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Malthus was Real

Must we not go with either a bang or a whimper, but in an orgy of mutual self-gratification, and congratulations?


What good is it to escape the climate gallows if, as we walk out the jail door into the sunlight, we are greeted in the courtyard by Malthus, bearing a sythe?

On the sythe is inscribed:

If the subsistence for man that the earth affords was to be increased every twenty-five years by a quantity equal to what the whole world at present produces, this would allow the power of production in the earth to be absolutely unlimited, and its ratio of increase much greater than we can conceive that any possible exertions of mankind could make it…. yet still the power of population being a power of a superior order, the increase of the human species can only be kept commensurate to the increase of the means of subsistence by the constant operation of the strong law of necessity acting as a check upon the greater power.

— Malthus T.R. 1798. An Essay on the Principle of Population (Oxford World’s Classics reprint, Chapter 2, p. 8).
We have a friend that owns a house on a Mexican island and when, just as Ishmael’s irrepressible urge to take to the sea, we feel the need to write, we imprison our self there and look for inspiration. We become Old Testament Ishmael cast into the wilderness with his mother. We talk to the birds. God hears.
We have been doing that seasonally for more than ten years and it has produced a number of satisfying books, works of art, architectural and ecovillage designs, and even the occasional inspiration. We solved the climate crisis — discovered in a jar of dirt brought back from the Amazon.
Mysteriously, the village we visited those many years ago, whose principal products were fish, leisure and hammocks, has left. In its place stands Jakarta, Mexico City, and San Juan. Blame that fellow over there in the dark shroud, Señor Malthus. He arrived a few years ago and this place has never been the same.
He was preceded by kiteboarders, birders and wild side guides leading groups of bug-eyed backpackers practicing their Spanish while snorkel-toting seniors checked off their bucket lists. There came whale shark divers whose thousand peso 3 hour boat ride was the magic wand waved over leaky fishing skiffs changing them into glistening Whalers with fiberglass sunshades above tall scout nests and 1000+ hp arrays of Yamahas bumping along at 60 knots.
Simultaneously came splendiferous hotels and restaurants, drawing Michelin chefs from Italy, Argentina, Switzerland and France. An Expat Italian community formed, then Spanish, Brits, the Americans (North and South). Everyone had discovered paradise and were telling their friends to come and bring the dog.
Until this guy Malthus showed up.
Reckonings come like rain after the drought. The drought is what is happening now, as the weight of three-story buildings pushes into the mud foundations of this barrier island. Sidewalks trap storm surges that used to wash over and leave as quickly as they came.
The air smells of burning plastic and rubber from the mountains of trash piling up at the dump. The sewage plant, ever-full, overflows into the lagoon when it is not backing up drains in the streets. The diesel electric plant roars so loud as to now require a great enclosing wall, and yet still can’t keep pace with the need for more light.
The water may be backing up the drains or eroding the beach, but there is never enough in the pipes from the mainland pumping stations, so it comes by barge for sale in pricey bottles, the heavy delivery trucks leaving depressions in the sand that become first puddles, then lakes, when it rains. They are deep enough to swallow the unwary.
Where once only bare feet and bicycles wandered, now rush golf cart taxis and mopeds, only to be replaced by ATVs and scooters, then again by noisy motorcycles and open Humvee-like off-road monstrosities, replete with booming PA speakers and dancing light shows. The New York minute has captured time from the hammock-weavers.
The island, a tiny part of México’s largest nature reserve and once a sacred rendezvous for sea turtles, egrets and crocodiles, is sinking under the weight of the human cargo ferried across each day from the mainland.
Mangroves, its only hurricane hedge, are felled to make room for more beach. There are each day nearly as many men raking seaweed away from high-class resorts as going out to fish, which is just as well for the fish, devoured and decimated by AI fleets of sonars, GPS and radio chatter. Chilean sea bass and Alaskan salmon fill out the menus in the sky bars.
And yet, after the rain there are flowers. After the next hurricane there will be fish, and whale sharks, too. Given the ferocity of the sea, there may only be those. With no coral reef left to remake it, this speck of sand will be gone, likely within this century.
Have we no sense of limits, or are our hormones an ancient doomsday clock, tick-tock in our genetic code, programmed to end our line when we reach this moment?
Must we not go with either a bang or a whimper, but in an orgy of mutual self-gratification, and congratulations on the numbers of our grandchildren, though they be cursed by that same clock?
We can’t say we weren’t warned by the celebrated Mr. M, but given the choice between prudence and oblivion, we chose the latter. We have free will. We will jealously take that to our graves.
Is there a way out? Sure. Birth control. Vasectomies are great sex without all the grandchildren. Will we use it? Not a chance. Apparently we’d prefer a Malthusian correction. Whether that will come in time to appease an angry climate god, well, that is the question, isn’t it?

The Great Change by Albert Bates

12 Comments on "Malthus was Real"

  1. MASTERMIND on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 7:23 am 

    7.5 Billion are sleepwalking into a great Malthusian Nightmare (Trap)

  2. MASTERMIND on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 7:26 am 

    As M. King Hubbert (1962) shows, Peak Oil is about discovering less oil, and eventually producing less oil due to lack of discovery.

