misery, disease and violence. But I digress.

      I struggle to imagine how the population can out-grow the food supply, at least for very long. The pattern of human behavior being what it is, some strong group of people (say, a nation) will decide that it needs “lebensgrub” and will take by force the food of those unable or unwilling to defend it.

      Others will see an opportunity to enrich themselves and figure out a way to make more food, which they will then sell to those who have something to exchange.

      Fortunately we’ve seen much more of the latter than of the former, although who knows how much of the former takes place in uncivilized territory. We know that something similar happens over the distribution of narcotics, so its not a stretch to believe that somewhere someone is organizing to steal someone else’s grub.

      For the losers who neither develop anything of value to exchange for food nor learn to grow food efficiently for themselves, well, if they’re “lucky” an industry built around feeding them will develop. But the downside of that, of course, is that the industry then has an interest in seeing that their clients *never* develop the ability to feed themselves since that would put the industry, and the people it feeds by way of salary and wages, out of business.

  2. nitpick, Willis – (just for accuracy)
    ‘ in 1990 he wrote another book called “The Population Bomb” ‘
    It was “The population Explosion” in 1990, having learned nothing since 1968

    safe travels

  3. “If you are a fan of original documents as I am”
    Indeed. He lays it out very logically, with postulates, which were:
    “First, That food is necessary to the existence of man.
    Secondly, That the passion between the sexes is necessary and will remain nearly in its present state.”

    Maybe the second one failed.

    • BC came along. The 2nd is still there.
      It’s just the Millenials want someone else to pay for $9 USD of BC/month.

    • “…Maybe the second one failed…”

      No, Ehrlich failed. Why would you defend what has become an absolute joke? Sure, Ehrlich won’t admit how wrong he was and claims he was “too optimistic,” but history says otherwise. Are you going to go that pathetic route as well?

    • Didn’t have the birth control devices we do now for one thing. Though what’s happening in Japan can be considered a failure of the second one.

    • Didn’t have the birth control devices we do now for one thing. Though what’s happening in Japan can be considered a failure of the second one.

    • Nick Stokes,
      Both Malthus and Erlich were utterly wrong, though like all who are making primarily political statements, they never admitted they were wrong. Reality does not have much impact on political thinking. Much like the lack of influence of observation on the evolution of GCMs…. GCM diagnosed ECS is alarmingly high, and will remain so no matter what.

      • In Malthus’s defense many of the reasons he was proven wrong couldn’t be imagined in his day. The only effective birth control was abstinence, most of the world’s area was nearly uninhabited, and almost all the improvements in farming for thousands of years only improved how MUCH land each farmer could cultivate, not how much each acre produced. From Malthus’s era these all seemed like unbreakable laws of nature. It was only through mankind’s thirst for knowledge and imagination that these ‘Laws’ were broken.

        And in Erlich’s defense… well, there isn’t much. By the time he wrote ‘Population Bomb’ several forms of birth control were on the market or in development. Hell, they formed a cornerstone of one of his plans to control the masses. Mankind had tamed vast reaches of the wilderness and was proving that the coldest parts of Antarctica, the scorching deserts, and even the depth of the sea could be inhabited by man with enough planing and will. Why, even space itself was opening to us.
        And while it might not have been in full swing yet, the seeds of the Green Revolution where planted, and already starting to sprout. More importantly, greenhouses and hydroponics had already shown that food production DIDN’T rely on nature providing suitable acreage. Indead, we could grow crops and raise livestock UNDERGROUND if need be, as long as we had enough Power.

        THIS is why Malthus, Erlich, and anyone else claiming a ‘Limit to growth’ exist for mankind is fundamentally wrong. Because Man is no longer bound by Nature. We have the knowledge, imagination, and will to survive and even thrive where no other species can. And Millenia from now (baring some stupid accident or twist of fate) when our population numbers in the hundreds of Trillions, our descendants will marvel at the thought of how there was once only a few Billion of us tucked away on a single rocky world.

        ~¿~

      • From Wikipedia:
        “The American economist Henry Charles Carey rejected Malthus’s argument in his magnum opus of 1858–59, The Principles of Social Science. Carey maintained that the only situation in which the means of subsistence will determine population growth is one in which a given society is not introducing new technologies or not adopting forward-thinking governmental policy, and that population regulated itself in every well-governed society, but its pressure on subsistence characterized the lower stages of civilization.”

        So the clearest argument against Mathus was around a couple of decades after his death. I can cut Mathus himself some slack; it was a dumb idea (essentially equating humans to rats in a cage with limited food), but he may never have heard a solid counterargument against his nonsense. But there is no excuse for those who had heard the correct argument against Malthusian thinking…. right up Erlich and the greens of today. All utterly wed to a crazy theory, and all unwilling to have their thinking informed by historical reality.

    • Nick stokes says, “Maybe the second one failed.” Excellent! If I may…
      The problem with the comparison is that we have very sparse data from the 1790’s on passion between the sexes in the So hemisphere. Then they colonized Australia.

      • Actually we do know a bit about passion between the sexes in the SH during the late 18th century.

        Shaka Zulu was purportedly conceived as a result of traditional sexual foreplay gone out of control in 1786.

    • As most of the arable land in Africa is not at all farmed by modern methods, imagine the food production that would ensue. We have not begun to reach a food maximum for the world. In the meantime, as the population growth rate is dwindling, the crisis is essentially a done deal, gone, left the building. If we can get the dictators and such gone, then the hungry can get the food. Hunger in the world is all manmade, by their leaders.

      • The tragedy of Zimbabwe illustrates good and bad African farming pretty well (bread basket to basket case) and much else besides.

  4. The biggest problem of course is places like Africa where they are huge net importers of grain foods. An extended global shortfall in production is not likely because the price point would rise to incentivize more land into production. But the net importers without deep financial reserves (again Africa) do have to worry about delivery and price shocks.

    • Of course, if those net importers without financial reserves were to learn to produce something of value…

    • EXACTLY. For those not in agronomy, C3 plants like wheat use less efficient photosynthetic processes and have better growth with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Corn (maize) is a C4 so it is less affected.

      • https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/10/27/report-global-warming-debate-at-rice-university-soon-vs-sass/comment-page-1/#comment-2329289

        Allan wrote:
        “10. In one of the next global Ice Ages, atmospheric CO2 will approach about 150ppm, a concentration at which terrestrial photosynthesis will slow and cease – and that will be the extinction event for terrestrial carbon-based life on this planet.”

        Leif wrote:
        “There have been thousands of glaciations over the history of the Earth. It is not likely that one of the next ones will be an extinction event when none of the previous ones were. Don’t be so alarmist.”

        Allan again:
        I wish it was alarmist Leif. Atmospheric CO2 is inexorably declining as it is being sequestered in carbonate rocks. In the last Continental Last Ice Age, atmospheric CO2 declined to about 180 ppm – next time it could drop lower, even closer to the extinction point of C3 plants at about 150-160 ppm.

        It is a bit more complicated – a few plants (less than 1%) are use the C4 photosynthesis pathway, including corn and sugar cane – but I doubt terrestrial life could survive on Sugar Frosted Flakes – notwithstanding the persistent rumour that “They’re Great!”

        CO2 is life – for all carbon-based life on Earth..

        Burn lots of wood, peat, coal, oil and natural gas Leif – all the plants and animals will be grateful to you.

      • https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/10/27/report-global-warming-debate-at-rice-university-soon-vs-sass/comment-page-1/#comment-2329389

        The C4 Rice Project is attempting to adapt normal C3 rice to become C4 to improve crop yields at current CO2 levels. The UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are sponsoring this effort.
        https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535011/supercharged-photosynthesis/

        At the same time, governments and individuals are trying to abate and sequester CO2, the world’s best plant food, due to the false assumption that it causes dangerous global warming.- despite the fact that CO2 lags temperature at ALL measured time scales.

        Could it be any more obvious that CO2 abatement and sequestration schemes are nonsense?

  5. If impending starvation confronts the world, any chance the political class will stop fretting over an impending climate catastrophe construct?
    Probably not – that’s the only platform many of them have.

      • To them wearing a dress and wacking off your wiener isn’t an “anomaly”. It is perfectly rational.

      • To them wearing a dress and wacking off your wiener isn’t an “anomaly”. It is perfectly rational.

        I’d rather think it in terms of human rights. Cutting parts off to get the gender right is pretty anomalous, there is no choice there. But is it your problem, or rather just a problem of the person and the medical personnel helping hem/hir do it? I’d vote it is not your problem, at least not much until you’re forced to pay the expenses.

  6. There is a continuing market for apocalyptic prophesies. Ehrich found his particular scare scenario salable, so he kept on pushing it, and will probably continue to do so until he loses his readership. Political/economic scenarios are out there too, and sell. Religious and social horror stories are also a marketable commodity. How many books did Harold Camping sell?
    What is as interesting is why there is such a desire to be scared. Perhaps Griff or ivankinman could expound on why they are True Believers?

    • H.L.Mencken put it in a nutshell:

      “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

      Politicians instinctively know this. There is no better election slogan than ‘vote for me or the world is doomed … doomed’.

      As to why people are so eager to believe this, I think it might be described as a religious feeling. “We have sinned O Lord, and must do penance for our sins.” Confessing one’s sins and doing penance always makes one feel good.

      • Looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.
        I’d put it in quotes, but I’m not sure I got it right.

      • “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” ~ Groucho Marx

      • “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” ~ Groucho Marx

        Groucho was favorite Marxist. He spawned a huge, destructive political movement:

        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/08/06/aussie-liberal-press-notices-the-importance-of-reliable-electricity/comment-page-1/#comment-2573966

        The Groucho Marxists are the leaders – they want power for its own sake at any cost, and typically are sociopaths or psychopaths. The great killers of recent history, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot. etc. were of this odious ilk – first they get power, then they implement their crazy schemes that do not work and too often kill everyone who opposes them.

        The Harpo Marxists are the followers – the “sheeple” – these are people of less-than-average education/intelligence who are easily duped and follow the Groucho’s until it is too late, their rights are lost and their society destroyed. They are attracted to simplistic concepts that “feel good” but rarely “do good”. George Carlin said: “You know how stupid the average person is, right? Well, half of them are stupider than that!”

        One can easily identify many members of these two groups in the global warming debate – and none of them are skeptics.

    • ” so he kept on pushing it, and will probably continue to do so until he loses his readership.”

      I think Enrich is counting on two things. “A sucker is born every minute” and “A fool and his money are soon parted”.

  7. Willis, thank you for this article.
    The Archibald article made me so irritated I just decided to ignore it…lest spoil my perfect record of politeness and I lose all my many friends here by being irate 🙂

    I have looked at world food production numbers in detail, many times over the years, and have used various metrics to get at the increase in food production, mainly to refute warmista claims that climate change is proving disastrous for food production.
    Of course no such thing is occurring.
    Food production around the world continues to set new records by any metric one may think of and research: Total tonnage of food produced; total calories of food produced; calories per person living on the Earth; production per acre as measured by weight; production per acres as measured by calories; total acreage in production…all set new records nearly but not quite every single year, as fluctuations about the uptrend lines do occur.
    In fact, the insistence that climate change, or global warming, is bad for food production and a looming catastrophe is so demonstrably untrue that I have been under the delusion that pointing this out with hard data could be used to deprogram the warmista herd, disabuse them of their folly…even if only one or a few head at a time.
    Nope.
    Facts and logic are useless, as are charts and graphs or even, as it turns out, the method of simply having an observant look around.
    The religion of CAGW is as fact free as any ideology can be, it seems.
    And this conviction of imminent peril is but one facet.
    It is interesting to note though, that such convictions seem to cut across the line between skeptics and True Believers.
    It seems to be the case that human beings are hard wired to worry about stuff, and for some this adaptive survival mechanism…that of being worried about bad things happening…overrides all logic, education, and even common sense.
    *sigh*
    There are a lot of ways to be crazy.

