One of those ‘everybody knows’ things is that there are too many people in the world, sooner or later we will be standing shoulder to shoulder, no place to lay down; the planet can’t produce enough food to support us all; the world is running out of resources; our activities are changing the planet, and we are doomed unless we lay down and do what the nice environmentalist says.
We Contrarian’s of course disagree, in fact, we think if you are serious about ‘Human Rights’, then there is always exactly the right amount of people on the planet, we each have an equal right to be here. As proof, we note that if the doomsayers were serious about their claim that there are too many people, they would throw themselves off the nearest bridge as a good start. If they are serious about our needing to adopt a much reduced lifestyle, we would not see Suzuki jetting all over the world, consuming all that jet fuel, and Gore would live in a walk-up apartment rather than maintaining several mansions. So we claim it is all politics.
Anybody who has spent more than a few days in Northwestern Ontario, much less driven across the endless American desert, or even studied a globe for a few minutes has to see that the shoulder-to-shoulder claim is nonsense. P. J. O’Rourke is a contrarian writer who points out that if we put all 8 billion of us, 4 to a bungalow, each on a normal suburban lot, they could all be handily fitted into Texas, leaving the rest of the world vacant. He points out that if we were each put into a standard coffin, all 8 billion could easily be stacked in a small part of the Grand Canyon. The world is a big place, and we are small.
Let’s look at food. The doomsayers think we have no unused farmland, so as the population grows, food shortage is inevitable. Apparently they haven’t noticed that most of the lettuce or broccoli or cauliflower consumed in North America is grown in California on a relatively tiny patch of gravelly desert nobody would classify as farmland, made possible by use of irrigation and imported nutrients. There is an unlimited supply of similar desert, the limit is not land, but water to irrigate, and the oceans are full of it, we just have to figure out how to clean it up.
But we don’t even need to go there. During communist times in Russia, commune members were given a tiny plot of land for their personal use. These tiny plots produced 20 times as much food per acre as the giant communal plantation. All our farm areas could produce much more than our modern industrial agriculture produces, per acre, everything is geared for maximum corporate profits, not maximum food production, and the limit again is usually water. Also they are still homesteading new land in Brazil, and if we adopted some variation on the Brazilian model, rather than the obsolete subsistence model from our past, there is still lots of unused farmland which could be developed in Northern Ontario, as well as many other parts of the world.
Then there is the ‘running out of resources’ argument, which really is ‘running out of easy to extract, cheap resources’, and I will expand on that in a future column. So we Contrarians do not pay much attention to the ‘crowded planet’ doomsayers, we think it is all just politics.