DailyDirt: The End Of The World As We Know It

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Predicting the end of the world has been a famously difficult calculation. Population growth trends have not proven to follow a continuously exponential path, so we've easily avoided previous calls of Malthusian catastrophe. However, it's still possible that we've only managed to postpone the sixth major extinction event, and our technological cleverness won't be able to save us next time. Here are just a few modern predictions of doom that could ruin some retirement plans. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

Filed Under: civilization, doom and gloom, global climate change, green revolution, malthusian catastrophe, population growth
Companies: nasa


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  1. icon
    Urgelt (profile), 26 Mar 2014 @ 8:37pm

    Density of Errors

    Okay, I'm impressed. The density of misconceptions and errors in this paragraph-length post is nearly unprecedented. Amazing, truly.

    The article says, "Population growth trends have not proven to follow a continuously exponential path..."

    That is true if we regard only short-term trends (year by year). But Malthus was talking about generations, not years. This is exactly like saying that you can divine climate truths out of short-base analyses. Problem: you can't.

    Plotted on the larger time-scale represented by generations - which is to say, over a course of centuries - population growth has indeed been exponential. It's a grave error to get lost in the noise of year-by-year changes in the rate of growth, just as it's a grave error to think that the world is warming because it's snowing.

    The article continues, "...so we've easily avoided previous calls of Malthusian catastrophe."

    Um, no. The reason we have *thus far* averted Malthusian catastrophe is food production and distribution has kept pace with population growth, more or less. Not perfectly, but well enough. Avoiding a population die-back has nothing to do with short-base trending and everything to do with food.

    The article continues, "However, it's still possible that we've only managed to postpone the sixth major extinction event..."

    The author clearly thinks that the 6th major extinction event involves people dying off, and since we haven't died off yet, we've postponed it. This is frighteningly ignorant.

    The extinction event is well underway, and it refers not to a single species but to a great many of them. Species are being extinguished at a rate which is matched only by five previous extinction rates in the geological record.

    Then the article says, "...and our technological cleverness won't be able to save us next time."

    Technological cleverness might save *our* species, for a while. It's very unlikely to save *all* species. We're notoriously bad at preserving ecosystem diversity, and more tech almost certainly isn't going to affect ecosystem diversity in a positive direction.

    Please, Techdirt. I like your site, but if you are going to write about subjects with which you are unfamiliar, then at least consult some subject matter experts before you publish. Otherwise you will spread misinformation, and that doesn't help at all.

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