      • Being constantly worried is a selective advantage when you are nothing more than prey for predictors on the African savanna. Alarm is hard wired, and many never get past it via rational thinking.

    • I have to agree menicholas; the article by Archibald just about drove me crazy. I’m just a random, casual poster though, so I kept my mouth shut out of courtesy, since I find Archibald to be an original thinker. Disagree with him on this but at least he is an original, out of the box thinker.

      The process and systems for growing and transporting food have an incredibly large amount of potential for finding inefficiencies and areas for powerful, incremental improvement. Even if we were to use up every available amount of acreage for growing, there would still be a multitude of ways to increase production through elimination of inefficiencies and redundancies in the overall system.

      Frankly, it appears to me that some people just see the worst and if they happen to have a greater education it makes them no less gullible in their viewpoint, it just gives them a larger toolset to use to try to justify their mentality.

  8. Malthus – “Subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio.” The world generally has moved on from subsistence farming.

  9. I wonder if Mr. Archibald supports the renewal fuel standards. There is enough food going into US gas tanks to feed half of Africa and it has increased the prices of food enough to make it hard to feed a family in Guatemala. Last I looked it took more calories from fossil fuels to produce a gallon of ethanol than you get out of it so the process is not only stupid it is immoral.

    • Corn based ethanol only makes energy sense if the mash (after fermentation and distillation) is fed to animals that can digest the remainder. Once you’ve got all the animal feed you need it is a net loss of BTUs. How far the feed has to be transported matters, also. I believe we are past that point.

  10. One thing I have noticed in pretty much all of the 60 countries I have visited that there are a lot of fat people.

  11. Malthus –
    pro – he inspired Darwin to think about natural selection
    con – he inspired and continues to inspire doomsday cults

  12. They say that rats and other pests eat about half of the 3rd world food production.

    I’ve always thought that a good charity to start would be to send pump pellet guns and ammo (copper) to the 3rd world. Lots of the people in the 3rd world eat rats (they are just squirrels with hairless tails anyway).

    Win – win. Get rid of the competitors for food and pick up a source of protein, but people would be too squeamish.

    • A co-worker ( Nam vet ) enjoyed telling people about a bar there …eating jerky …and bar lady laughing and telling him ” You eating RAT ! ” And yes , he was !

      • Like Jimmy the bar owner’s special ingredient in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. “Formaldehyde. We put in just a touch of formaldehyde for flavour.”

      • More years ago than I care to recall, during my merchant navy days, I enjoyed a Coypu (large water rat) stew in Venezuela,
        I suppose the suffering population nowadays would enjoy such haute cuisine.

      • Wasn’t sure at first what a Coypu was. It’s apparently what they call here in the States a Nutria.

        Otherwise known as ROUS’s.

        ^¿^

    • Minor things could improve the 3rd world situation more than all the big projects. Just distribute galvanized trash cans to store food in for example. Not something the rats can gnaw through.

    • Hear-tell that sewer rat may, in point of fact, taste like pumpkin pie.
      Someone check that out and get back to us on that, eh?

      • Menicholas,
        Legend has it that the besieged French Foreign Legion in Dien Ben Phu ate rats sauteed in white wine. Having eaten a number of different small animals, some not considered to be traditional ‘game’ animals, it is my experience that they often taste a lot like what they have been eating. Perhaps that sewer rat you refer to was eaten after Thanksgiving.

  13. North Korea and China both look like they are going to have a harsh winter. The other end of the polar vortex is pushing a cold wave southward which is now down to 42 N latitude. …https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/overlay=temp/orthographic=-238.35,51.18,1107/loc=126.994,40.426

    I think that Archibald has a point with his post. It is predicated on the possibility that there may be a moderately severe or worse NH cooling trend which will develop over the next several decades. I also see that scenario as a likely future possibility, and that would be a game changer for food production in the NH.

    • Goldminer I don’t think it will be any worse than the 1950s and 60s, so no game changer. I know people alive today who survived that dip in world temperatures.

    • We will most likely one day experience a cooling trend all the way down to a deep ice age. Anything we do wrt population won’t help Man’s survival a whit. A population of million can freeze or starve to death just as assuredly as ten billion. If that is his concern, he should be advocating for developing large scale survival strategies for a cold climate – electrically heated homes or caves for shelter, hydroponic crops grown in massively large, heated structures, nuclear power plants, etc.

      Any cooling short of that could be addressed by shifting cultivation toward the equator, irrigating where necessary. There is still a lot of fertile land in the tropical zone not being cultivated. If the speed of cooling is so fast that people in under-developed countries starve before the shift is completed, the rest of us will at least be able to stay warm by burning global warmists at the stake. All the money wasted by them could have been used to prepare for colder climate, the real threat to Mankind.

  14. Let’s have a couple of years without a Summer and see how things look. People may begin to question why we ever worried about warming.

    • Ms. Christiana Figueres (whose dad was a head of a military junta – but he then abolished the army) said it nicely: It is not about warming. It is about a redistribution of wealth. Keep your pockets zippered.

      • Curious George

        How interesting. I wasn’t aware Christiana Figueres is from a military family. Rather explains the, command and control at any cost, mentality.

        It was pointed out to me once that business and politics are littered with combative military terms and attitudes e.g. achieving ‘targets’, ‘battling’ crime, ‘combating’ climate change, even.

        Blind determination to achieve an objective at any cost, like stifling the ambitions of millions in developing countries to satisfy the narrative of fictitious CO2 warming, has echoes of the the Somme or Passchendaele. Men driven to certain death by politicians and generals who hadn’t a clue about ‘modern’ warfare.

  15. The only “scientific” solution Ehrlich addressed was the absurd one of using other planets for agriculture and transporting food via space travel.

      • No, the man is genius! Not touched by mortal problems, and wants to spend on space travel when the people are supposedly starving.

        Good stuff if you’re 15 years old. But hey, please do give sources to jewels like this! I don’t imagine finding them in Wikipedia since there appears to be a funny bias around when your motive is climate sanity.

  16. Acorns. Just finished blowing a bushel off my decks for the fifth time this year. Just pound to meal with a rock, leach the tannins out with hot water, enjoy! Can be sautéed pita style in animal fat over the fire on a flat rock. Who needs wheat? /wink

    • I have a bunch of oak trees on my property and some years they cover the ground with acorns.

      I live on enough land that I could supply my own food if there were ever a shortage. I imagine there are a lot of people who could grow their own if they really had to do so, although city folk would have some difficulty.

      • No Oaks where we live. There are some pampered ones 15 miles south on a university campus. Going farther south (70 miles) there are smallish Garry oak (Oregon white oak) .

      • We could easily grow enough food to feed ourselves at my sisters place… if we knew ahead of time that we’d need to. People sometimes forget that it can take a month or two to grow even the fast growing plants, and 3 to 6 months for others. And they have to be the right months, no starting your corn or tomatoes in December.

        Which is why we keep a supply of canned goods and bags of beans and rice, and rotate a portion into the pantry by buying replacements every few months so everything has at least a year from expiration. Doesn’t even cost us anything since the initial investment, since it’s all stuff we’ll use eventually.

        Not that we really think a major collapse of society is all that likely, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. And it also leaves us prepared in case of a smaller disruption like a major storm, earthquake, or what have you. Those are far more likely, and almost as much trouble if you’re in one.

        And if the worst does come to past? Well, we have the seeds for the garden on rotation too. Never can be to careful.

    • If it gets so cold here in Georgia that we can’t grow Canadian winter wheat, then Man is in trouble regardless of its population. The onset of cold weather must be very fast or extremely severe for us not to be able to adapt to it.

  17. Willis
    I think it is important to distinguish between the food types of the 1950,s and the manufactured food like products of today.
    The additional cost and strain on health services has gone up faster than any of the gradients on your charts.
    Regards

    • David Archibald focused on wheat and grain. Even white bread is significantly different product, with the only benefit it really provides these days is keeping the walls of the stomach from touching.
      Gluten development is geared to maintaining loaf strength during processing to give a picture perfect loaf on the supermarket stand that remains fresh for days.
      A diet of bread to day is not what it once was.
      Gluten intolerance is a manufacturing related problem.

      • Gluten intolerance its a genetic disorder and is related auto-immune function… runs in my familly…. affects less than 1% of the population (at least in the west I don’t know the global distriution)… the gluten free fashion diet is another story! The plebs use it as another excuse as to why thier bad diet choices are making themselves unhealthy…. and of course you can charge more if it’s gluten free!!!

    • That may have more to do with people living longer and the manufactured hypochondria that enriches Big Pharma and their enablers. As I recall from my TV days, every second commercial was for some pill for some ‘problem.’

      How much are we spending on ‘Type 2 Diabetes’ or ‘Restless Leg Syndrome’ and other invented ‘diseases’ now? More recently some supposed authority – think it was the American Medical Association – decided that ‘good’ blood pressure levels were actually much lower, thus greatly increasing the ‘need’ for blood pressure pills, doctor visits, etc. It is even worse in the ‘mental health’ business.

      In other words, the level of ‘health’ spending has no relationship to health.

      • I was told I had Type 2 so lost a bit of weight round the middle and was tested again. HbA1c normal. Still get calls to see diabetic nurse and last week retinal photo. There is no evidence of diabetes and yet I am labelled as such.

    • ozonebust December 10, 2017 at 6:14 pm Edit

      Willis
      I think it is important to distinguish between the food types of the 1950,s and the manufactured food like products of today.
      The additional cost and strain on health services has gone up faster than any of the gradients on your charts.

      So how do you explain the reduced infant mortality, reduced maternal mortality, and increasing lifespan worldwide? Is that from manufactured foods too?

      w.

      • Willis
        Knowledge, system’s, proceedures.
        Extended life is not quality of life.
        Take a look around you at the significant change in the human form in fifty years.
        Now that is progress.

      • ozonebust December 11, 2017 at 7:41 am
        Willis

        Knowledge, system’s, proceedures.
        Extended life is not quality of life.
        Take a look around you at the significant change in the human form in fifty years.
        Now that is progress.

        ozone, you had said:

        I think it is important to distinguish between the food types of the 1950,s and the manufactured food like products of today.
        The additional cost and strain on health services has gone up faster than any of the gradients on your charts.

        I said, how does that explain

        “reduced infant mortality, reduced maternal mortality, and increasing lifespan worldwide”?

        You reply:

        Knowledge, system’s, proceedures.
        Extended life is not quality of life.

        First off, try telling that to someone on their deathbed … “Well, we could save your life, but it will not be as good. You’ll tire more easily and be in a bit of pain”.

        Sounds like you are claiming that they’d say “Extended life is not quality of life, let me die” …

        Second, in general modern food is quite healthy and nutritious. Sure, if you gorge on sugar you won’t live as long … but that’s true of the guy who gorged on honey in the year dot.

        So no, I don’t blame for example the obesity crisis on modern food … I eat modern food and I weigh about what I weighed in high school.

        Again, look at the charts. If a man is trying to live on 50 g of protein and 1500 calories per day, if he can increase that by 50% he is likely to be both healthier and happier, even if it is “modern food”.

        w.

    • The major problem in the less developed world is the local distribution and storage systems. That is where the main effort by these peoples has been turning in recent years.

      • one of the biggest problems in the developing world is anything worth any money is controlled by thugs and bullies masquerading as politicians/armies. corruption and theft is the main issue ,some of these people have warehouses full of grain while the population starves.

