Monday, June 16, 2008

Reverend Malthus Returns

"Kunstler is too negative," people frequently say to me when I mention his name. And it's true that reading Jim Kunstler is not exactly going to be a laff riot for anyone with two fully-functioning brain hemispheres.

However, I must point out, as Kunstler himself has on more than one occasion, that there's a difference between what I would like to see happen and what I have reason to believe actually will happen with regard to, say, the price of gasoline, or the prospect of the continuing political stability of the United States, or the possibility of world-wide famine.

It's not that Kunstler is too negative; it's reality that frightens people (me included) to tears. However, if we fail in the unpleasant task of facing the truth, we'll suffer even more grievously than if we ignore it, by instead dwelling on more pleasant topics such as Lisa Marie's baby bump.

Kunstler has the annoying habit of making accurate predictions. I've been reading him since right around the turn of the century, and everything he predicted back then has come to pass, without exception.

"(S)hortages of food and oil are two fiascos that are pretty clearly predictable for the second half of the year," he cheerfully prophesizes in this morning's column. "That's bad enough without figuring in the 'unknowns' that could kick up American hardship a few more notches. The hurricane season just got underway..."

His Monday-morning screed also mentions the 19th-century demographer Reverend Thomas Malthus, who 200 years ago shocked the world with the gloomy observation that human populations inevitably outrun the food supply, since human reproduction, capable of doubling a given population in every generation, can increase geometrically, while available food supplies are limited only to arithmetical rates of increase.

Malthus has fallen into disfavor among academics during the past few decades, and with the world's population rapidly approaching seven billion, the philosophers of "progress" have seen no reason to take Malthus's deep-rooted pessemism and conservatism seriously. But the collapse of the kind of agriculture which made the earth's present-day population possible -- an agriculture based on petroleum "inputs" such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides -- may be at hand.

Malthus is back, along with the Four Horsemen. If you don't like contemplating such things, avoid reading Jim Kunstler; he'll only depress you. If, on the other hand, you want to prepare for what's coming, read Kunstler, read Malthus's "Essay on the Principles of Population," and climb to the top of the bell-shaped curve to get a view of the world from Hubbert's Peak.


Grace Nearing said...

I must confess that reading Kunstler always used to drive me to despair until I saw him on The Daily Show, or maybe it was The Colbert Report. He seemed like a happy enough guy, all things considered.

Still, Clusterfuck Nation we are, and I am going to miss my favorite petroleum-dairy-grain hybrid snack food, Tos de Fromage.

Grace Nearing said...

Apologies for my confusing silliness. Tos de Fromage is faux French for Cheetos.