18 April 2010

Neo-Malthusians Haunt the Modern Zeitgeist -- Again

During the 1970s, the Club of Rome report The Limits to Growth projected that, assuming consumption remained flat, all known oil reserves would be entirely consumed in just 31 years. With exponential growth in consumption, it added, all the known oil reserves would be consumed in 20 years. _Reason

Malthus was Wrong?

The spirit of Thomas Malthus roams the modern thought-ways just like back in the 1970s. Although global warming doom may be falling out of favour among more intelligent and scrupulous observers, there are plenty of other Malthusian nightmares hovering above the modern consciousness.

Once more, we are warned of a great worldwide famine approaching. Social collapse from peak oil doom appears inevitable, to large numbers. All of the multiple crises -- food, water, energy, climate, population, pollution etc -- are converging upon Earth's population like a flock of dark dementors, dooming us all to deep deprivation, disease, and impoverished misery -- unto death.

If all of this sounds somewhat familiar to those who lived through the 1970s, it is because the arguments behind this round of neo-Malthusianism are virtually identical to the arguments of the neo-Malthusianism of the 70s. Whereas the 70s Malthusians predicted that doom would fall in the 1980s and 1990s, the 2010s Malthusians are predicting doom sometime by the 2020s, 2030s -- and absolutely no later than 2050 -- or 2100 at the very latest!

You see, there is no penalty for predicting peak oil doom, overpopulation doom, scarcity doom, or doom of any kind. Any given event in the daily news can be turned to fit the theory. As long as the predicted doom is far enough into the future to give one time to adapt the theory in a plausibly retrograde manner, there is no risk.

Take Colin Campbell, one of the mythical giants of peak oil doom. Mr. Campbell is belatedly recognising -- after the 2008 oil bubble burst -- that demand for oil may be a lot more flexible than he once believed.
"I have changed my point of view about future prices," said Campbell, who used to think the peak in conventional oil production, which he believes happened in 2005, would lead to a relentless price surge.

Instead, the record rally led to a peak in demand in the developed world.

"Peak oil drives prices up in the first place. It has its own mechanism. We're sort of at peak demand right now," Campbell told Reuters from his home in the village of Ballydehob, West Cork. "I think presently the price limit is about $100."

For those who have painted alarming pictures of civil unrest as the world economy is forced to move away from conventional fuel and pay high prices for it in the interim, an inbuilt price mechanism to limit demand and move the world to other forms of energy should be a good thing. _Reuters
Not that Cambell is admitting any error, no. He is merely inserting a "fudge factor" just in case his claimed 2005 peak in oil production fails to result in a collapse of world civilisation anytime soon.

For those who are unaware of the saga of Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon, read this to get up to speed. And for those who have not read Julian Simon's free online ebook The Ultimate Resource, you really need to do so ASAP.

The threat of doom hanging over our heads should certainly get our attention. But we need to be careful to distinguish true doom from faux doom. Otherwise we are likely to spend all our time and resources defending against a faux doom that never would have occurred regardless of all our efforts. In the meantime, true doom has been gathering its forces for the final assault upon our unprepared flanks.

Keep your dooms straight, so that you do not waste half your life fighting a doom that could never have been.

Source of animation via Astute Bloggers

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Blogger Septeus7 said...

What about self fulling doom? I see a future where Neo-Malthusians create the future of declining resources simply by creating a culture of "sustainability" i.e. self imposed technological austerity. Think it can't happened? The Romans did it and then collapsed.

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

All too true. We call them the "dieoff left" for a very good reason.

Look at what is happening to the populations of Japan and several nations in Eastern and Western Europe. The great leftist dieoff has already begun.

Aside from unpredictable dooms such as super-volcanoes, sudden ice ages, and asteroid/comet strikes, the real dooms we face are the manufactured dooms of debt and demography -- plus energy starvation.

And technological self-handicapping, as you say.

I hadn't heard that the Romans hobbled themselves technologically.

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

I think its a generational thing. The doomsday stuff was trotted out in the 70's and the boomers believed in it. It went away in the 80's and 90's, partly because most adults remembered the predictions of the 70's and saw that they did not come true. Now we have a whole new generation who do not remember the 70's. So, the same old predictions get recycled again for another gullible generation. I think this fixation will pass in the next few years. It seems to me that this generation's peak oil and peak gas meme peaked around '05 or so.

All of this will be recycled again around 2035 or so.

Sunday, 18 April, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of this will be recycled again around 2035 or so.

Now that's depressing. I really wish this stuff would die once and for all.

Monday, 19 April, 2010  
Blogger read it said...

Next catastrophe will be peak government.

Monday, 19 April, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

It could be exclusively a boomer thing. Once the boomers die off, the limits to growth doomsday shit might permanently die with them.

Of course, societies that limit their growth and/or technological development based on these memes get surpassed by those who do not. Alternately, high birthrate societies (Muslims, Sub-Saharan Africans) can also move in and replace low-birth rate societies.

After all, it is a "red queen" world that we live in.

Monday, 19 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes, silly girl. That is why it is so important to use the new technological tools just now coming online, in order to make government less necessary.

Leftists are ramping up the panic about climate catastrophe, peak oil doom, resource scarcity, and anything else deemed panicking about -- via pet mainstream media outlets.

The left is beginning to resort to violence as it sees that the population is not panicking on cue. The dieoff left provides the agenda and the massive public sector unions provide the muscle to back it up -- and to beat up opponents.

Eventually, they will decide that just beating up their opponents (literally and figuratively) is no longer enough. They will resort to more extreme measures.

Tuesday, 20 April, 2010  
Blogger kurt9 said...

This limits to growth mentality is not limited to the left. Many of the "paleo-conservative" HBD people subscribe to this mentality as well.

Personally, I believe that anyone who subscribes to this worldview should do the first step by either not having kids or by having just one kid. The left is at least consistent in this regard.

Tuesday, 20 April, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

The left is consistently stupid, I'll grant you that. ;-)

I should know, I was once one of them. And then, as if by magic, the pathways to and from my pre-frontal lobes myelinised, began working efficiently, and I woke from the leftist trance.

This transformation did not make the most beautiful woman in the world very happy, alas.

Tuesday, 20 April, 2010  
Blogger Research data said...

"You see, there is no penalty for predicting peak oil doom, overpopulation doom, scarcity doom, or doom of any kind. Any given event in the daily news can be turned to fit the theory. As long as the predicted doom is far enough into the future to give one time to adapt the theory in a plausibly retrograde manner, there is no risk.


Friday, 23 April, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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