  18. “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential fiunction” Albert Bartlett, Emeritus Professor, University of Colorado.

    Malthus was right. Sooner or later, growth will stop. Not a prediction, an absolute certainty. In the history of the earth, no living thing has contravened this rule, and none, on this planet, anyway, ever will. No virus, bacteria, parasite, invertebrate, or vertebrate, has ever survived exhaustion of the resources necessary for its survival.

    • “Malthus was right. Sooner or later, growth will stop. Not a prediction, an absolute certainty. In the history of the earth, no living thing has contravened this rule, and none, on this planet, anyway, ever will.”

      “on this planet”

      Human beings have the ability to leave this planet, and the solar system has unlimited resources, so the human race can continue to grow into the future, as soon as we figure out how to get to low-Earth orbit cheaply enough.

    • Population growth has stopped in most industrial countries. The formula for controlling population is simple a prosperous industrial economy. and educated women. Let us spread that across the world.

    • Damon December 10, 2017 at 6:33 pm

      No virus, bacteria, parasite, invertebrate, or vertebrate, has ever survived exhaustion of the resources necessary for its survival.

      Science by tautology … what’s not to like?

      w.

      • “No virus, bacteria, parasite, invertebrate, or vertebrate, has ever survived exhaustion of the resources necessary for its survival.”

        Not even remotely true! In reality, all species, even the most primitive ones have always survived resources exhaustion by natural self-limitation, ALWAYS.
        The idea peddled by doomster that a population would crash and even go extinct because of resource exhaustion is so idiotic and so contrary to reality that it fits perfectly with the Goebels’ definition of a “big lie”.

      • What about those evolution experiments where bacteria are in a system with limited resource of their existing food source and they evolve to consume the available resource.

    • Yup. The dinosaurs only lasted for 180 million years. They must have been on the verge of mass famine when that asteroid hit. If humans last 0.5% as long there’s no telling where evolution will take us. I think we’re far more likely to blow ourselves up than to run out of resources.

    • But the exponential growth function is the wrong model for population growth. The logistic growth function seems like a ‘better’ [more realitic] model.

  19. Let us remember the anti-Malthusian economist Julian Simon, who wrote a book — “The Ultimate Resource”. Simon held that every mouth comes with a brain and a pair of hands, and that the ultimate resource is the human imagination. Simon famously bet Ehrlich that 5 natural resources would be more abundant and less expensive in a decade. Simon won.

    • If they had chosen a different starting date, the result would have been different. link

      Economics is a lot like the climate. It’s subject to wild fluctuations. The climate is, or is not, warming depending on your chosen starting date. That enables everyone to cherry pick data that confirms their pet thesis.

      Over the long term, Simon, and Buckminster Fuller before him, are right. Human ingenuity has thus far meant that we use less resources, relative to the size of the economy, than we used to.

      Between 1977 and 2001, the amount of material required to meet all needs of Americans fell from 1.18 trillion pounds to 1.08 trillion pounds, even though the country’s population increased by 55 million people. Al Gore similarly noted in 1999 that since 1949, while the economy tripled, the weight of goods produced did not change. link

      We have a tiger by the tail. If, for some reason, we quit innovating then material shortages will emerge and society could crumble.

      There are examples of failing innovation.

      In pharmacology we’re seeing Eroom’s Law which is the inverse of Moore’s law. More and more research is producing fewer and fewer useful drugs.

      To make solar and wind energy feasible, we need viable energy storage. We’ve been working on that for a long time and the required breakthroughs aren’t happening.

      Breakthroughs don’t happen on demand. link In fact, “Setting an objective can block its own achievement.”

      The greenies think that, if we squander enough resources, we will get the breakthroughs necessary to make renewable power a success. They are wrong.

    • That bet was remarkable! Gutsy – prescient.
      Too bad the our witted Poopus Goofus the Worst has added Ehrlich to Vatican scientific council.

  20. What are the next large scale projects we can do to improve the world food supply:

    1. Eliminate the Tse-Tse Fly
    2. Introduce modern GMO strains in Africa, over EU objections
    3. Make more CO2 so plants benefit

    • How about simpler projects first, like improving food storage and transportation in the third world.

      • I’d love to compare government and NGO investment in solar and wind versus better compressors to improve food (protein) distribution. Link it to cold beer and the demand will be incredible.

      • What is it about the 3rd world that they can’t improve their own food storage and transportation?

        What are you, racist?

      • Mike,
        I hope that was sarcastic. My only motivation is to help people regardless of their ethnicity. I don’t even recognize different human “races”, only regional and ethnic differences which I don’t deem as relevant in decision making. I totally believe in the notion of judging people by the content of their character. So the “racist” card does not work on me; it is juvenile name calling at best.

      • Paul, yes it was entirely tongue-in-cheek. I guess you didn’t see the twinkle in my eye and my wry smile. Maybe I need to remove the strip of tape that covers my computer’s camera…

        Of course I would never cavalierly accuse people I don’t even know, although I have no qualms about mocking popular “culture” in which the glib “racist” term is deployed to the point of meaninglessness.

        I do apologize for my offense, sometimes (read that “frequently”) my attempts at humor and satirizing the zeitgeist backfire, especially when rendered to the dead text on a computer screen. Yet I don’t learn…

        Again, I intended no offense, and I apologize for my clumsy attempt at humor.

      • Mike,
        No problem. At first I was going to rip into you, and then it occurred to me that you were being sarcastic. You need to remember to add the /sarc tag when you do that, or maybe a 😉 emoticon.

  21. Thanks Willis.
    David A. or someone spent a lot of time on those many charts. On another post I mentioned they likely have no meaning out about 5 years. Thus, I’m not responding to him, but to one of your charts.

    Regarding the “Protein Consumption” chart
    that flat-lined from about 2000 to 2010 …

    I learned just this past week about “rabbit starvation**” or “protein poisoning.” The concept being that too much rabbit – lean meat – in one’s diet can kill you. If you get >45 percent of your calories from protein, symptoms that include nausea, weakness and diarrhea will result. Then you will wink out. These symptoms abate when the protein content of your diet is reduced by increasing the amount of fats and carbohydrates.
    So, “let them eat cake” and ice cream is a good motto. Suits me.

    [**Upon first seeing the phrase I thought of rabbits needing to engage in cecotrophy. That’s a different story.]

    • From what I understand, the problem is that protein only contains 4 calories per gram … and we need about 1800 calories of food per day. It’s not the protein that is the problem, it’s the lack of calories. But what do I know, I was born yesterday …

      w.

      • Lean meat is a poor source of calories because digesting protein and converting some of it into glucose consumes energy and liberates little. This causes people to eat more of the meat if that is all that is available in a vain attempt to satisfy their hunger. Meat toxicity follows.
        This is from the winter issue of Natural History.
        Article by Jonathan Silvertown: “Cooking and Evolution”
        An excerpt from his new book: Dinner with Darwin . . .

        I should add that my original comment was about the flat lining of protein consumption.
        There seems no need to go higher, and likely would be harmful.

  22. I agree with Willis..

    Since 1960, world-wide crop yields have almost tripled from advancements in: farm machine technology, GMOs, irrigation infrastructure, wide availability of cheap pertro-chemical fertilizers/weed killers/insecticides, and increases in CO2 fertilization (ironically, from fossil fuel consumption):

    https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/AG.YLD.CREL.KG

    Especially with advances in GMO technology, crop yields will continue to out-pace population.

    Most industrialized and developing countries with relatively free-markets and individual freedom rights, have birthrates below well below 2.1 kids/family, which is the minimum rate required for population maintenance.

    Almost all countries with excessive birthrates (more than 3 kids per family) that lack free-markets and individual private property rights i.e almost ALL of Africa:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependencies_by_total_fertility_rate

    Africa needs to follow the Mauritius economic model, which is one of the freest countries in Africa, and has seen its birthrate fall from 6.0 in 1960 to the current rate of just 1.2…

    It’s not “food” shortage problem, but rather and a lack of economic and individual property right freedom shortage… If Marxist/Theocratic Africa would switch their socio-economic model to free-market capitalism, the world’s birthrate average would fall to under 3…

    How that can happen is anyones’ guess… I certainly don’t have the answers, but I do know with certainly it isn’t from brought about by “poor” people in rich countries giving free food/money to rich dictators/despots in poor countries…

    • I’ve read approximately one third of food be comes waste before it ‘make it to a fork, globally. I can’t seem to find comparing this across countries at various levels of development. It would seem that reducing spoilage rates could offer some dramatic improvements regardless of increasing production. https://image.slidesharecdn.com/externalversionwasteandspoilagedid-140916120719-phpapp02/95/waste-and-spoilage-in-the-food-chain-9-638.jpg?cb=1410920460

      • Yes, Randy-san. Industrialized countries throw away HUGE amounts of perfectly edible food.

        I’m in the Japanese food industry and supermarket chains have a terrible policy of throwing away perfectly good food that has less than 50% of its Best Before Date remaining… For example, canned goods which usually have a 3 year shelf-life are tossed in the dumpster when there is 1.5 years remaining on the BBD…

        Another problem is excessively-high cosmetic food standards.. It’s estimated that 50% of fresh produce is destroyed due to slight imperfections of shape, color and size… Most of this “below cosmetic standard” produce is either fed the livestock or just plowed back in the earth as fertilizer…

        In 3rd world countries, it’s estimated that 20% of all food is eaten by rats… This is primarily due to poor infrastructure, lack of serviceable roads, decrepit warehousing facilities, etc. In the 3rd world, obviously much less food is wasted for reasons of cosmetic/BBD/slightly-spoiled food standards.

        The overall total global food loss is estimated to be around 33%.

      • SAMURAI

        One of our national retailers in the UK, has just decided to sell goods past their ‘sell by’ date at 10p per item rather than dumping it. I believe fresh food such as meat is excluded, but cans and packet goods are all included.

      • The best correlate to birthrates is the level of female education in a society.
        Educate the women-folk, and they stop being baby factories, it seems to be universally true.
        Ever wonder why some countries are dead set against letting girls and woman get an education?
        There is one major world religion that makes no secret of their intention to conquer the world by migration and reproduction.

    • I think the obvious answer is that they don’t *want* to improve their lives. At least not as a group. How could a population who really wanted to accomplish something fail so spectacularly for so long?

      Until they demonstrate through concrete action that they actually want to improve their situation, we’re doing them a disservice by ameliorating the consequences of their indolence.

      They should overthrow a few dictators, rid themselves of warlords, establish functioning institutions and infrastructure, and develop some industry. What do you mean they can’t? Why not?

      Europeans started from nothing in America and succeeded.

      Transported convicts achieved similar success in Australia.

      The Japanese, living on barren islands with virtually zero natural resources, succeeded spectacularly.

      In a land such as Africa, overflowing with natural resources and arable land, well, there’s an entire industry built around making excuses for their failure and thereby prolonging their misery.

      “Helping” them, in the long run, is harming them and is simply postponing the day of reckoning that they will have to face, sooner or later. And in the process it’s condemning millions, if not billions, to short lives of misery.

  23. The food shortages start when the glaciation resumes. Once we start losing crop land and harvests to cold it will start. By then we should be eating local greenhouse food so we’ll skip the starvation in the wealthy countries. In Japan they turned an old semiconductor plant into a vertical salad farm. 10,000 heads of lettuce a day.

    Now if only we hadn’t pissed away all that money on abatement of CO2 we could afford some great greenhouses …. never mind 🙁

    • TRM

      One of my enduring irritations of AGW; that we are squandering vast resources on combating a phantom, which could be better spent taking advantage of the agricultural opportunities available from a greening planet.