    IEA Chief warns of world oil shortages by 2020 as discoveries fall to record lows

    Saudi Aramco CEO sees oil shortage coming as investments, oil discoveries drop

    Peak Oil Vindicated by the IEA and Saudi Arabia

  3. Davy on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 8:21 am 

    How many years do we have of this nonesense we call modernism run amok with wild techno abandonment? When we step outside ourselves as humans and look upon what we have created how friggen horrible. Yet, we are nature’s manifestation so in some ways all this horror surely has meaning. Somewhere beyond human reason there is a reason for all this.

  4. onlooker on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 9:07 am 

    Nothing particularly brilliant or controversial about the musings of Malthus or the Limits to Growth studies. We are are not God. We cannot do as we please without consequences. The time for our species to grow up has come and gone. Just like kids we will learn of the consequences to our actions

  5. Bug on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 10:04 am 

    Davy, those of us who can step outside of ourselves and look and see this, see it is horrible. The problem seems to be that a vast majority of humans worldwide can’t. Also, some won’t and some lie to themselves, the BAU problem. It seems to stare me in the face that humans be fucked and along comes a co worker spouting shit like politician a or b or c or x ,Y, z policy will change and will fix it. It is all madness.

  6. Darrell Cloud on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 11:12 am 

    I just got back from staying on the Biltmore Estate for the last few days. Walking through the house and touring the estate it became fairly obvious that George Vanderbilt was attempting to build a feudal estate. He was a survivalist on a grand scale. The fact that the property still exists and is still owned by some of his heirs who still live on the estate is testament to his forward thinking. The great depression forced his heirs to adapt. The winery, the livestock production and the general agriculture make the estate self-sustaining. The brilliance of turning the mansion into a tourist attraction that helped pay for its upkeep and enhanced cash flow, enabled the descendants to continue to live in tiny houses on the estate to this very day.
    Collapse is not a linier process. Even though parabolic graphs have a symmetry to them, what happens on an individual basis is totally different. Depending on where people are in their life cycle, some people pick themselves up, dust themselves off and begin again. Others walk out in the back yard and shoot themselves.
    There is a tremendous amount of volatility in the collapse process. Hard assets are often times lost, simply because the desperation of the moment forces a person to part with them. A man would happily trade a fifty dollar gold piece for a bag of potatoes if his children were starving. What person would not part with a bag of diamonds if it got his family on a train out of Auschwitz?
    In our experience, virtual money is lost first. AIG stock imploded wiping out an $800,000 asset. Then hard assists were lost. Investment properties were sold in a scramble for cash. Family businesses failed. Family members sold their bass boats and tricked out F-150’s at bargain basement prices. Pawn shops filled up with jewelry, guns and tools. Then came the foreclosures and the bankruptcies, followed by a wave of divorces. Some of the rich in our clan went on welfare. A few of us with no debt and government jobs weathered the storm and actually prospered. Some of the highflying contractors went into lawn maintenance. People either adapted or perished.

  7. JuanP on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 12:09 pm 

    “Is there a way out? Sure. Birth control. Vasectomies are great sex without all the grandchildren. Will we use it? Not a chance. Apparently we’d prefer a Malthusian correction. Whether that will come in time to appease an angry climate god, well, that is the question, isn’t it?”
    This guy is on a familiar road, but he still has a way to go until he can accept that our “Malthusian correction” will not “appease an angry climate god”. Humanity is extremely resilient and we will continue destroying the biosphere for as long as we exist. Eventually, we will make the planet uninhabitable by humans and go extinct, but most people underestimate the damage we will do before the end.

  8. MASTERMIND on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 12:10 pm 

    When the permanent oil shortages hit in a few years. That will the end game!

    Oil Supply Shortage > Collapse > Anarchy!

    You will soon wish you were dead!

  9. deadly on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 12:21 pm 

    There’s no more room on the island for the original inhabitants.

    Why would they want to live there anymore anyway, they no longer count.

    They’re going to have to move. California is the place they ought to be, so they can cross the border and make a new home in a place that has been abandoned by native Californians who move to an island and make a brand new mess of things.

    You are better off moving to Whidbey or Orcas in the Puget Sound. Move to Vancouver Island. More trees, more sustainable place to live.

  10. Sissyfuss on Sun, 7th Jan 2018 8:05 pm 

    At least we have the opioid crisis working to make our island more sustainable with a Poe or Kafka slant to it. I believe President Grifter is beginning to have an effect on my reality construct.

  11. joe on Mon, 8th Jan 2018 10:49 am

    We cannot escape the wisdom sent before us nor can we undo the damage we are destined to do to the earth, for it is hubris to imagine that humans can subvert divine will, we destroy earth because we are humans, there is no way we can save ourselves, though we would like to do that for selfish reasons. I for don’t care about pollution. We are not designed to last here forever we are too smart. We were made smart and the first thing we did was to try to leave the earth in rocket ships, our biggest movies tell tales of living on planets outside the earth and all our science tries to answer the question of why are we here. So why do we hypocritically suddenly become worried about the earth? Because we are so close now to so completely destroying it that we finally have become aware that our other ambitions might not happen. Thats arrogance, and that attitude it the reason why humans don’t deserve to leave the earth and ruin yet more planets.

  12. Sissyfuss on Tue, 9th Jan 2018 9:19 am 

    Update: Forgive us Father for we care not to know what we do.

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