The uncertainty principle has been around for many centuries. Outside of the famous physics Uncertainty Principle as proposed by Heisenberg, there have been many other uncertainty like principles or laws based on everyday observations. Irma Bombeck (a columnist for newspapers and magazines) propose the jelly side down rule. Simply stated, if after spreading jelly on your bread or toast and you dropped it, you knew that there was more than a fair chance of it landing jelly side down on the floor. Of course jelly rules out the application of the five second rule (the amount of time elapsed before germs would inhabit your dropped food.), a rule overwhelmingly favored by men and little boys, women and little girls have queasier stomachs. Of course some rules or laws or principles are based on what we might call mathematical certainty. Thomas Malthus in his An Essay on the Principle of Population foresaw what was to become known as the Malthusian Catastrophe. That is, when populations become so large that their future growth is checked by famine and disease. One of his reasons for this type of check on populations is that in his time the land available to grow food could, at best, increase arithmetically while populations increased geometrically. Hence, population growth always surpasses growth in food production leading to starvation and disease. During his life the agricultural revolution of seed drills and other technological advances in agriculture had not been made. Seed was sowed by the simply act of broadcasting by hand. Carry a bag of seed, dip in a hand and grab a fistfull, pull the hand out and swing the arm back and forth to dispense the seed. Distribution was uneven, the seed lay on top of the soil and a fair amount was eaten by avian populations of seed eaters. The invention of a seed drill made possible the planting of seed in uniform rows and placed the seed into the soil. The effect on food production was tremendous, as the productivity of the acreage under cultivation increase dramatically. Of course the various harvesters, tractors with large gang plows and other equipment increase efficiency and yields. A farmer no longer needed half a dozen sons to work the land, tend the sheep, cattle, and horses. Prior to the railroads and then the automobile/truck, over 80% of the oats grown in the UK went to feed horses. No wonder the good reverend has so much faith in famine and disease.
Of course the Malthusian argument for a check on population growth grew out of the debated Malthus had with David Ricardo. Later on in the late sixties and into the early eighties the mantra of over population growth and the need for population control would be taken up by many, the most popular being Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor of biology. The Population Bomb became a very popular and influential book although Ehrlich never made the case for all of his dire predictions. The mass starvations of the 80s never came about nor did the mass social upheavals. We have had some major political upheavals but hot in the way that would have promoted a mass decline in the world’s population. Like Malthus, Ehrlich misjudged the effects of an increased population growth and the ability of society to accommodate the national, regional, and global growth rates.
A look at world population, which consists of estimates due to the lack of any valid census data, shows that the world had reached over one billion individuals sometime between 1820 and 1850. The two billion mark was reached in 1930 and by 1959 had exceeded three billion. In 1974 we exceeded four billion and by 1987 had more than five billion individuals on this planet. By 1990 we exceeded six billion and seven billion was reached in 2012. If the current birth/death rates continue we should exceed eight billion by 2026. We are not expected to reach ten billion until 2062. If we look at the total deaths for the world war two period, the estimated number is sixty million or three percent of the world population of over two billion. The loss of sixty million individuals is certainly hard to comprehend but given the serious nature of total war on the world’s population it would be hard to see a loss of more than 300 million should we have a similar total world war. The population of the US is over 330 million, so that gives one an idea of such a loss in the event of war. And assuming food shortages and possible famine after such a conflict one might predict a quarter billion deaths from such a war and its aftermath. Loss of life would be terrible enough, but when a great many of the populations suffer from malnutrition there is loss of body development in children along with a decline in brain functioning or a loss of general intelligence capabilities. This would lead to significant future social disruption.
On the other hand, as this planet becomes, let us say, more crowded, I think we can see the losses in social functioning, general intelligence ability, and political problems. We may ask if the world is over populated but one would need to find a very good working definition of overpopulation. If we consider only the ecological functioning in the examples of animal populations then we can easily conclude that when a particular species is in an state of overpopulation that group will experience problems such as lack of food and the infighting and stress of too many individuals in too close a proximity to each other. We can show that many life forms needs a minimum amount of space to survive. The higher the level of intellectual function, or intelligence, the great the need for a minimum amount of personal space and the smaller the size of the primary group. We may like to think that the great herds of wildebeests and elan are simply one huge herd, but such is not the case. The great mass is made up of individual herds sharing the same generally available food source. The alpha bull can service only so many females and the alpha females can only control so many others. A troop of baboons will split before it reaches the maximum size. There is a great deal of stress on the individual as the troop nears the upper limit of population. The same is true with humans. The upper limit for any one group is sixty individuals before a splitting must occur. What we are talking about is an extended family or kinship group.
