Friday, November 01, 2013

We are not the problem. We are the solution.

This is an interesting review of The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet, by Ramez Naam.

Something that the all-organic, eat local folks might do well to remember: while a nice idea for the rich among us, this is not a plan for feeding the world.
Take agriculture. Ten thousand years ago it took an average of 3,000 acres to feed one hunter-gatherer; farmers today can feed one person using less than one-third of an acre. “Our innovation in farming technology has multiplied the value of a plot of land by nearly 10,000,” Naam notes. If crop yields per acre had remained stuck at 1960 levels, half the world’s remaining forests would have been plowed under by now. 
There is also an interesting, market-based plan for tackling climate change. And the reviewer discusses solutions to the tragedy of the commons regarding collapsing fisheries and depleted aquifers.

And finally:
While Attenborough laments that humanity is a plague upon the earth, Naam counters with an intriguing question: “Would your life be better off if only half as many people had lived before you?” In this thought experiment, you don’t get to pick which people are never born. Perhaps there would have been no Newton, Edison, or Pasteur, no Socrates, Shakespeare, or Jefferson. “Each additional idea is a gift to the future,” Naam writes. “Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations.” Fewer people means fewer new ideas about how to improve humanity’s lot. 
“If we fix our economic system and invest in the human capital of the poor,” Naam writes, “then we should welcome every new person born as a source of betterment for our world and all of us on it.