By Upatissa Pethiyagoda –
One way of “solving” a problem, is to pretend that it does not exist. A sub-head under this rubric is “sweeping under the carpet”. There are so many characteristics of our various plights where this simple thread, or common factor is overlooked or concealed. It is a question of numbers – be it unemployment, land hunger, hospital beds and health care, overcrowded trains and buses, insufficient schools, houses and many more.
More subtle are drug addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, the brain drain, crime and destruction of traditional norms of family and social interactions. Ponder a while and the inter-relationships emerge.
Animal sciences are well aware of the concept of “Carrying capacity” when the issues are of insufficient space and life essentials. The dairy farmer knows that numbers of livestock relate to pasture extents, the poultry farmer also knows that overcrowding of cages leads to declining productivity and increasing savagery. As an example, normally docile rabbits transform into savage fighters, when crowding limits their access to food and space.
Why should not this phenomenon be applied to the human species? The English Economist, Thomas Malthus (1766 – 1834), warned that populations would automatically destroy themselves, because populations grow exponentially while resources (he chose food as the base), grow linearly. The curves are therefore bound to converge. When they cross, resources move from abundance to scarcity. System failure is inevitable.
Poor Malthus was persecuted (and perhaps defrocked), for recognizing the threat. Perhaps where he erred was by suggesting that poorer people and nations) procreated faster. Unfortunately, his theory coincided with Europe’s Industrial Revolution, and an evil motive was implied – that his observation was a sinister and selfish attempt to deny the World’s poor from accessing the fruits of a massive advance. In current language, his truths were “Politically incorrect”
The uncomfortable truth is that reckless “growth,” leads to an exhaustion of limited resources, resulting in environmental distress. Perhaps these climatic perturbations may be Nature’s way of warning against thoughtless exploitation. The frequency and severity of natural disasters are apparently becoming more evident. Society recognizes that phenomena (such as Global Warming, exhaustion of Petroleum (and other mineral resources), water shortage, energy supplies will result in upheavals and possibly Wars, will be inevitable balancing reactions.