We often talk about economics, culture, politics and (individual) freedom as if they were separate topics. The truth is of course that they all interact, we all interact, and the whole is way larger than the sum of the parts, for each of us individually as well as for the society of people we're all part of.
source: Wikimedia Commons
Coexistence is just a fact; we all live together in families, tribes, nations and on the planet. And we do this very well on the levels of families and tribes, but on larger scales, that of the nation or the planet we still have a lot to learn. In the family or tribe we live close enough to each other that we see with our own eyes, and every waking moment, how much we depend on each other, how little we accomplish on our own as opposed to working together; on small scales the reality of our interdependence is obvious. Since we're the smartest mammal on Earth, we soon learned that "many hands make light work". Tragically though, as soon as our intelligence allowed us to create abundance, causing us to settle down in cities and city-states, enlarging our societies significantly almost overnight, we lost that immediate sense of interdependence. Nowadays almost all I have personally, is made by people I'll never know, scattered all over the globe. We've developed a socioeconomic system that allows me to think that I'm independent from these scattered people; as long as I have the money to pay for the products I need, I can maintain that illusion. But it IS an illusion. Nothing I have is made by me, not even this post, because I contributed exactly nothing to the creation of the tools I use to write it.
Economics, culture, politics, all of it together is what I like to call "the art of living together". We've evolved biologically and culturally to create a web of ethics, morals, rules and laws to facilitate the smooth operation of the large societies of and in between nations. Since we're crammed together in cities, it's easy to believe that we've gone too far with increasing the pool of humans on Earth. Also, we see that a large portion of the world's population doesn't have access to enough food or drinking water, and let's not even start about the environmental destruction we're responsible for. All this makes it easy to think that Thanos was right in Avengers: Infinity War. For those who haven't seen this movie, Thanos was a Galactic super-villain who wanted to save the universe by instantly killing 50% of all living creatures; you can hear him explain this simple plan in the trailer linked in this post. Yes, Thanos also believed that populations would outgrow the available resources, become hungry and miserable, and start wars over the scarce resources available. Thanos was wrong of course. Overpopulation was never the problem.
Unfortunately we had our own Thanos, in real life, in the late 18th century by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus. He gained eternal fame for his 1798 publication, "An Essay on the Principle of Population", in which he warned for the so called Malthusian trap:
The Malthusian trap or population trap is a condition whereby excess population would stop growing due to shortage of food supply leading to starvation. It is named for Thomas Robert Malthus, who suggested that while technological advances could increase a society's supply of resources, such as food, and thereby improve the standard of living, the resource abundance would enable population growth, which would eventually bring the per capita supply of resources back to its original level. Some economists contend that since the industrial revolution, mankind has broken out of the trap. Others argue that the continuation of extreme poverty indicates that the Malthusian trap continues to operate. Others further argue that due to lack of food availability coupled with excessive pollution, developing countries show more evidence of the trap.
Marvel Studios' Avengers: Infinity War - Official Trailer
Malthus, much like Thanos, saw a grim future if population-growth was left unchecked. In his 1798 publication, he proposed as a solution to this problem the murder of the poor:
"To act consistently therefore, we should facilitate, instead of foolishly and vainly endeavouring to impede, the operations of nature in producing this mortality; and if we dread the too frequent visitation of the horrid form of famine, we should sedulously encourage the other forms of destruction, which we compel nature to use. Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits. In our towns we should make the streets narrower, crowd more people into the houses, and court the return of the plague. In the country, we should build our villages near stagnant pools, and particularly encourage settlements in all marshy and unwholesome situations. But above all, we should reprobate specific remedies for ravaging diseases; and those benevolent, but much mistaken men, who have thought they were doing a service to mankind by projecting schemes for the total extirpation of particular disorders. If by these and similar means the annual mortality were increased from 1 in 36 or 40, to 1 in 18 or 20, we might probably every one of us marry at the age of puberty, and yet few be absolutely starved."
source: Victorian Web
Increase the mortality rate from 1 in 36 to 1 in 18...; That sounds exactly like the 50% Thanos had in mind... Malthus was wrong. Thanos was wrong. And their solutions are equally evil. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, many people still believe to this day that they are right. What about the hunger and homelessness you ask? Well, we produce food for 12 billion people (a number we'll most likely never reach, as explained in the video at the end of this post) and there are only 7.5 billion alive today. Most big cities have more vacant buildings than homeless people; in America the average was 6 empty homes for each homeless person if I remember correctly. Scarcity is not a problem at all, it's just that our socioeconomic arrangement, meaning capitalism and libertarianism, does a poor job distributing the resources. To really make this clear in a way that can not be misunderstood, I suggest we all meet up in New Zealand. No, really, ALL 7.5 billion of us should come together there, just to make a point. Let me explain...
Rough estimations say that approximately 3% of the Earths land-mass is covered by urban areas. It's also estimated that 55% of the world's population lives in such densely populated areas, with projections estimating that will increase to 75% in 2050. To make a long story short, if we would build one large city, that city needn't be larger that New Zealand if we go by Manhattan-like density. We'd all have a home on that one island, and have the rest of the planet for recreation, hospitals, golf courses and so on, and to place our fully automated production facilities. There's more than enough room, more than enough resources for ALL of us to be insanely rich. We just need to come together and start organizing our shared future, instead of being ruled by individual greed, stop living apart from each other and re-learn that many hands make light work, and ALL hands make almost no work at all...
The New Zealand example is of course completely hypothetical and certainly not the most strategic place to build that hypothetical world-city; it's just that I heard it described as "Australia, but without the mosquito's"... Sounds like paradise to me... ;-) And just one city, crammed together like on Manhattan is also not the most attractive poster for our future, but I hope it illustrates in a vivid way that we are far from overpopulated and that we have all the tools we need to really create paradise on Earth. We just need to come together...
Overpopulation – The Human Explosion Explained
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