The 'Malthusian Dilemma' Revisited: Excessive Human Numbers in a World of Finite Limits
In this essay I call attention to the growing disconnect between reasonably accurate demographic projects of future global population growth (to more than 9 billion by mid-twenty-first century) versus prudent scientific estimates of the Earth's likely long-term sustainable human carrying capacity (perhaps no more than 2 billion at a modest first-world standard of living). In addition to identifying the recent emergence of several other critical global challenges, I speculate about the nature of the profound evolutionary, ecological, and sociocultural consequences that could well appear during the twenty-first century. In essence, I argue that an important emergent phenomenon has become increasingly likely: namely, the growing potential for a global "synchronous failure," a cascading political, economic, social, environmental, and demographic breakdown (or generalized collapse) stimulated by the mutually reinforcing convergence of multiple "inconvenient truths." This poses a fundamental existential question. Unless significant mitigating steps are soon undertaken, could the future of modern agricultural/industrial/technological civilization, as well as the lives of several billion human beings, be at considerable risk?
Smail, Kenneth, "The 'Malthusian Dilemma' Revisited: Excessive Human Numbers in a World of Finite Limits" (2017). The Social Contract 27(5): 3-13. Faculty Publications. Paper 37.
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