Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a lot of interest in the collapse of civilization. The YA book and movie markets are glutted with dystopian images of collapsed cities and zombie-apocalypse TV series The Walking Dead is past nine seasons and still going. Serious descriptions of collapse are bandied about by the globalist elite (consider the number of presidents and prime ministers listed as notable members of The Club of Rome, authors of The Limits to Growth, and everyone is familiar with the concepts of Peak Oil and Climate Change. Prepper magazines abound on newsstands.
Whatever the reason, millions of people spend time daydreaming about the collapse of our high-technology, high-energy civilization. I grew up in a rural area, in a time before smartphones and wars for oil, so I understand in part the appeal of a quieter, slower way of life. But I know too much to believe that the collapse of high-tech civilization would allow the human race to build a no-fossil fuel, low-energy utopia. The human race has lived a low-energy lifestyle for most of its existence. Reverting to the energy consumption and technology levels of, say, Western Europe in 1750 would be really bad idea. This blog series will explain why. Today’s post will talk about the first reason. It’s kind of a big one.
There’s about a 90% chance you would starve to death
There are somewhere north of 7 billion people on Earth today. In 1750, before the Industrial Revolution got rolling, the consensus of world population estimates was about 800 million. In other words, world population back then was about 11% of what it is today.
That had nothing to do with population restraint. Human beings have had sex at a pretty steady rate since the end of the last Ice Age. The only limit on population growth has been food supply. So the reason world population in 1750 was a tiny fraction of what it is today is that’s the maximum number of people that could be fed with the agricultural technology of the time. The obvious conclusion is that, if we revert to 1750’s technology, we’ll revert to 1750’s maximum population.
I can hear the protests now. “Without our rampant pollution, farm yields will go up.” “We’ve developed superior crop strains that, if available in 1750, would have increased food supplies.” “In 1750, the kings and priests hoarded excess food, which we won’t allow.” But that’s all BS. Maybe not the superior crop strains, but the only reason US farmers get 140 bushels of corn per acre is through ongoing crossing of inbred corn strains. Those inbred strains don’t breed true. Seed companies have to keep producing those corn strains every year. Want to bet we can keep producing corn hybrids every growing season indefinitely? Without the modern infrastructure of telephones, computers, biology labs, and transport used by today’s ag scientists?
I can also read the minds of the protestors. I won’t be among the nine out of ten starving to death. It will be someone else. Really? Is that a bet you want to take? My skills are too valuable for society to let me die. Really? I can sit at a desk and process words as well as you can, and the pay ain’t bad, but the niche I work in is probably similar to yours: a job that only exists because of the economic and technological bounty of the last 250 years.
But, sure, you have a 10% chance of being one of the lucky ones who survive. You still don’t want a civilizational collapse. I’ll get into why in my next post.