Archives for posts with tag: Malthus

Plants transform water, minerals and sunshine into organic matter.
Herbivores transform plant matter into meat.
Predators cull the misfit among the herbivores.
Scavengers return the ‘discrete components’ back to where they belong. At the start of the cycle.

Please note that this train of transformations happens both above and below water.
That it includes all living organisms we know about.
And that it constantly reshapes the environment.

The oxygen we breathe had been produced, at first, by some primitive bacteria.
The soil which currently nurtures the plants which feed everybody else is a ‘by product’ of past and present organisms.

And so on.

Life is a web. Each of the species, a knot in this web.

Each member of a species gives some and takes some from the web. And, in doing this, keeps the web alive. Gives strength to each knot and keeps the entire web in one piece. In one functional piece.

At first, we – humans, as well at the rest of the apes, have been playing ‘top dog’.
We’ve always taken more than we’ve been giving back. Apes have very few natural predators, except for viruses and bacteria. But what we used to take wasn’t that much out of proportion as to make a noticeable dent. As to endanger the big picture.

Until we, humans, have invented agriculture.
Have actually enslaved plants and animals to serve us.
Shaped the world to cater for our needs. Transformed forests into savannas to feed our animals and savannas into fields for our crops. Then fields into cities for our dwellings and industrial parks for our factories.

Enslaving the nature hasn’t been enough. We have enslaved our own brethren to work in our place.
To take care of our animals, to tend our crops, to clean our houses, even to nurse our new-born.

And we have started to fight among ourselves. Attempting to control more and more of the Earth, we have stepped on each-other’s toes. Then ‘we’ have started to push back against ‘them’. By force, if necessary. By deadly force, if we saw fit.

Here’s were we stand now.

Our current contribution is negative.
We have polluted the planet way beyond its short term capacity to cope with all the refuse we’re stacking on its back.
We have burned enough of the fossil fuel which had been accumulated during hundreds of millions of years that we have thus changed the composition of the atmosphere. Changed it in the wrong direction…
By hunting and by ‘repurposing’ the land we have contributed to the huge bio-diversity loss we are currently witnessing.

Some of us have started to understand what’s going on.
Not only to understand but also to attempt to remedy the situation.

When one country had fallen under the ‘spell’ of terrorists – and a danger for all other countries, a large coalition of ‘interested parties’ have stepped in. And tried to make things right.
For a host of reasons, that effort turned sour. And the ‘interested parties’ have decided to leave.

Amid all that mayhem, a lonely soul had remained steadfast. And spun the Earth in the other direction in his desperate attempt to save his protegees from the advancing Taliban. In his successful attempt to save his protegees from the advancing Taliban…

LONDON (AP) — A former U.K. Royal Marine who waged a high-profile campaign to leave Afghanistan with almost 200 rescued dogs and cats has flown to safety — with the animals, but without his charity’s Afghan staff, who were left behind in Kabul.
A privately funded chartered plane carrying Paul “Pen” Farthing and his animals landed at London’s Heathrow Airport on Sunday after a saga that gripped and divided Britain, raising difficult questions about the relative value placed on human and animal lives.

The way I see it, we – humans, are here to impart meaning to everything we get in contact with.

Now, what’s the meaning of the ‘story’ above?

Are we finally understanding the responsibility we have towards the rest of the living world?
Or we’re still arrogant enough to do as we please? Without any consideration for what’s going to happen next?

As I said before. Humans don’t have any natural predators.
Except for bacteria, viruses … and other people.

A little over three centuries ago, a certain Thomas Malthus maintained “that infinite human hopes for social happiness must be vain, for population will always tend to outrun the growth of production.” Let me add that Malthus had been educated at the Jesus College in Cambridge – where he had received his master of arts degree in 1791, and had taken his “holy orders” in 1797. Had been elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1821, elected a member of the French Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, to the Royal Academy of Berlin… and so on…
Until now, Malthus has been proven wrong. We somehow managed to feed ourselves. In fact, despite the fact that we’re now roughly 8 times more numerous than we were in 1800, most of us eat far better than most of Malthus’ contemporaries. Live way longer. Lead far happier lives.
Not without ‘associated’ costs. Borne mainly by the environment. And by some of the ‘others’.

The problem being that the things which had worried Malthus – population growth and the limited nature of the Earth, are true only in part. Yes, population growth puts indeed a lot of pressure on the limited Earth we currently inhabit, but the main thing which limits our “social happiness” is our limited understanding of what’s going on here.

Our self centered and self serving image of the world.
Our own inability to find a long term, life preserving meaning for the things which happen around us.

To us.

By us.


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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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Elliott Wave is a theory used by ‘technical analysts’ to predict the evolution of the stock market.
It works.
Robert Prechter had expanded the scope of Elliott’s ideas. He uses them to study how our societies work.

Here’s what I make out of all this.

Things, Structure, Mind.
The world, as we experience it, is the consequence of ‘things’ becoming structured enough for ‘mind’ to evolve out of the whole ‘mess’.

Art, Science, Religion.
Knowledge – everything that we know about the world, has started as ideas gleaned by ‘artists’, structured by ‘scientists’ and put together by ‘religious leaders’.

Opportunity, rules, conscience.
Each of us, individual human beings, are the consequences of the opportunities we had been able to identify. Of the manner in which we had put into practice the applicable set of rules. And the kind of conscience each of us has built for themselves.

By putting together these three sides of the evolutive mountain, we notice that ‘knowledge’ (our image about the world) is entirely ‘ours’. And that the world itself is increasingly being shaped by our actions. Actions which are shaped by us, according to our wishes. Wishes which are shaped by what we know about the world.

My point being that while until not so very long ago the world was evolving under its own steam, since we’ve become conscious – aware of our own awareness, in Humberto Maturana’s terms, our influence had grown significantly. Exponentially, in fact.
We’ve changed the geography of our planet. It’s biology, even.

And even though the planet is huge, the opportunities we’ll be able to identify are not infinite. For the very reason that the planet itself is not infinite.

Rather Malthusian, I know, but with a twist. It will be not our numbers which will be our undoing. Only our carelessness. Our infatuation. Our inability to look farther than the ends of our noses.

You know the joke about the proverbial glass.
The optimist sees it as half full, the pessimist as half empty while the ‘realist’ grabs it and ‘enjoys’ whatever is in it.

Something of the same nature happens with the whole planet. Optimists are happily careless about what’s going on, the pessimists are terrified about the future and the ‘pragmatists’ are callously using resources as if there is no tomorrow.

To me this whole situation looks like a tree house. All three kinds of people live together in it and use as sustenance the sap of the tree limb where the house was build.
Only the branch is slowly withering away. The pessimists moan about this but don’t do anything really significant, the optimists don’t care while the pragmatists have already made plans for another house on a higher branch.

There is one small problem though. As time goes by the lower branches wither away. The tree, now old, is left with very few leaves so it can no longer grow new branches nor feed its inhabitants.
At last the hungry survivors decide to climb down and search for another tree. Yeah…but they are too high in the air to jump and the branches bellow … are no longer there!

No, I’m not desperate nor Malthusian. I’m convinced that human ingenuity can solve problems far more complicated than the ones we are facing today. Only we have to start facing them instead of turning our heads the other way.
And we’d better start solving the existing problems without adding new ones. (Iatrogenics, see Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Antifragile…

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