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A serious note.

I suppose that from time to time, my blood will boil. Or I might find that I am filled with righteous indignation at the state of the world around us.

The world is in a state of perpetual change. If it were not, we would be in stagnation and I posit the claim that stagnation is far worse than any change, even if that change is for the worse.

The problem is how we guide change. The choices made by the human race have vast and serious repercussions. We need to make wise choices regarding directional change on local, national, and global levels.

Last Thursday, best-selling author and controversial figure Michael Pollan visited Cal Poly to be a part of a panel discussion regarding agricultural practices.

The event ended up being burdened by controversy and in the end, the initial plan for an hour-long speech by Pollan became an hour-long discussion between Pollan, the owner of a large organic farm, and a meat industry specialist.

The change was made to appease a wealthy but threatened Cal Poly alumni and donor who is the head of a major meat company.

The discussion was interesting, if not slightly belabored by the overabundance of speakers.

Cal Poly student Brian Daugherty said of the talk, “It really made me feel good about home growing vegetables. I think more people should try it.”

Student Matthew Malekhedayat felt that “President Baker should have stood up for academic freedom. He has an obligation to protect our right to learn. Being able to learn directly from a controversial figure is about as good as it gets for a student.”

The two additional panel member were Gary Smith, an expert in meet science, and Myra Goodman, owner of one of the largest organic farms in the nation.

I found one statement by Smith to be quite telling.

At one point during the discussion, Smith was asked to define sustainability. His definition boiled down to whether we would be able to feed an estimated 9.1 billion people in the year 2050.

I must first point out that looking at sustainability as the ability to sustain human life indefinitely is a flawed approach. The concept is to preserve the environment, perhaps at a cost to human expansion, but with payoffs in the extended habitability of the planet.

Smith did however, point out something much more serious that using GM plants and antibiotic treated cattle. If we continue to expand at the rate at which we are currently, we will soon reach a population in the area of 9.1 billion.

There is absolutely no reason that there should be this many humans on the planet. We need to make global steps to limit human expansion. There are too many people already. There are humans all over the world starving. The ultimate reason for this is that the environments in which these groups are living cannot be sustained on local output, and a large percentage of this local output is being siphoned off into more developed countries anyway.

There needs to be a global drive towards limiting birth rates to no more than 2.1 children per household. While it would be immoral to force regulations of this sort on people, it would be well within ethical boundaries to encourage and reward people willing to have less children to combat the growing problem of overpopulation.

I can only hope that we never make it to 9.1 billion.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Emilie permalink
    10.20.09 8.52 am

    Many people think that the problem doesn’t lie with overpopulation, but with resource allocation. As it stands, 20% of the world’s people use 80% of its resources. Most of the projected population boom will occur in the developing world, which stands in the other 80%. It’s the first world that consumes the most problematically, even with its inverted population pyramids. There’s enough to go around, it’s just not getting to the right people. Instead of rewarding people for having fewer children, maybe the government should reward thrifty spenders who don’t overwear their carbon footprint.

    • 10.20.09 9.19 am

      I’m aware that resources need to be reallocated, but if we try to take all the world’s resources and send them around to where they’re needed, then it’s like every region in the world being dependent on an artificial source. Maybe this would work if we were globally united under the same laws and currencies, but as it stands, there will always be disparities. Also, moving resources expends resources in a very significant way.

      It’s like the old saying. Sending food to areas where there are a lot of people and little food is like giving a man fish, encouraging areas to be dependent primarily on their own production capacity is like teaching them to fish. Rather than send food to areas where people are starving, we could help establish infrastructure that allows a region to be self dependent. On the flip side of the coin, I’m saying that the developed world should stop funneling resources out of less developed areas.

      A population boom in the developed world, as far as I know, would be due to a larger portion of the world becoming developed, not because of growth in existing developed areas. The tendency is for lower birth rates in developed areas.

      I would say that it is an understatement to claim that many people think the problem is with resource allocation. I would say that out of the people who think there is a problem at all, a majority of them think it is a resource allocation problem.

      I’m saying that resource allocation is a short term solution to a long term problem.

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