Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cynical Prediction of the Day

One day, the world is going to use up its natural resources, and the earth will no longer be able to sustain us. Undoubtedly, the rich, the wealthy, the elites will find a way to flee--to an orbiting space station or another planet, or something. The poor and down-trodden will, of course, be left here.

And on that day, I guarantee you, someone will claim justification and say "the meek have inherited the earth." And they will be proud.


Flinger said...

I agree with you conditionally -- if the Earth were so robbed, and the rich took off into space, no doubt some ass-hole would say this, and be proud, and might even think that they had proved that Jesus was for inequality and poor-person-fucking after all.

But space will never support a colony that isn't a net drain of resources to the Earth. If all resources on Earth are used up, it will be unable to support any colony, because there are few if any resources available in space that arent available on the mainland.

Well done though.

The probligo said...

I think I prefer Douglas Adams' version - several inter-stellar expeditions comprising public relations consultants, hairdressers, telephone sanitisers, and middle management clones were persuaded that they represented the "creme of humanity" and handed a one way ticket...

Perhaps we could add to that list professional politicians, doomsayers and naysayers, neo-conservatives and communists...

Anonymous said...

This is a rehash of the Malthus theory that even he repudiated in his later years. Read this article on Julian Simon ( or his book Ultimate Resource 2.

Flinger said...

I've read all the Simon I need to thanks. Assuming arguendo that scarcity begets innovation with perfect efficiency, the problem is not whether there is an incentive to innovate but whether any amount of innovation can overcome a rapid succession of ecological limits to growth, particularly as the solutions to each one implicate the others. The problem, in other words, is not economic but scientific.
It just can't be done, no matter how bad we want to. You can't beat entropy.

Anonymous said...

Doom has been predicted and the dates foretold many times before and they have gone and past and yet resources are not drying up and are overall cheaper, relative to our incomes, than ever before. This is why the gas price increases have not hurt as some might have predicted.

Regarding ecological limits if you look at the various nations in the world those nations with the strongest economies, most robust industries and the highest standard of living, namely the Western nations, have the cleanest environments. And their resources are not limited in regards to price or availability.

In fact the problem with the West is depopulation, not its impact on the environment or its depletion. And no the West is not exporting its pollution or stealing resources.

That would be a variation of the canard from Baran who wrote, when Marxist theory failed to predict that the proletariat were actually getting better off under capitalism, that capitalism was exporting poverty. The primary third world country with an expanding economy with a worsening ecology is China, a dictatorial communist country.

PG said...

What's wrong with telephone sanitizers?

And no the West is not exporting its pollution

It is, but probably not in the simple way cycle cyril imagines. Most wealthy nations today are at least partly post-industrialist, and have "exported" the most polluting industries overseas. China's high level of pollution seems more likely to continue to be a product of industry (which the government is reluctant to make even slightly less competitive) than of individual consumers. For example, China has adopted 2008 standards for automobiles that are as strict as California's standards -- which in turn are the strictest in the U.S.

Britain and other wealthy European nations, as well as a couple high density American cities, had much dirtier environments in 1900 than China did, for the obvious reason that China at that time was agricultural whereas Europe was industrializing without concern for environmental impact. Japan reaped some of the benefit of industrializing at a time (post WWII) when wealthy nations stopped to look at what they had done to their environments, and even then Japan has suffered serious environmental incidents (such as mercury poisoning).

China has the problem that it lacks democratic forces in favor of a livable environment to counter the government's drive toward industry -- a problem similar to the Soviet Union's, which is why Russia's environment is terrible. India, on the other hand, while suffering from acid rain and other negative environmental impacts of industrialization, seems to be doing better than China or Russia because some voters care about the environment. It is to some extent a concern of the relatively wealthy both within and among nations -- if your children are going to die of malnutrition by 5, or you're going to die of AIDS by 30, clean air doesn't matter as much.

Anonymous said...

The West while it has "exported" the production of many items has not itemized pollution for export.

China, due to its dictatorial nature and refusal to consider the well being of its citizens, is poisoning itself. Similarly Russia has similar history of poisoning its environment and is now reverting to its dictatorial past and will in all likelihood continue to ignore its citizens and environment.

Other countries to which the West has "exported" production do not have such issues. These countries includes South Korea and Taiwan. Why? Because they have a means of citizen feedback and can change the government as needed.

In short the West did not export pollution. China decided to pollute and foul itself on its own for the monetary benefit of a few for which the population has no recourse.

Flinger said...

The question is not which economic system functions most efficiently with respect to its environment, but whether any economic system can grow indefinitely. Western economies do indeed have access to more resources (in your words "they are not limited in regard to price or availability.") Does this mean that more such resources are in the ground? No, of course, not, fewer resources are in the ground, yet those price signals we keep hearing about don't seem to be doing much. You might say that its just because we haven't encountered the limits yet. I dont care where the limits are -- the point is they exist, some resources are non-renewable, some pollution is unavoidable, neither source nor sink limits can be technologically managed forever, and everything that brings us into collision with them is increasing, accelerating, in fact.

The question is one of scale.

Thanks for the lively exchange.

Anonymous said...

My point, as well as Simon's point, is that man will find alternatives to any resource that does threaten to run out or get more expensive. And the discovery of these cheaper and/or more efficient alternatives in turn cause the resource in question to fall in price. One example is the use of sand in the form of fiber optics instead of copper for communication transmissions.