      We should be fixing the roof while the sun’s shining, but what politician ever did that?

      Trump perhaps?

  24. I guess this isn’t a history blog. Humanity increased to 7.5 billion because of a natural warming trend out of the LIA and the massive utilization of fossil fuels which has perhaps caused a half degree of human warming, although impossible to prove now. All beneficial to growing a lot of food. Knowledge has increased exponentially, as has our ability to harness the good Earth to feed ourselves with ample to spare, politics notwithstanding.

    I am constantly amazed that really smart people can actually think that a catastrophe looms in 50-100 years due to a few more degrees warming, or is actually causing current harm as the world continues to grow in population and wealth, all due to a warmer world. Or that this warming would be detrimental to growing more food over the next century, with more CO2 and all. The alarmists should pick a new word, since catastrophe indicates a sudden misfortune. If substantial AGW is correct and is a negative experience, then it is going to be C in real slow motion.

    But to think that a real catastrophe cannot or will not happen, like a major cooling event that freezes/kills a substantial crop in the northern hemisphere in the span of a few years right when everything seems to be going the best, is to defy history. If it is the one thing we do learn from history, is that everything is fine, until it isn’t. But I sure hope you are right Willis.

    • Earthling2 December 10, 2017 at 9:32 pm Edit

      I guess this isn’t a history blog.

      I have no idea what that means.

      Humanity increased to 7.5 billion because of a natural warming trend out of the LIA and the massive utilization of fossil fuels which has perhaps caused a half degree of human warming, although impossible to prove now. All beneficial to growing a lot of food. Knowledge has increased exponentially, as has our ability to harness the good Earth to feed ourselves with ample to spare, politics notwithstanding.

      Yes. I have not seen anyone deny that.

      I am constantly amazed that really smart people can actually think that a catastrophe looms in 50-100 years due to a few more degrees warming, or is actually causing current harm as the world continues to grow in population and wealth, all due to a warmer world. Or that this warming would be detrimental to growing more food over the next century, with more CO2 and all. The alarmists should pick a new word, since catastrophe indicates a sudden misfortune. If substantial AGW is correct and is a negative experience, then it is going to be C in real slow motion.

      Yes, given our experience of warming out of the little ice age, which was almost entirely beneficial, I find the fear of another slight warming to be way overblown.

      But to think that a real catastrophe cannot or will not happen, like a major cooling event that freezes/kills a substantial crop in the northern hemisphere in the span of a few years right when everything seems to be going the best, is to defy history. If it is the one thing we do learn from history, is that everything is fine, until it isn’t. But I sure hope you are right Willis.

      Say what? As a far as I know, you’re the only one talking about “a real catastrophe can or will not happen”. I have no idea who you’re talking about, but it sure isn’t me. This blog doesn’t need a “history lesson”, everyone I know of is aware that the unexpected is possible. No one denies that a meteorite might strike the earth, it’s happened before.

      So … I guess this is a history blog, but you are projecting the idea that we’re all pollyannas who think the world will always turn out well …

      w.

      • I think you do know what I mean Willis, by my little snark that this isn’t a history blog. A lot of civilizations over time have gone the way of the dodo bird, because of some catastrophic event, either self imposed due to mismanagement of resources, politics/warfare or some unforeseen natural catastrophe out of left field that no one saw coming 4-5 years earlier. And who could, especially if it was a combination of all 3.

        But we now in the 21st century have the unique advantage of being able to see with hindsight, almost 20-20 what went wrong, or rather, what happened, over the last 12-13,000 years since the end of the ice age. That should bode well for us, in that we should know what could go wrong with anything and everything, but I feel now we have a collective hubris about us that we can do no wrong, probably because many of our generation in the West have not known suffering like they did in the dark ages, when sulphuric rains were falling on Europe became of vulcanism in Iceland from two eruptions back to back—in 536 and 540 which may have been the tipping point plunging Europe into the dark ages for centuries. Or a 1/3 of Europe perishing indirectly in the years following the eruption of Tambora in 1815. I even recall my own Grandfather, who was born in 1892, telling me stories as a kid that his father and grandfather told him about many numerous farms all failing for 4-5 years after the Krakatoa eruption in 1883, and the reason why they indeed had to move and emigrate.

        My point being, in our short time span with exponential growth in everything the last 150 years, how would humanity fare now if some of the normal things that happen regularly, not an asteroid, but just regular things like stratovolcanoes blowing off happening like they did back then? That’s why I like to tell my alarmist critics that any warming we can muster is good, because the alternative is very bleak.

        But after reading your blog and day dreaming about the South Pacific, I just bought a ticket to a SE Asia tropical island(s), because I am tired of the cold. I am hoping I can shake this cold ‘attitude’ which I am accused of, by sitting on a warm beach and honing my diving and sailing skills. Bon voyage to all!

      • Earthling2 December 10, 2017 at 10:53 pm Edit

        I think you do know what I mean Willis, by my little snark that this isn’t a history blog.

        Oh, good, I’m faced with another mind reader who can tell me what I know and don’t know … Earthling, when someone says “I don’t know what you mean”, it’s a polite way of asking for an explanation. Call me crazy, but if I had known what you meant, I wouldn’t have asked.

        A lot of civilizations over time have gone the way of the dodo bird, because of some catastrophic event, either self imposed due to mismanagement of resources, politics/warfare or some unforeseen natural catastrophe out of left field that no one saw coming 4-5 years earlier. And who could, especially if it was a combination of all 3.

        True dat’ …

        But we now in the 21st century have the unique advantage of being able to see with hindsight, almost 20-20 what went wrong, or rather, what happened, over the last 12-13,000 years since the end of the ice age. That should bode well for us, in that we should know what could go wrong with anything and everything, but I feel now we have a collective hubris about us that we can do no wrong, probably because many of our generation in the West have not known suffering like they did in the dark ages, when sulphuric rains were falling on Europe became of vulcanism in Iceland from two eruptions back to back—in 536 and 540 which may have been the tipping point plunging Europe into the dark ages for centuries. Or a 1/3 of Europe perishing indirectly in the years following the eruption of Tambora in 1815. I even recall my own Grandfather, who was born in 1892, telling me stories as a kid that his father and grandfather told him about many numerous farms all failing for 4-5 years after the Krakatoa eruption in 1883, and the reason why they indeed had to move and emigrate.

        Mmmm … a third of Europe died (indirectly) in the years following Tambora … citation please. And while stories from your grandfather about things that occurred before his birth are indeed interesting, they call that “anectdotal” … and the plural of “anecdote” is not “fact”, it is “rumor”.

        My point being, in our short time span with exponential growth in everything the last 150 years, how would humanity fare now if some of the normal things that happen regularly, not an asteroid, but just regular things like stratovolcanoes blowing off happening like they did back then? That’s why I like to tell my alarmist critics that any warming we can muster is good, because the alternative is very bleak.

        While I agree that warming is generally good, and an ice age would be a show-stopper, I don’t share your pessimism. Humans are infinitely resilient, we’ve made it through stratovolcanoes and

        But after reading your blog and day dreaming about the South Pacific, I just bought a ticket to a SE Asia tropical island(s), because I am tired of the cold. I am hoping I can shake this cold ‘attitude’ which I am accused of, by sitting on a warm beach and honing my diving and sailing skills. Bon voyage to all!

        Dawg! Great news, let us know of your adventures. Best wishes for your voyage,

        w.

  25. Willis,

    It’s obvious that the Malthusian predictions have failed. But, with something as controversial and important as this, I think it deserves a detailed examination rather than ridicule about how wrong they were, It is more important to understand WHY the predictions failed, than to take the opportunity to gloat.

    Note that Malthus said, “Population, WHEN UNCHECKED, increases in a geometrical ratio.” I think that provides some insight on the intricacies of the issue.

    Since about 1960, inexpensive and unprecedentedly effective birth control has been available in the countries producing the majority of the world’s food. Thus, the growth in the industrialized countries has flattened while the poorer countries still approximate geometric growth. At the same time, the character of farming has changed from small farms to large corporate complexes that essentially convert fossil fuels into food. That is, large farm machinery has replaced individuals, especially for grain crops. Cheap fertilizers are produced from the fossil fuels. Trucks and ocean-going ships transport and distribute grains more effectively. Production of food in industrialized countries is now akin to the way that cars are produced by robots. Except that the robots essentially eat fossil fuels instead of human food. Everything is different from what it was 60 years ago. I don’t think that Ehrlich was in tune with how things were changing.

    Your graphs show an approximate linear growth in per capita food consumption. That could be explained by either a linear growth in population, or people getting fewer calories per capita. What is the explanation?

    I hope that you are right and that Malthus was fundamentally wrong in his assumptions. However, I’d be more inclined to believe you if you explained exactly what went wrong with his predictions.

    • Clyde Spencer December 10, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      Your graphs show an approximate linear growth in per capita food consumption. That could be explained by either a linear growth in population, or people getting fewer calories per capita. What is the explanation?

      I don’t know what that means. Is there a typo in there?

      w.

      • Wllis,
        My mistake! It was late at night and I was erroneously interpreting your second figure as total calorie consumption rather than per capita consumption.

    • It should be obvious. Malthus’ premise was simply wrong, logical but fundamentally wrong: he supposed that any increase in food production would be linear (so would fail to keep up with “exponential” population growth). Malthus’ “logic” continues to befuddle linear thinkers, apparently.

    • “Your graphs show an approximate linear growth in per capita food consumption. That could be explained by either a linear growth in population, or people getting fewer calories per capita. What is the explanation?”

      Clyde Spencer, since the graph shows “per capita food consumption” it would be nearly impossible for them to be getting fewer calories unless the are eating less fat (protein = 4 cal/gram, carbs = 4 cal/gram, fat = 9 cal/gram) or we are including “oat chaff and wheat hulls” in the calculation (i.e. “Raw Bits”, inedible non-food in the food).

      Furthermore, in the world overall population growth is not linear, though the rate is slowing. https://ourworldindata.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/updated-World-Population-Growth-1750-2100.png

      Thus, the explanation is, we are growing more food. Even with the immense wastage, whether by Western snobbishness (see comments re: cosmetic discards) or lack of preservation (refrigeration/canning which could be solved by expanding electricity using petro-fuels and developing poverty stricken areas) we have more food to consume. I hope this helps.

    • Clyde,
      The problem with the “when unchecked” part is that what Malthus meant was “unchecked by government”. He could not conceive of other forces which would limit population growth. His problem was lack of quality, long term population data. Perhaps if he’d had the data we have today he would have recognized that population growth is a complex curve driven by many forces, not all of which are apparent until after the fact. History is littered with failed predictions of population trends. The same is true for food production trends.

      • Paul,
        I’m not directly familiar with the writings of Malthus. Therefore, I can’t say with certainty your claim that Malthus was referring to “government” is wrong. However, the concept of the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” comes from the bible, and as a cleric, I’m certain that Malthus would have been familiar with the idea.

      • I beg to differ. The “positive checks” on population growth posited by Malthus were starvation, disease, etc, which raise the death rate, while “preventive checks”, such as postponement of marriage, etc., kept the birthrate down, both of which types of check entail “misery and vice”. Not sure where he saw governments involved, except perhaps in war, which often accompanies famine and pestilence.

        His original 1798 essay is quite short.

  26. I agree with you, Willis. In addition, Ehrlich and his junior patron saint Holdren should be wiped from the USA. Obama was the idiot who supported Holdren and Erhlich. Just motha phuckin amazing. Seriously.

