Following up on my noticing that the “logic” that concludes Malthus was wrong would also conclude Columbus was wrong about being able to sail west from Europe to reach Asia. That he missed two continents and an ocean doesn’t change that you can sail west from Europe to reach Asia. It’s just farther than he expected, and you have to go around the tip of South America.
Likewise, Malthus missing that fossil fuels could enable creating more food doesn’t change that we can overshoot Earth’s carrying capacity. To say that because we haven’t yet means we won’t or can’t is like driving only looking in the rear view mirror.
I’ve read Julian Simon, Milton Friedman, and their peers and believe I understand their arguments. To believe we can grow our population or economy forever is like believing the Earth goes on forever.
The Earth does look pretty flat. Early people who found ways to show it was not flat measured the shadows sticks made far apart from each other. I can see if everyone in a culture believed the Earth was flat, shadow stick measurements would seem esoteric and unlikely compared to just looking around. The Earth looks flat.
In today’s culture where the population and economy have been growing for plenty longer than anyone alive, it looks obvious we can grow forever, but that look is shortsighted. It makes as much sense as Earth being flat forever because it looks flat where we are. The model for the world to be flat is a nice approximation if you don’t look too closely or don’t look beyond your horizons, but it fails when you do.
Giving up a model that works can make you feel helpless and hopeless, without a net, vulnerable, and insecure. We hold on to that model for all we can. But our desires don’t make a model work. Nature does. Fighting the laws of nature, you’re not going to win. What nobody seems willing or able to accept is that after your withdrawal symptoms pass, you’ll prefer working with the laws of nature instead of fighting them. You’ll wish you changed earlier.
No matter how much you resist it, no matter how much you don’t want to give up flying or air conditioning whenever you want it, those behaviors are not sustainable. They result in people suffering and dying. That’s not my opinion. That’s front page news. Accepting that front-page news can make you feel helpless and hopeless, without a net, vulnerable, and insecure. After your withdrawal symptoms pass, you’ll prefer working with the laws of nature instead of fighting them. You’ll wish you changed earlier.
You don’t have to take my word for it just because I’ve been living it for over a decade. Try it yourself. Not half-assed like meatless Mondays or avoiding straws for a week. Sit with someone supportive and nonjudgmental, do the Spodek Method with them, and do your commitment. To learn it, listen to my podcast episodes with Jonathan Hardesty in which I teach him the Spodek Method, or with Janet Allaker, with whom I talk about it in a pedagogical way. The episodes are free and they’re both friendly, engaging, remarkable people.
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On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees