PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Friday, December 14, 2018

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Impact of Population Growth

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: The Impact of Population Growth

In my essay I arrive to the conclusion that we need a global-reach
politician to achieve a stable population: the question is whether it is
a man or a woman? But you will need to read the essay to understand this

The Impact of Population Growth

This is an old topic in philosophy, but much more important in economics
and political science.

Population growth is also a divisive topic in the minds of unscrupulous
politicians and political mischief mongers. Specifically, issues of
population growth include food production, as highlighted by Thomas
Robert Malthus, to the extreme case of the Nazi version of Lebensraum
("living space") to accommodate the master race.

We could say that one of the impacts of population growth is to create
racism and xenophobia. Indeed xenophobia and racism are cheap and
effective political tools to influence people. We are all familiar with
the fake and infamous Brexit poster stuck to the side of a publicity van
of a large queue of refugees purportedly heading to the UK which was
used to scare voters into leaving the EU during the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Malthus himself was concerned that with a prospering society with a
population increasing geometrically every 25 years while food production
only increased arithmetically thus leading to famine and poverty. After
land acquisition the next biggest concern for countries with a growing
population is food production.

Indeed the major concern today for FAO (The Food and Agriculture
Organization) is what they say in their report and executive summary,
"How to Feed the World in 2050" saying, " By 2050 the world's population
will reach 9.1 billion, 34 percent higher than today.  Nearly all of
this population increase will occur in developing countries." And 35
pages later they conclude, "The world has the resources and technology
to eradicate hunger.  It needs to mobilize political will and build the
necessary institutions ……The expert analysis presented here paints a
cautiously optimistic picture of the future of food security in the

Since Malthus tried to predict the fate of civilization in 1798 in "An
Essay on the Principle of Population" (Wikipedia) human beings have been
one or two steps ahead of the prediction.

Unfortunately, the FAO is not only the bearer of good news. On the FAO
webpage "SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction"
they write: "Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for
human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets
lost or wasted." (

What is terrible here for us is not so much population growth but rather
the political will and mindset required to solve a practical problem of
food distribution. The idea that one can just roll out the tanks and
head east to conquer a few thousand acres of fertile land to expand
one's fanciful ideology is just bonkers. Population growth is not solved
with war.

Sure, in the distant past tribes fought each other and the strongest
won, eg Rome, but Malthus did start from a sound premise: …"technology
advances" could "increase supply of resources and living standards",
then he goes on to thing that over population growth leads to the
Malthusian trap i.e. a collapse of society.

Today we know that a stable society that can cope with the Malthusian
trap and all depends on some very important necessary conditions:
education of young females, women responsible for family planning and
full participation of women in the economy. This is well established and
understood today, but the point was clearly established during both
world wars, when women became the key labour forces in the ammunition
factories in the UK and USA. Even more, during WW2 women pilots were
responsible for flying new fighter aircrafts to their allotted air base;
many female pilots died including some being shot down by enemy fighters
whilst performing their duty.

Before he died in 2017 the Swedish physician and statistician, Hans
Rosling, made it his lifelong mission to educate the world on population
by using data and graphics. The TED talk: Hans Rosling: Global
population growth, box by box, is good place to start about how to cope
with population growth.

It seems to me that the immediate philosophical issue regarding the
impact of population growth is not to ask "what can we do to solve
population growth?" but rather "what causes uncontrolled population
growth?" Malthus, the FAO and Rosling have the answer: poverty. But it
takes education for stability and prosperity of a population. Educating
the population is the best way to avoid the Malthusian trap.

What we need now is a politician with the foresight of Robert W.
Woodruff, the President of Coca Cola, who in 1941 "…. guaranteed the
price of a Coke at five cents per drink for all American service
personnel, wherever they were located." (Robert W. Woodruff (1889-1985)

Our global-reach politician must guarantee cheap healthcare and cheap
education to anyone, anywhere in the world. And unlike Woodruff, who had
problems getting supplies of sugar during the war, we have no problems
supplying the brains to supply healthcare and education at reasonable
cost. What remains to be settled is whether it will have to be a real
woman politician to achieve this global reach?

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
Gran Clavel (Café-Bar): Gran vía 11, esquina C/ Clavel, 28013—Madrid

#food #population #xenophobia #FAO #education

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: The Impact of
Population Growth

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