  27. Let me give my experience in Ethiopia on food: I travelled all around Ethiopia by a van carrying diesel at the back. I saw the bumper crop yields in some parts [Sudan border] and no crop in some areas [along the Red Sea]. I saw the poor quality mud-stone roads. At the same time fighting with rebels. The later two made the transportation of food grains from rich to poor zones. — just few days before the end of war, I left the job and returned to India.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    • Thanks, Dr. Reddy, good to hear from you. As you observed, the problem is not lack of arable land. It is all the other things—transportation, communication, storage, post-harvest loss, and above all war. War is the reason that the breadbasket of the Sudan is not producing, they’ve had a civil war there off and on for years.

      w.

  28. I’ve been shooting this stuff down for along time, mainly associated with mineral resources running out. The Club of Rome were adding up what mining companies called reserves, not understanding that companies drill and establish reserves generally to see their way 20yrs or more ahead – a sort of inventory. It costs money to develop reserves so they don’t overdo this. This is why copper reserves today are more abundant than ever before.

    http://www.icsg.org/index.php/the-world-of-copper/71-uncategorised/114-long-term-availability-of-copper

    The rest of the metals and minerals are similarly abundant. Moreover, we have been recycling these valuable commodities for over a millennium and, with miniaturization and substitution reducing unit demand, mining is evolving into a ‘topping up’ activity.

    Countering the Malthusian stuff made me a natural sceptic of all forms of disaster prognoses like end days of this old planet because of CO2.

    My critique of Archibald was that he was worse than Malthus because he had much more data than his predecessor. Malthus was a thinker and probably would’ve been pleased to learn he had been wrong.

    I was disappointed in Archibald because he used the exact same kind of evidence in the same linear way that Club of Rome did. These prophets all fail to acknowledge that the underlying ‘resource’ is human ingenuity. Would it be unkind to think that it’s because they lack it themselves.

  29. It’s inevitable, unfortunately. When electricity supply fails, society collapses within a week and all of your graphed lines plummet. The problem is nobody remembers how to do things without electricity. The best remedy is to have long-term outages in restricted geographic places. Maybe South Australia can do us all a big service by losing their electricity entirely for a few months and see how quickly it becomes a ghost province.

  30. He now says he was 100% correct, but he just got the timing wrong.

    That’s one of the main excuses of failed prognosticators.

    Everyone, especially experts, should be familiar with Tetlock. Expert predictions are junk. Everyone should know that … especially the experts. There should be accountability for failed predictors.

    • CB,
      I don’t think that anyone is good at long-term forecasts. Those that appear to be are probably just lucky. However, the importance of gad flies that promote future catastrophes is that they get people to think about things that are beyond the typical 3-days of future concern. That is, they raise the level of consciousness to where people question whether ‘Business as Usual’ is a realistic model for the future, or if some course corrections should be considered.

      • Tony,

        You overlook cultural evolution, of which humans are capable. If we colonized the oceans with floating cities, earth could support tens of billions of people. Not that that is liable to happen. Our population will stabilize around ten billion. Eleven, tops. Then probably decline.

    • Commie, the difference between foxes/rabbits and humans is the huge ingenuity factor. This is the real resource underlying the availability of physical resources.

      It is precisely why predictions of disaster are only made by those lacking ingenuity. All they have to guide them is ideology and linear bean counting analysis. Their apriori reasoning (the kind a clever teenager is forced to use in arguing with his parents because he lacks experience) usually begins by making the mistake that resources are finite. I best get rid of this central illusion forthwith, before I make my big prediction for the future.

      Here are the resource stretchers.
      1) All the stuff we have mined, for example, is still here on the face of the earth. Metals have been recycled over more than a millennium because of their value.
      2) Ingenuity has permitted lesser and lesser per unit demand. The amount of copper used, say, in communications has much more than halved (miniaturization) per unit since the last doubling of population.
      3) Ingenuity has permitted substitution of cheaper, more abundant resources for less abundant. We don’t demand zinc for steel culverts, barn rooves… We demand waterproofing, and conduits for water to pass under roadways – plastic etc will do just fine.
      4) We have greater reserves and resources today for copper, for example, than at any time in the past.

      My big prediction, we will, not long after 2050, have reached peak population – we’re 80%there. The greening of the planet and food and resource abundance will usher in a Garden of Eden earth with widespread prosperity which will put the final nail in the coffin of all these Malthusian and other dystopian ideological nonsense mongers.

      • Gary,

        You of all people should appreciate that what makes a mine, instead of an interesting outcrop, is the grade and tonnage of the ore. As the unbelievably rich massive blocks of pure copper from the Keweenaw Peninsula have been exhausted, technology has allowed us to mine low-grade porphyry-copper deposits, at the expense of much greater energy requirements. The key to the availability of mineral resources is cheap energy. With sufficiently abundant energy, the oceans could potentially supply us with every element we need. Until such time, the decision on whether to invest in the infrastructure to develop a mine will depend on the grade, tonnage, transportation costs, and energy cost to extract the metal from the ore.

        It is primarily the precious metals that have been recycled over millennia. Iron has largely rusted away and been dispersed to a grade much lower than the ore from which it was mined. The industrial metals, like lead, tin, zinc, magnesium, cadmium, germanium, gallium, etc., largely end up dispersed in landfills, and whether they will ever be recycled is problematic.

        Substitutions have their cost. Often the substitutes are cheap(er) but may not perform as well. How often have those of us who are older lamented about the “cheap quality” of new products, especially those coming from China? Esthetics are an important consideration for many people. I much prefer a fine walnut rifle stock to a plastic stock.

  31. “What is as interesting is why there is such a desire to be scared.” (Tom Halla)

    No idea; it’s hard-wired I think, maybe something about actually being scared, all those hundreds of thousands of years in the dark, telling ghost stories. Fear is a perfectly good response for survival. Run and hide. Sometimes it’s irrational and dysfunctional, sometimes it’s not. It’s the logic that needs work.

  32. As a pensioner I have to keep tabs on my money supply. One big problem is food cost. Why is food cost going up and portion sizes getting smaller? It is happening in small easy stages so you don’t notice at first.

    • Politics causes food shortages.
      A given country, according to the graphs, produces and consumes more food. The result is the world wide obesity problem. Yet we have areas with starvation, although fortunately those areas are shrinking.
      Politics will however block food supplies getting through. Bad examples include Zimbabwe, and Venezuela, both former net exporters. An example in my country (Australia), is energy poverty. We export huge amounts of energy, very cheap energy, however due to a mish mash of very poor policy, there is a big and growing problem with energy poverty. Politicians are deliberately making energy too expensive for the poor. The same is happening with food in Australia but it’s happening a lot slower, political policy is making food more expensive.

      • I believe this was also Barack Obama’s desire: “Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” (from his speech in January, 2008). To his great chagrin (and the people of the USA’s delight), he never got this plan fully enacted when he was President of the USA.

    • “Why . . . portion sizes getting smaller?”

      Blame this on ‘Cookbook’ publishers.
      Old ones assumed a can of something weighed 1 pound.
      Not so now. You need a new cookbook.

  33. The fastest way to ensure an inadequate global food supply is the dogma driven and artificially fast push for the wrong types of ‘renewable’ energy (chiefly wind/solar). It is only fossil fuels that do, and can continue to, provide the leverage for adequate food production.

  34. Economists have long understood the basics of how Malthus’ prediction went wrong: that technological progress kept moving the production function upwards (increasing marginal productivity) faster than population growth moved us out along the production function (decreasing marginal productivity), hence marginal productivity (which in a competitive economy is equal to wages), kept going up, so that instead of starving, people have become ever more prosperous.

    It was the great but relatively unknown economist Julian Simon who added the key relationship, where technological progress is a function fundamentally of population. Other things matter too–education, for instance–but even amongst the least educated, people are still inventive and population always and everywhere produces net gains in productivity, a proposition that Simon documented with several hundred pages of data and examples in his magnum opus The Ultimate Resource.

    So now all real economists understand: it is no accident that population increase always coincides with increase in prosperity, the opposite of what Malthus and the neo-Malthusians always predict. As I have said many times, the climate alarm scientists are not climate scientists at all. What they are actually doing is just really really bad economics.

    Our friend David Archibald is no dogmatist. A few days with the late Dr. Simon’s great book will quickly convince him what is actually going on. Neo-Malthusianism is one of those things, like climate alarmism, where those who haven’t looked into the issue for themselves have only ever heard one side of it: the wrong side.

    Everyone who figures out how the world actually works has to go through a variety of such awakenings because the idiots control almost all of our information industries. That’s just the way it is. The duped need to be corrected (thank you Willis), but I never think ill of anyone for being a dupee. As long as they don’t become a duper.

  35. It is worth pointing out that averaged over age the daily caloric requirement is only around 2000 calories per day and protein needs are 0.8 g/kg lean weight or 40 – 50 g/day for females and 50 – 60 g/day for males. Over consumption of protein and calories, as simple carbohydrates from cereals and sugar, is responsible for the rapid increase in metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes II, cancers, heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc) since the US Government issued their false Nutritional Guidelines in the 1970’s to promote sales of grains and oilseeds produced by US farmers and which has now been copied around the Globe with disastrous results. On this basis it will be these disorders that will reduce World population with only the poor and 30% of other populations that are not overweight or obese surviving.

    • And yet in spite of all of these supposedly unsurvivable maladies, we are living longer and longer.
      Many of these illnesses are increasing in frequency because we are living longer.
      We cannot cause immortality by curing every illness one by one.
      And a lot of these trends are likely because of entire industries devoted to tracking such things, as well as being attributable to greater care and thus becoming more likely to being diagnosed, instead of just dropping dead one day without ever seeing a doctor, like people used to do.

      • Menicholas,
        A slight quibble. The maximum longevity seems to stubbornly persist at about 100 years. Those of us who reach old age aren’t living much longer than our ancestors who reached our age. The difference, which is often misunderstood, is that because we have done a good job of reducing childhood deaths, a larger percentage of people are reaching old age. Thus, while the average life expectancy at birth has increased significantly, we aren’t really living longer. The idea that people of yore died soon after reaching the age of 25 is wrong.

      • I agree, Clyde, and I see that what I wrote is actually somewhat self-contradictory.
        On average, lifespans are still increasing, and better yet, more people are staying fit and active and sharp for more of the limited years we have been gifted.
        Very true that childhood mortality was a big part of especially the early gains in life expectancy, as was proper sanitation, more access to proper nutrition and an increased understanding of what proper nutrition even is (although we seem to still struggle with that aspect), more awareness of the need for physical fitness, and more and better understanding of physiology as well as more and better medicines and treatments for not only preventing illness but curing those who do become ill.
        I happen to live in a place where large numbers of people move when they get older and when they choose to retire, Florida USA. I see and meet people who are well up in years and are amazingly fit and active and sharp.
        Of course there are still unfortunate cases of people dying way too young from what were entirely avoidable causes, such as heart attacks and strokes due to untreated hypertension, lack of physical activity and all the harms that ensue from that, and the tragedies of accidents, violence, drug abuse, etc.
        But progress in all of these areas seems to be ongoing: We are getting new drugs for specific illnesses, new treatments for those that do occur, better and more effective diagnostic techniques and devices, safer cars, increased attention to personal protective equipment, more people willing to engage in physical fitness activities for their own sake, and even such things as making drug overdose treatments readily available.
        But as you correctly point out, there is a point at which our bodies seem to just wear out, or where cumulative deterioration makes survival increasingly unlikely.
        Everyone is not going to live to see 100, at least not anytime soon. But more and more are doing just that…and those that are 100 today were born before most of the advances in medicines and nutrition and other factors were present. So, what will become of those of us who were born in the post WWII years, and have never been starved for a day, never had any serious childhood diseases…and which may have shortened end of life years?
        We know that an occasional person has lived decades beyond the century mark, and those that have were born in the 1800’s.
        So, will those born today and have the advantages of all of these improvements in understanding and ability for their entire lifespan, will they have a chance to mostly all live to be 100-120 years old and remain fit and active?
        Perhaps…if they do not kill themselves with drugs, or neglect their own care, or suffer an unfortunate accident.

