A very typical response to my writing can be summarized as: “But… cities?!?” How are we going to fit cities into this future world? My feeling is that we can’t. Mostly.
In his article, “The Earth’s Carrying Capacity for Human Life is Not Fixed,” Ted Nordhaus, co-founder of the Breakthrough Institute, a California-based energy and environment think tank, seeks to enlist readers in his optimistic vision of the future. It’s a future in which there are many more people on the planet and each enjoys a high standard of living, while environmental impacts are reduced. It’s a cheery vision. If only it were plausible.
This World Population Day, humans number in the vicinity of 7.5 to 7.6 billion individuals. Can the Earth support this many people indefinitely? What will happen if we do nothing to manage future population growth and total resource use?
The next economy will have to balance the needs of Earth’s expanding population with the shrinking level of resources which are available to everyone. This dynamic equilibrium is called carrying capacity.
No major civilization has EVER practiced carrying capacity as a basis for political and economic self-governance; carrying capacity has only succeeded in small communities. Of course, we know this from the modern Ostrom view of the commons; but Ostrom never put her finger on the pulse of carrying capacity as the *self-organizing principle between a species and its environment*.
I know that some readers of this blog get bored by my engagements with the ecomodernists, whereas others find them interesting. So I’m going to try to keep everyone happy.
There are, and have been for a few decades now, competing narratives about food, hunger, and population.
Since the end of the 18th century, when Malthus wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population, there’s been controversy regarding the concept of “carrying capacity,”…