A reader writes:
What a breathtakingly ballsy simplification of population growth by Toby Ord. Apparently humanity's capacity for invention and creativity is a linear function of population. Who knew? Based on that single flimsy argument, the quality of life for each human on the planet will also increase accordingly. Never mind pesky issues such as dwindling food supply, waste management, the increased risk of serious ecological disasters, and social tensions which naturally arise in dense population areas.
Any complex system has its natural limits, and the Earth is no exception. Whether or not we have reached that point (or exceeded it) should be the true focus of the debate. But to basically declare outright that the Earth is nowhere near this limit … well, I find it a bit rich. Already there have been some serious ecological disasters – witness the pollution and extreme overfishing of the world's oceans, for one. I find the phrase "so long as we can find the resources to support it" particularly egregious: I'm sure the US could continue to increase its debt indefinitely so long as it can find investors willing to buy it, and I'm also fairly certain that the price of oil will remain stable so long as there are no disruptions in the supply.
Another piles on:
It seems dangerous to have the "so long as we can find the resources to support it" bit be essentially a throw-away line. I'm not going to argue that a Malthusian end is unavoidable, but there is simple math in the equation of more people = more resources needed to support them. And as climate change impacts become increasingly obvious, flood-drought cycles make previously abundant lands less so, and rising sea levels decrease the amount of land on which we can reside, I think the fact that more people can get value out of new releases on iTunes seems trite. I'm all for arts and culture, but we're also going to have to feed all these people.