    • Peter – your assertion that “only the poor” will survive these maladies is fallacious.

      The high-calorie, low-nutrient foods tend to be cheaper and more easily distributed, so “the poor” have proportionally greater access to the very foods you are asserting will reduce the world population.

      Note also that the foods you’re blaming have relatively little protein, so I’m not sure where that overconsumption is coming from in your hypothesis.

      • kb
        I was referring to the graph showing the daily level of protein intake per head which is way too high unless your are an elite athlete of lumberjack. Excess protein stimulates the mTOR path that accelerates the growth of tumour cells, as does the insulin resistance caused by excess intake of simple carbohydrates. On the comment made by Meniicholas that we are living longer, that has yet to be proven as the current statistics are based on persons born 80+ years ago before the new damaging nutritional standards came into being but the indications are that we now instead of a binomial distribution for longevity it is splitting into one with two peaks with the major part of the population having lower longevity and the minor part living longer such that the average of the two is relatively static. .
        What is established is that a poor lifestyle of of inflammatory diet, lack of physical activity and adverse environmental factors cut around seven years off lifespan if modestly obese and up to 14 years if very obese. It is also a fact that Dementia and Alzheimer’s are on the increase – this is a disorder of aging cells that cannot be explained by person living longer because the average longevity has not changed much – it is a response to inflammation caused by insulin resistance and especially the adverse high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in this kind of diet that promote free radicals (ROS) and limit the cell repair mechanisms leading to premature loss in telomere length. The fact that Menicholas sees plenty of fit people in Florida is a matter of looking for light under the lamppost as those he refers to are most probably fitter because they are generally part of the 30% who are not overweight or obese, though about 20% of obese persons are not subject to a high risk of metabolic disorder because they accumulate weight around the butt not in adipose fat cells around the gut that are a cause of these problems from the inflammation they cause.
        When I referred to the poor I meant those in developing countries not those in the US and elsewhere who live on hamburgers and other cheap fast foods – as David Archibald pointed out this is a matter of income and those in these developing countries have a lower disposable income but doubtless the fast food industry will find ways to fatten them up too. In fact it is already happening as WHO statistics show that 75% of global health problems now refer to these metabolic disorders, especially obesity and the consequent diabetes type 2. .

      • I do not know what statistics one might be looking at to come to the conclusion that average lifespans are static.
        As for there being disparity between cohorts and over different periods, this has always been the case, although before the germ theory of diseases became accepted child mortality was little different for the rich than for the poor.
        The wealthy have always lived longer, but the way that these differences have changed and continue to change over time are very complex.
        You are speaking of specific diseases and conditions while I was speaking in more general terms.
        I am very interested in the contention that the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia are now well understood. That is news to me.
        My understanding of what is known about what constitutes a healthy diet is a matter of opinion, and what various schools of thought BELIEVE to be the case remains very much in dispute, although even that there is a dispute would seem to be disputed by any who claim to KNOW so very much that is not exactly settled, at least not as far as I can tell.
        Getting back to life expectancy, it is indeed a moving target, with different numbers of years expected depending on how old one is, where one lives, how much one earns, the degree by which ones income decile has changed over ones life, etc.
        The stats being compiled by the social security administration seem to tell a different story that what many here have described as being the case.
        What is clear is that the averages are still rising overall, although by different amounts as I mentioned above.

        As a small example of how I believe the situation to be more complex at the level of fine detail than your assertions seem to indicate you believe to be the case, consider the example of two persons who achieved the age of 85, but one did so in 1985 and one did so more recently. Far more people achieve that age at present than was the case in 1985, and the group that got to be 85 back then lived through many more years of the time before proper nutrition and medical care were rapidly improving. As a result, those who made it to 85 back then were likely of a more robust constitution, whereas many who achieve that age today include a higher level of more frail individuals who survived due to more likelihood of having had excellent nutrition and medical care for most of their lives.
        One can spend a lot of time on such analysis, as I have.
        Lots of info here:

        https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v67n3/v67n3p1.html

        In the US, overall life expectancy increased by over 5 year from 1980 to 2014, and during the period of 1997 to 2007, 1,4 years was gained.

        https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Life_Expectancy_at_Birth_by_Region_1950-2050.png

        Personally, I see the situation as less grim than you seem to.
        I have a few things to say about your contention I have looked for light under lamp posts, but I am just going to let that pass by saying I do not think so.
        Your chance, and mine, and any random person’s chance of living to a ripe old age, and doing so while remaining sharp and active, is far higher than it was for our parents, no matter our respective ages.

      • BTW, I also find that recent studies show that rates of dementia are falling rather sharply in recent years, in contrast to your assertion that these are known for a “fact” to be increasing.
        Here is a recent report.
        I was reading on this extensively over the past several years, as my once quite youthful and healthy (at age 72) mom contracted that awful illness, and in fact died of it just this last Spring, although after surviving with the condition for an achingly long period of time.

        https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/health/dementia-rates-united-states.html

  36. I used to think Malthus was a wally but I’ve now modified my opinion. His analysis was perfectly valid from an historical point of view. Unfortunately he published his thoughts just as the “great divergence” took place and general productivity grew & grew, independent of agricultural output. Adam Smith published his seminal work & the US declared independence. The world has got a little warmer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has recovered from disastrously low levels and populations have become self limiting as they get richer. Except in those places where “we” forbid them from exporting their goods to us, using DDT, Fluorine for cooling & Carbon based fuels & generally hobble their efforts to improve their lot. No wonder they have decided to invade us.

    • His analysis was not even valid from an historical point of view. It never was necessary to take preventive step to control population before it reach the death threshold. Food don’t disappear some day, it first gets scarcer and more expensive (and more unusual: that’s where you start eating snails, leaves, roots or whatever), so some people just die (children and sick, old people that have rather die, or just ordinary people robed or food or killed by some desperado…) and others go away where they hope for food, and this is enough to control population, to the real necessary level.
      More often than not, you die from something else than hunger, but you die anyway.

  37. Storage, transport and trade are the keys. There will always be excess in one year somewhere. Eventually, the population could get to big but I suspect an order of magnitude more before we need to panic.

  38. I believe Archibalds post was more about country by country wheat deficits, a very valid point in terms of economic and political stability,and migration. Noting that Russia could double their food production is more an argument against a Mathusian catastrophic development than in favour of it on a worldwide scale. Bill Gates Foundation’s effort to limit population growth in developing countriesacknowledges that economic and political stability benefits from lower rates and that dependency on aid is reduced. For many countries without imports of huge quantities of food, starvation would be a fact today.

    • not valid at all. All cities in the world are in huge food-deficit, depending of food coming from somewhere else. Where the “somewhere else” is in the same country or not is irrelevant, except maybe in wartime under effective blockade (although people starved in Lenigrad despite USSR still having far enough food during WWII)

  39. One must remember that Archibald has predicted that the Earth will seriously cool due to low solar activity, and this will have a big impact on crop production, and especially in the breadbaskets of the far north such as Canada. That this would be abrupt, powerful, and long lasting. It is global cooling that will cause the crisis, and absent it, well, it will just be another failed prediction. We will certainly see. Two failed crop years should just about do it.

    • Agriculturalists adjust planting decisions seasonally. In North America the area of concentration of a particular crop can shift. Some operators may suffer unrecoverabley. The whole system is quite robust. A “black swan event” – say a big asteroid in Iowa {Manson Crater} – would produce a different outcome.

      • A widespread and unprecedented cold snap that covers a wide area in the middle of the growing season could indeed be catastrophic though. It is conceivable that some such event could travel around the globe and affect the major growing regions of the northern hemisphere.
        Such an event is unlikely, obviously, but not impossible.
        No one really knows how unlikely, it seems to me, but it has not happened in our lifetimes, or in recent memory. Some even dispute if the so-called Year Without A Summer really was one.
        But for sure, if some event killed a large proportion of the major crops and left no time to replant and no salvageable harvest in the affected areas, I think there is no telling how bad it could be in terms of total deaths in the ensuing months and years.
        I think the hundreds of millions of cats and dogs would be in serious peril, as would anything even remotely edible.
        And those running out of food would not just die quietly, I think we can figure on that being true.
        It would be bad, but for who and how many…?
        Some would be in far better position that others by dint of their location and abilities, their skills, knowledge, tools and resources, and stocks of stored food. Other by dint of brutality.
        And some would be badly positioned, by living in a large city with many others who have no way to produce or gather anything (Here kitty kitty kitty…).
        Let’s hope we do not find out.
        And let’s quite wasting money on solving problems that no one has ever properly explained are even a potential problem.
        2 degrees (or even 4 or 6) warming a disaster, on our ice age having, partially frozen solid planet?
        How so?
        So far all we have heard are fake reasons to worry about this.

  40. So, we have a beautiful theory. (Sounds of Richard Feynman)
    It cannot be absolutely proven but even worse it takes ONLY ONE reasonably rigorous experiment to blast it out-of-the-water.

    Theory= (Saturated) fat is bad
    Experiment= Observe some people eating 25% of Cals from protein and 75% Cals from (saturated) fat
    E.g The Innuit people. Possibly also the Nenet, Bushmen and various South Sea Islanders eating fish and coconut oil
    Result= They are healthy and ‘most everyone else is getting the ‘Diseases Of The Modern World’

    We have an assertion via the 2nd graph that everything is rosy and on-the-up.
    But hang on,that graph says that (via eyeball and surprisingly that both the Rest of World and Europe are getting 11% of their Calories from protein.

    That’s less than half of what the ‘healthy’ people are eating. Even worse, much of that ‘protein’ is coming from vegetable protein. Since when was the blueprint for a plant any use as a blueprint for an animal. Certainly some animals eat plants but they eat vast amounts of stuff and reject almost equally vast amounts.
    ‘Eat-like-a-horse’ anyone?
    We cannot eat like horses, or cows, or sheep/goats. We don’t have the stomachs or stomach chemistry.
    Plant protein is making us ill. Coeliac Disease anyone, any number of autoimmune disorders, Anaphylactic Shocks and finally Lewy Body Syndrome (dementia to you and me).
    All= protein disorders.

    And how might only 11% of our Cals from protein manifest itself?
    Irritability (trollery & Ad Hominism) , muddled thinking (tell me about Climate Change and Radiation), poor memory and certainly not least, bloated stomachs.

    Sounds like almost the Entire World has something akin to what Mr Archibald mentioned – Kwashiorkor

    You personally don’t even need to run the Low-Carb-High-Fat and No Booze diet.
    Mr Trump has been running it for most of his life – you just need to see photos of him versus those of Obama.

    Trump= alive, animated & self confident even in still photos
    Obama pictures – frozen, dull, dead on his feet and even before that epic gaffe with the frozen teleprompt.
    Does Trump even need/use a teleprompt?

    Even worse, what Cals we do get are coming from a well recognised chemical depressant (glucose=sugar= all carbohydrate food) and even worse that that, the stuff sets off Dopamine in our brains and actually rewards us for ‘being ever so clever’ and actually eating it.
    As it trashes out Insulin systems, destroys memory, makes us sleepy & lazy, dehydrates us and bloats our livers with fat as the hapless organ tries to get rid of the stuff

    We are all victims of Kwashior and sleep walking into disaster

    In case anyone missed my previous ravings, since my first ever post on here, The Disaster is going to be a ‘Lack of Dirt’

    And how many people reading this are thinking..
    “Oh shut up man, go have a beer and chill out”

    If they are, that is EXACTLY my point.