But what happens when the group size is significantly less and yet the general pace or area is highly populated? One may speak of communities but can communities become over crowded to the point where they are harmful to the individuals they purport to support. Do communities ever reach some upper limit and then must split off? If no physical split can be accomplished than how does such a split occur? Or are we like turtles and pull back into our shells for fear of the outside world? Communities do not reduce risk, I would believe they increase it. A hunter-gather group cannot reduce the risk of any one individual being bitten by a poisonous snake. Man, woman, and child are all at such a risk. A black adder or black mamba is an accident waiting to happen. Risk is accepted by these people. They have no control over nature, only over their territory. They are willing to fight for their territory and drive off others who would eat their food and risk their survival. But in our modern world we have the problems finding work (income that provides our needs), the idea of personal space in terms of rights to a dwelling, and the ownership of stuff not necessary for life but useful to our intellectual and emotional needs. We are turtles in that we try to carry our house with us as we travel through life. And we are becoming more insular in the manner in which we live our lives over time?
The population statistics show an interesting look at our society over time. Back in 1790 35% of the households consisted of seven or more individuals. In 2005 the one person household was 27% of the households and the two person household was 33%. Granted, that two person household can be single mother and child and I would not be surprised if that combination was a majority of such two person households. Where even in 1930 the average household was 4.13 persons and the extend family lived within local proximity, we can see that the extended family tends to be smaller and possible more remote. The most important past times during the 18th and 19th centuries was visiting family connections. Usually travel was local but even when family was scattered the organization of yearly reunions was a prime activity. Our public schools and universities fail to teach this lesson. Of course the other lesson is that we, as a population, are constantly one the move. Few of us have lived in the same house all our lives or even twenty years, let alone fifty. We are apt to change communities several times in our lives. the exception may be for those who are born and live in inner cities and, on average, do not escape their environment unless it is through incarceration. These individuals are the exception and we cannot presume to treat them as the normal case.
For the rest of us this mobility means that far fewer individuals grow up in the same community and have the continuation of childhood friends into adolescence and teen years. Thus reduced family associations through a reduction in the number of siblings, extended family members, and reduced long term friendships leads to a greater sense of isolation and the inversion of needs from external to internal. Later friendship are often made on the practical basis on personal interests and activities. Friendships at work are more acquaintances that true friendships. Once one leaves a position in one department or company, new acquaintances are mad and old ones are forgotten. I would believe that this type of living narrows our experiences, and our vision of society. Our socialization becomes sadly lacking in flexibility. And we seek a more risk free life. We thus become more susceptible to the authoritarian that will, through expansive government, control more of our lives for the sake of security from risk. we clamor for this same government to eliminate poverty, homelessness, and hunger. We want this same style of government to regulate education so that each individual can have to opportunity to learn the same subjects. We want this same government to embrace diversity and celebrate it, but only the good kind of diversity, the kind that is positive. We are willing to accept everything as long as it is positive. We have learned how not the be discriminating because that would mean we discriminate and that is a bad thing. We are now thinking that we are all unique but yet we are all equal in every way. In short, we have lost our powers of discernment and accept without question the need to be unitized, units of mass production in labor, political thought, and social living. I would believe that this current generation is losing its intelligence capacity through mass indoctrination and the need for acceptance at any cost. Society has always been a balance of individual interests versus group interests.. Perhaps this is the effect of the population bomb. That increase in numbers per acre or mile or square foot in the real threat. The increase reliance on government to do for us because the population is too large for the individual to take action other than giving some money and handing out leaflets is the real danger. We have reached a level where self reliance in not longer possible for the average individual. We have become independent on government to d for us much of what we should do for ourselves. We trust the government and those in higher places who profess to know what is best for us. It is the new fascism and it will end in great sorrow.