Thomas Malthus and Julian Simon
In an era with unprecedented technological advancement, it is hard to fathom that our specie might be at the brink of an immeasurable crisis. With our population accelerating at an exponential rate, many are starting to feel skeptical for the future. Julian Simon and Thomas Malthus had both envisaged the inevitable, though with contradictory perspectives. The first believed in redemption by technology, while the other did not – both were appropriate for their eras. Ultimately, Julian Simon’s theory, though reassuring, is more flawed - if our specie does not find a cure to the population boom expeditiously, the catastrophe will fall upon us!
We are obliged, for the second time since the Green Revolution, to come up with a miraculous technology to provide more food and water, while neglecting a more deadly potential threat – the lack of fossil fuel. Our modern world, including agriculture, is powered by electricity, which, fundamentally, is provided by fossil fuel. With a rising standard of living, people are actually consuming more energy than they used to. For instance, we become increasingly reliant on computers, take electronics as granted, and use cars as our primary transportation device. Even agriculture relies almost solely on machineries – the essential reason why the food productivity increases. When the remote, yet dreadful day comes, and all our fuel supply is dissipated, the debacle created by it would be far more formidable than a famine. As of now, the world is so addicted to fuel that it would be a matter of decades to replace it with an alternative, even after acquiring the technology to do so.
Julian Simon had once said, convincingly,” minds matter economically as much, or more than, hands or mouths. It almost sounds comforting: the more people we have, the more ideas, therefore more technologies and resources. It’s undeniable that more people is equivalent to more minds, though most population increase happens in developing countries, where people are struggling for survival and schools are considered luxurious. Thus, without education, the children, with vacant minds, are only more mouths to feed. More people does not equal to more minds – that is the deceitful part of the equation. The situation in Africa has not yet reached a despairing state, though god made us a selfish species. The world’s most prosperous nations would rather spend a staggering 30% on military expenses, knowing that if a fraction of that money was spent on poverty reduction, every child in Africa would be able to go to school in merely a few years.
With the rising population, the social issues will also become more manifested. For instance, to attract investment, poor countries enter a spiraling race to the bottom to see who can provide lower standards, reduced wages and cheaper resources. With the increased unemployment rate caused by the population increase, people will have no choice but to accept low-paid, dangerous jobs. It is not, unfortunately, something that technology can aid. In fact, it is technological improvement that causes a demand for more manufactured goods. Environmental issues are equally as great. Ozone depletion, global warming – all of them are by-products our modern technologies.
The population crisis cannot be overcome with ease. But perhaps, it would bind the nations together to face the common enemy, and with the effort of the whole humanity, we will endure.