  41. 1- That Malthus and Ehrlich were wrong doesn’t tell us anything about the future.

    2- That a fear is well founded doesn’t mean that catastrophe will follow. The fear of a nuclear war was (is) well founded yet the nuclear war hasn’t happened (yet).

    3- David Archibald’s post is about specific countries situation. David fear would be less well founded if no problem has ever come to those countries due to food crises. However they have had problems arising from food crises. In countries were food and fuel consume most of average people income, a spike in food prices or fuel prices, or commonly both as they are related, quickly turns into a food riot. If the political situation is volatile, a food riot can turn into a revolution (French and Russian revolutions). If powerful countries want to seize the opportunity a civil war and regime change follows.

    https://i.imgur.com/hsvM6dQ.png
    Relation between food price and oil price.

    The Arab spring was in origin a food riot due to a spike in food prices amid high oil prices in 2011. Stable countries (Morocco, Tunis) were less affected or quickly solved it. Less stable countries with lots of money (Saudi Arabia) bought their way out of it. Less stable countries without money (Egypt) suffered a great deal of instability. Countries with a minority rule against the wishes of a majority of the population, that also have geo-strategic importance (Libya and Syria), quickly saw foreign intervention and a civil war. Yemen is also in this category due to the interest of Saudi Arabia.

    https://i.imgur.com/FTldTVS.png
    Food price and food riots.

    So it doesn’t matter that food production can be increased and will be increased. The situation that David describes of a large number of countries with an explosive demographic growth, a deficient food production, and little means of paying for food imports, is real and dead serious. The next time oil prices spike, or a couple of years of bad crops, the situation will explode again and it will spill over to many other countries.

    Let’s remember that the EU is in a serious crisis fueled by immigration that is coming from Syria, Libya, and other African and Asian countries.

    Predicting that the situation is bound to become worse due to worsening trends is an easy prediction. Malthus and Ehrlich being wrong has nothing to do with it.

    • There seems to be a correlation here with world temperatures. Pick your dates and you can draw some pretty poor conclusions. Look at the dates for the charts above.

      Anyone who looks seriously at grain prices knows how cheap they currently are. 2008-2012 represents the very top of, at least with corn, a roughly thirty year cycle. There were major tops in 1917-20, 1946-48, 1973-74, and now again in 2008-12. If we look at Javier’s choice of dates, it is clear what he is doing. Again, with corn, now that we have rolled over the cycle high once again, if history is any guide, it should be twelve years from where we rolled over to the point, not where prices have recovered, but to where prices finally find their cash low. To get to the point where prices historically are once again going higher, we need to get to the year 2038, give or take.

      Now, this does not even take into account plotting grain prices with anything resembling a constant dollar. Grain, when plotted against an adjusted dollar is incredibly cheap. Cash corn is currently about $3.00/bushel. To match the 1816 high (the “year without a summer”), cash corn today would have to be over $28/bushel.

      And, this is true even though we are burning about 40% of production in our automobiles.

      • Seems to me:
        We had a really bad drought at that time, which cut into food production, at the same time ethanol mandates were drawing from what was produced and diverting food to fuel.
        One of those factors was avoidable, and one was largely mitigated by irrigation. In past centuries the sort of drought which occurred in the US may have resulted in a famine, although without grain being exported it is likely there would have been plenty for our own needs here in the US.
        In subsequent years, farmers expanded production, livestock and poultry herds were reduced, people ate less meat and eggs when the prices spiked, huge numbers of new wells were drilled, and quickly (I know this is true because well pumps and motors became sold out…something that pretty much never happens) … and the rains returned and bumper harvests resumed. Since demand had been reduced, there was oversupply and prices fell rapidly.
        I do not see how oil price had much to do with it.
        Or why such a confluence is limited to one event in several decades. Sure, such a confluence of factors is rare to begin with, and hence unlikely, but it does not seem to be time constrained to occur on some regular schedule.
        What am I missing here?

    • Javier,
      Something else to consider is that some claim that human ingenuity has, in the past, prevented the predictions of Malthus (and subsequent Neo-Malthusians) from taking place, and ingenuity will likewise prevent future catastrophes. It is evident that the claim for the past is true. However, it seems to me that the claim for the future requires a ‘Leap of Faith.’ That is because the obvious and easy solutions were applied already. Might we be at a point of diminishing returns? For example, we eliminated the Passenger Pigeon, American Bison, and Plains Indian tribes, thus allowing large-scale agriculture to be practiced in the heartland of the USA. The agriculture is supplemented to a large extent by withdrawing water from the Ogallala Aquifer [ https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-ogallala-aquifer/ ]. There are serious concerns about the future of water supplies for the Great Plains agriculture.

      At the same time, the prodigious use of fertilizers has resulted in nitrates running off and contaminating streams and lakes (leading to algae blooms), and even contaminating wells used for drinking water, leading to ‘Blue Baby’ syndrome. We are expanding corn production into marginal lands on the west by terracing the hilly country. In California, all the prime Central Valley agricultural land is pretty well being used optimally for walnuts, almonds, strawberries, and the myriad vegetables that the rest of the country depends on. The marginal lands are being pressed into service for vineyards. Fine agricultural land has been paved over in in what has come to be called Silicon Valley, to accommodate the many Information Age workers. The point being, that over the past 50 years our solution to increasing food production has been to plant almost all of the arable land (including places like in California where the aridity causes selenium to rise to the surface with evaporation). We have used up all of the prime locations for reservoirs for supplying water for agriculture. The legal battles over Colorado River water are legendary.

      So, the question becomes, is it reasonable to expect that we can continue to expand food production by doing more of the same? While we may currently have a glut of grain, the point that Malthus made was that human population growth has the capacity to outpace food production from finite acreage. Might it be prudent to examine this issue carefully, and not just assume that humans can solve all problems expeditiously? After all, where is the cure for cancer, or for that matter, the common cold?

      • I agree, Clyde. While we don’t know how future discoveries will change food production it is clear that the progress made cannot be simply extrapolated to the future. It is as wrong to assume that there are no limits as it is to assume that we are about to reach the limits.

        We will reach a day when less oil will be produced from then on, not more, and we might have a suitable substitute by then or not. All we know is we don’t have it now.

        But with food production, as Andy says in his article, we have the advantage that we have the right population trend. We are growing more slowly and if we manage to continue in that direction we will need to increase less our food production. Obviously that doesn’t mean that we cannot run into very serious problems. A severe world economic depression could plunge the world into widespread hunger, simply because few people would have the means to pay for food.

        After a couple of generations of things improving most people assume things are going to continue that way. That’s a failure of our way of thinking. History teaches us that it is at the best of times when things start to go worse, and at the worst of times when they start to go better. To arrive to the modern world we had to go through the dark ages. Progress is not linear and knowledge can be lost. It has happened before.

      • Just up the coast, from CA. tremendous quantities of water flow unused to the sea every day of the year.
        It would be a simple feat of engineering to build a huge pipeline to bring that water south to where it is needed.
        The resource is there, we have the technical ability and the money to do it if the will existed and opposition was ignored.
        That such will never happen is a political matter, and has more to do with provincial concerns than anything else.
        In 2017, it is impossible that the Hoover or Glen canyon dams could be built.
        My understanding is that several sites where huge dams could be constructed exist in California, but for political reasons it is simply not happening and likely will not happen, not unless priorities and sensibilities are greatly altered.
        Even in the recent drought in CA, it came on the heels of a very wet year, but much of the surplus was squandered for a few bucketful’s of some tiny fish (that many dispute if they are even native or endangered), and I seem to recall dams have even been deconstructed in that water starved place with way to many people.
        Every year in the US are huge floods, tremendous ones, and no provisions exist, no infrastructure even planned, for storing and transporting such inevitable excessive amounts for use in the inevitably dry times and places.
        The problems are not lack of water or land, or even energy, but of lack of big thinking, or willingness to spend for future needs, or to agree to solve big problems with big solutions.
        We could have a network of huge pipes around the US on the scale of the interstate highway system.
        But no…oho!
        We will just let all the floods pour into the sea, and wring our hands uselessly when droughts cause crops to wither.

      • The Ogallala could be easily recharged with a large scale effort to build rapid infiltration basins that made use of water that gets wasted during flood years. We could tap the Great Lakes and irrigate the whole country if we really wanted to. But we would not even need to do that, if floodwaters were diverted and stored.
        Lack of big thinking is our main scarcity.

      • Vast acreages in the US have been taken out of production. There is no shortage of arable land. The huge share of the corn crop now burned as ethanol could be used as food or feed. If Canada, Russia, Manchuria and the Ukraine were devastated by a cold snap, the next year cotton growers in the US SE would plant corn. Current surpluses would carry the world through the first bad year.

      • In southeastern PA is another place that prime farmland has been taken out of production, although in that case it has been built up with entire towns and office parks as well as expansion of towns that already existed.

      • Me,

        I should have clarified. I meant by government programs. The land isn’t built up. Just in pasture grass, able to be turned back into cropland.

  42. http://www.ifif.org/pages/t/The+global+feed+industry

    “World compound feed production is fast approaching an estimated 1 billion tonnes annually”
    That’s what we give to chicken, pigs and cows, on top of what they graze themselves, or are directly given by farmers who grow their own feed for their animals.
    And we do this, just because humans can afford, and can eat meat almost every day (instead of like a day in a week).

    http://www.fao.org/3/a-I5003E.pdf
    To put things in perspective, ~2.5 billion tonnes of cereals (rice included) were consumed in 2015, of which
    ~1.1 billion to food
    ~0.9 billion to animal feed (the fastest growing segment)
    ~0.5 billion to “other use” (ethanol, starch, brewing, etc.)
    Obviously the world can easily cope even if some dramatic event cut the cereal production to less than half of what it is, just by stopping industry use and cutting animal feeding (no big deal to eat meat not every day).
    OR we could, right now, feed twice as many people, even before any growth of the food production.
    Now, we cannot rule out a really dramatic event, but short of an asteroid hitting really hard, food supply is not endangered.

    • paqyfelyc,

      There is also the threat of those advocating the banning of fossil fuel use. Agriculture is highly dependent on diesel-fueled farm machinery, diesel-fueled trucks to haul the raw and processed products, and local distribution systems dependent on gasoline-powered vehicles.

      Yes, we might be able to “cope,” as those of us old enough to remember WWII food coupons did, but I would prefer an optimal system where we plan for such contingencies, to avoid them.

      • watermelons lunatics will indeed kill us more likely than an asteroid by starving our energy supply.
        However, USSR and other government plans shows us that “we plan” for “optimal system” is a sure recipe for failure. Everybody planning for his own optimality is the way to go, as this is the way it ends anyway, screwing the global optimal plan.

  43. I met a PhD in geography back in the 70s who noted that the two factors that explained over 90% of the famine in the world were: war and government corruption (i.e. stealing, whether by outright graft or communist collectivizing). I am willing to bet the same holds true today.

    • Definitely. The stereotypic famine was Ethiopia, which was a direct result of Mengistu Haile Mariam’s “land reform” program.

    • The basic principle is that there may be a drought in one place, but that is almost always accompanied by an excess of water somewhere not far away.
      If everyone was perfectly efficient and little food was wasted, more could be stored for lean years.
      But such is not human nature.
      And would it even work, if not sustained forever, to simply send food to where people have seemingly no will to produce what is needed?
      Likely not.
      Why is it that some entire countries and even an entire continent never muster the will to put down the guns and stop killing each other and start building some infrastructure?
      And why are there other places where people do so in large numbers and unbidden?
      Places where everything has at one time or another been wrecked, burned down, blown up, parched dry, flooded out…and as soon as possible the people there build it back up, dry it out, wet it down, and replant, and everything is back to good times very rapidly?

