China has abandoned its one-child policy. It was about time as this draconian measure resulted in one of the most devastating shifts in population patterns the world has ever seen. Armies of males that will never find brides as girls were frequently aborted under the iron-first one child rule. Scarce girls that were traded in gold in order to marry one of the plenty men. A population in trauma as this policy destroyed dreams on a colossal scale.
But this is not the most important reason why it is better that this fruitless and draconian measure was abandoned. Even if it was Chinese officials excuse.
Ever since the dawn of the industrial times, we are told that doom beckons. The world will run out of energy, food, air, water and yes, space to house many more people. When at the dawn of the industrial age the world’s population reached a billion, doom mongers spread fears that the planet will not be able to carry all these folks anymore.
Seen from the perspective of a Liverpool factory line worker, this reasoning had merit. All he ever knew was his shantytown and the place he worked at, which was hardly akin to a walk on Waikiki beach.
The industry baron might have been afraid that too many people will threaten his wealth too.
They all responded to a simple and powerful logic. A thing cannot be divided up endlessly. If you take an apple from a barrel of 50 every day, on day 50 the barrel would be empty and there would be no more apples unless of course if someone just replenished the barrel and apples could be enjoyed again. Simple, ain’t it?
And so it goes with every resource on this planet. The earth is a finite ball of matter. There is just so much of anything and if it’s used up totally, there is none left.
Makes sense, no?
For the sake of simplicity, I will assume that there is no influx of matter from space although this is still 60 tonnes per day. Not really a mineable resource though so let us forget about it.
The real problem with the aforementioned reasoning is that even if it makes superficial sense – it’s still dead wrong. How can this be?
We always forget to factor in human ingenuity and that’s really a big one. Early humans lived as hunter-gatherers in the plains of Africa. Each specimen needed copious space as they needed to make sure they found all the animals and had lots of land they could prey on for finding whatever it was they needed for surviving. This lifestyle sure did not support many individuals. Populations such as in the Roman empire would have been unsustainable. It was human ingenuity that figured out how to plant stuff and make it grow, how to raise animals in protected conditions in order to make food supply plannable.
Human history is nothing but a succession of boom and bust cycles in anything – from food to space to energy and anything else.
Too many humans for the grasslands – they huddled up in villages and soon towns. Humans specialised in order to be more efficient than in a world where everyone does everything.
Every innovation was pushed to a certain point – an extreme where conditions deteriorated so much that the new situation of scarcity animated innovative spirits that saw opportunity in the crisis and found solutions that improved the lives of everyone by leaps and bounds.
Our ancestors have gone through endless cycles in order to bring us to the technological state we are in today and also to beyond 8 billion people – a number outrageous to 19th-century folks. Yet, here we are and I would bet that the life of an average Western European is infinitely better than the one of his kin 200 years ago. The law of scarcity – if it played out as portrayed by the doomsters – should have brought us a very different situation.
There is very little that is needed in order to get the innovative, entrepreneurial juices flowing such as decent justice, a decently free market and – some hardship as this provides the fertilizer to those entrepreneurial spirits.
It is said that great people in just about anything are rare. Some say they are one in a million although I like to debate that number. But if there is really only one person that is outstandingly good at something in a million, then bigger populations have an edge as they produce more of those exceptional spirits.
This means that population growth produces problems, but it also produces the brainware to solve those problems and experience shows us, that the solutions those great minds spawn usually improve the state of humanity to a better level than before the problem has arisen in the first place.
Population Control literally kills the best chances of improvement for humankind and it also prevents pressure points from being reached which will, in turn, increase incentives to the great and good to do something about it.
Through population control, we stay in a limbo, in some sort of eternal antechamber to hell. Not bad enough to really, really want to get out. But not good either. Straight hell would be better as then we would get going to change our pitiful state into something better.
Let’s stop killing our best minds with population control and we should also let the cork pop when pop it must, in order to provide the breeding ground for those great minds.
One in a million makes 1000 in a billion. Adding a billion is a lot of new people – a new China or a new India. But its also 1000 new brilliant minds that will bring about freshly minted solutions for the problems those one billion new people cause. And that will far outweigh the consequences of those problems. They will make the world a better place at a quicker rate than the one billion can deteriorate it further.
How far can we go then? How many persons can live on this planet without killing it?
Greens would say “No more”. We are already too many anyhow – they say. If they really took their argument seriously, they would start by subtracting themselves from the biomass of the planet. But they dont because they think they are important.
They are right – they are important. So is anyone else. Consequently, reducing human biomass is not an option but if the planet can cope with the 8 billion right now, then all the numbers we have seen in the past are hogwash. Remember, there was a time when leading minds considered that the planet can never sustain more than 1 billion. If we believed their arguments to be any true, we should all be toast by now.
I believe that we could swell the world population by a factor of 10 and life would be significantly better of than now. Crazy? How about a factor of 100? 900 billion people. Sure the planet could not sustain them. But is this true? Really, really?
Judging by the record so far, I am not convinced.