    • Just look what Israel manages to do on a sliver of once parched land with few resources, while all around are places where everyone is devoted to destruction of even that which they have?

  44. There is a reason why 80% of the Canadian population lives within 300 miles of the US border. That’s where the food is, as the comedian said about the starvation in the Sahara, no food there, move where the food is. Seriously though, a couple of degrees average global temperature decrease and Canada would be out of the food growing business and Russia would have a bigger problem as well. Cold is what we should be worried about, if we worry about anything, not warm. And yes, I am aware of the progress in agricultural sciences which has allowed crops to be more cold resistant. And I don’t think we’re in imminent danger, but too many of our scientists are looking at the wrong issue in terms of food security. I like cabbage and spinach but appreciate some bread and meat as well.

    • JimG1 December 11, 2017 at 6:59 am

      There is a reason why 80% of the Canadian population lives within 300 miles of the US border. That’s where the food is, as the comedian said about the starvation in the Sahara, no food there, move where the food is. Seriously though, a couple of degrees average global temperature decrease and Canada would be out of the food growing business and Russia would have a bigger problem as well.

      Man, I get tired of doing other people’s homework. This is an example.

      I went to the FAO site and got the yield data for Canadian grain production since 1961. I went to Berkeley Earth and got Canadian temperatures for the same period. I detrended both to eliminate the “green revolution” and the like causing overall yield increases during a time of general warming, which would lead to false results.

      The result shows what happens to Canadian cereal yields as a result of year-to-year temperature changes.

      Ooops … turns out the Canadian farmers are not so stupid as to plant and harvest at the same time each year, or to not plant different varieties in colder years … and JimG1 is so stupid as to shoot off his mouth without doing his homework.

      Seriously, folks, DO YOUR DAMN HOMEWORK BEFORE MAKING YOUR CLAIMS!!! And if you don’t know enough to run the actual numbers, at least PROVIDE A CITATION FOR WHAT YOU SAY!!!

      Sorry for the screaming, and I’m not picking on JimG1, he’s one among many, but like I said … I get tired of picking spitballs off the wall.

      w.

  45. The latest FAO forecast for world cereal production for 2017/18 is 2.726 billion metric tonnes. This compares to 2007/08 production of about 2.050 billion metric tonnes. Inventories are estimated at 726 million metric tonnes, the highest stock to use ratio since 2001.Inventories have increased from about 350 million metric tonnes in 2007/08. see: http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/csdb/en/

  46. At the weekend I watched a movie called “What Happened to Monday” (aka 7 Sisters) where Noomi Rapace played a set of septuplets hidden by their grandfather in a dystopian future where only one child was allowed per family. It was actually a good movie – once you get past the Malthusian doom-mongering and obligatory scare story about genetically modified food. Noomi Rapace does a great job and the technology is such that you forget very quickly that this is one actress being replicated across the set. Some nice action scenes, obligatory bit of nudity (it was a European movie, but it was relevant to the plot), the odd bit of violence, but mostly cut away very quickly (as I said, a European movie).

    In the end, the basic inhumanity of controlling people’s lives by forcibly removing children simply cannot be sustained and the regime collapses. All nice good triumphing over evil stuff.

    Even at the end, however, the baddy (Glenn Close) gets to give her speech that she only did it for the future and repealing the “sibling” law will only mean the end of the world as we know it. This whole concept (that we have left our “golden age’ behind and now everything is getting worse) has become so ingrained that it pervades all social thinking. I linked here a couple of days ago (on Anthony’s original story) to Hans Rosling’s legacy program: http://www.gapminder.org/

    The most relevant part to me is his illustration of how poorly most people see the world – something referred to as “The Ignorance Project”:

    http://www.gapminder.org/ignorance/

    Please watch the video and remember how badly journalists score the next time you read a scare story in any media outlet. Journalists are probably the worst group for seeing the bad in everything and I appreciate that this is all they see – it isn’t just the case that “if it bleeds – it leads” but that journalists only ever get sent to cover bad news in the first place so of course this is what they think of the world. I feel sorry for them that this is their experience, but while I try hard to understand where they are coming from I really see don’t too many journalists clearly don’t try to see beyond their own experience.

  47. Willis, as usual I enjoy your pieces.
    It would not be good for the environment to have humans covering every square inch of the planet but the data indicates birth rates drop when the economy is good enough. Caucasians are actually on the decline in Europe and America. The problem is in countries like Africa where the population is exploding and they don’t have the ability to increase food production much.

    I covered the general problems linked below, although I doubt you have the time to reach this far down in the comments. If you do I would appreciate your comments.
    “Startling look into the future; we need change”
    http://www.delcotimes.com/opinion/20171026/guest-column-a-startling-look-into-the-future-we-need-change

    • Well, I’m not Willis, but I do find myself questioning your direction.

      First, the UBI. You do understand that such a scheme would create an underclass of permanent serfs whose life would be held to the whim of whichever party found itself in power? There would be no incentives for a good education, no incentives for being productive and no incentives for good workmanship. The result would be no social mobility, crumbling infrastructure and elimination of the middle class.

      Second, machine proliferation. I would be the first to look into the future and see a society where the majority of functions can and would be performed by intelligent machines. This does not limit human ingenuity nor does it limit human ability. There will never be a 100% implementation across all employment platforms. Actually, I doubt it will be even 25%, at least in the short to medium term. Now this may mean that a large number of people may still find themselves without a traditional job from the industrial age but there are many ways to make money.

      Third, the primary assertion; change. It all depends upon the type of change you want.

      • Andrew,
        Hank you for your comments. Comments hep me learn.

        Re UBI.
        1. The few trials that have been held have been successful.
        2. It will not cure the income inequality. Something I expect to get worse until there are riots. As shown by history. But it would give a certain percentage the chance to start their own business.
        3. The amount paid would be decided by both those working and those who are not.
        There is a danger of paying more than the country can afford as with Socialism.4. Why do you say there would be no incentive for education? Any one that wants more than the basic UBI would need education to get a job or start their own.
        4. I’m no suggesting UBI is the perfect answer. What I said was the looming growth in unemployment needs to be discussed. The existing Capitalist system will not work. UBI should be tried out in, say, a Sate to see what the snags are. Do you have a better solution?

        Re robotics & AI.
        I don’t agree it will be only 25% lose there jobs although that would be bad enough. There is virtually nothing that couldn’t be done by AI except human contact. Give me one example and I will show you how it could be done.
        The current problem is that good, well paying jobs are disappearing and being replaced by low paying service jobs. The official employment data doesn’t differentiate between the two. The economy is not as good as the government makes out and we are due for a recession. A country can’t survive on just service jobs .

        “It all depends upon the type of change you want.”
        I’m saying the government is not looking ahead and see trouble as a result.

    • Randy Bork,
      You said, “It may be relevant to note that the world population growth rate maxed out 50 years ago …” That is just a few years after the introduction of The Pill. There has to me a will and a MEANS for a family to keep reproduction at a level that is smaller than what would happen in the absence of options.

  48. Willis
    Careful.
    We have an example in history proving a point. In the early 1930’s food inflation in Germany rose to such heights that it resulted in the call for a strong man (i.e. Hitler, the fore runner of the Anti Christ). You needed a wheel barrow full of money just to buy a bread….Hitler brought the idea [complete with a new ‘science’ ] that there must be a scape goat for all the bad in the world {i.e. the Jews}. It was not only the German debt that caused this inflation. There was a general scarcity of food at that time, even in America.
    It coincides with my calculation of the Gleissberg SC which I calculate at 87 years.
    We had the dust bowl drought 1932-1939
    We also had a drought starting 87 years earlier, namely 1845, which is believed to have wiped out a large portion of the bison population.
    That said, it seems logical for me to conclude that the next decade might bring drought to the great plains of America.
    That area is apparently the current bread basket of the whole world….

  49. “If you are a fan of original documents as I am”
    Well, this one at least is a good read! As entertainment and as a historical document.
    As for the science, it’s more like philosophy, and it’s rather dated.

    Anyone today should see that he proposes what we would now call a model. A very simple model.
    Do you believe the model or do you believe the facts? We have a lot of facts since Malthus.
    Like any model, it has assumptions that are unstated and missing factors and Unknowns.

    His model was just one part of an argument about the “perfectibility of man”.

    It has been said that the great question is now at issue, whether man shall henceforth start forwards with accelerated velocity towards illimitable, and hitherto unconceived improvement, or be condemned to a perpetual oscillation between happiness and misery, and after every effort remain still at an immeasurable distance from the wished-for goal.

    If this be the case, there is at once an end of all human science. The whole train of reasonings from effects to causes will be destroyed. We may shut our eyes to the book of nature, as it will no longer be of any use to read it. The wildest and most improbable conjectures may be advanced with as much certainty as the most just and sublime theories, founded on careful and reiterated experiments. We may return again to the old mode of philosophising and make facts bend to systems, instead of establishing systems upon facts. The grand and consistent theory of Newton will be placed upon the same footing as the wild and eccentric hypotheses of Descartes.

    That last quote, taken out of context, just about sums it up.

    http://www.esp.org/books/malthus/population/malthus.pdf

    • Toto,
      It seems to me that Malthus is arguing for a citizenry that acts from a logical and enlightened concern about their welfare, rather than accept whatever befalls them through ignorance and inaction.

  50. Willis,
    Insofar as you are/were in the Solomon Islands, you may be interested in this:

    Geomythology

    Take the example of Teonimenu, which probably disappeared about 400 years ago, between the islands of Makira and Ulawa in the central Solomon Islands.

  51. Interesting, for those of you who were not born before Marx died, classical Marx and the Marxists also thought Malthus was BS given the revolution in the “means of production” and “forces of production”.

  52. Another thing that negates the alarmist theory s the fact that much of the food consumed in the developed world is garbage in terms of nutritional value. If a shortage is ever truly looming, people in the West could easily eliminate large portions of their consumption and add to (or maintain) their nutritious intake, and continue to thrive as a society. Sure, the weakest spirits among us would complain endlessly about losing their junk food and individual restaurant entrees that could feed two or three people. But they’ll survive.

  53. Thanks as always, Willis, for your trenchant facts and analysis. I can’t believe Archibald has never seen/ read Hans Gosling who I think presents a virtually open-and-shut case that global population growth is one of the least concerning problems of mankind, so long as we allow our economic interests to be, for the most part, unimpeded by government regulation.

    The coming biotech revolution will dwarf Borlaug’s wonderful “green revolution.” Sadly, too many folks who have enough education to know better seem not to understand that GMO is likely to be a much greater force for good than disaster…although it will have its undesirable impacts as almost all technologies have had, yet with net benefit to humankind.

    Enjoy your South Sea adventures. I, like you, realize there are many things I may be doing “for the last time.” The good news is: there’s lots more of those to come, and new things as well. Keep your loved ones close and your dreams ever-present.

  54. So willis, what will a world with 100 trillion people living on it look like. If there are no limits to growth?

    • Thanks, Leo. Since the only place such a trillion-person world exists is inside your mind, you’ll have to tell us what it looks like.

      Next, are there “limits to growth”? It is conceivable that humans could eventually populate the nearby stars, or build gigantic habitable structures in space. It just takes enough energy. But that’s not the question at hand.

      The question at hand is, can the earth feed and house 50% more people than it has now, because that’s the best estimate of likely future population growth. And the answer to that one is … sure. We doubled the population in my own lifetime and people are better off now than they’ve ever been, after all, and people said that was totally impossible …

      w.

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