Mar 9, 2011

Daniel Quinn’s theories on culture and civilization part 4

[DQ= Daniel Quinn]

"We see it as catching up with our population while its really people catching up to extra food supply."

Here DQ is talking about how, as a culture, some people see our production of food as a means to feed our growing global population. What he does here is an inversion, saying that it's not the food production that is catching up to population but the population itself is increasing to catch up to our growing food supply. As he states;

"Totalitarian agriculture has been a disaster, mainly because it has fueled this tremendous population growth of ours - Mathis said we are always catching up with our growing population where as in fact our growing population is always growing up with our food population."

What he has noticed is called 'a correlation' in the field of statistics. For example; if you find that highly stressed out people are more likely to get colds you have just observed a correlation. To say that the stress itself caused the cold (rather than bacteria) is a statement of cause and effect NOT a correlation. Correlations are useful to get an idea of different variables that move together and provide a better understanding of the forces at work on a particular subject of study but they do not prove anything about cause and effect. DQ observes a correlation and then stretches it to a belief of cause and effect without any backing evidence (to my knowledge - I have found videos of over 2 hours of DQ talking, when I have the patience to listen to him I may go through those videos to discover if he provides any evidence... in the books of his I've read I haven't found any).

"We have a food race going on" says DQ, which he compares to the cold war, i.e. making better weapons between enemies made it an arms race so extending that analogy the only way to end the arms race was to do it like gorbechov which was to say 'we quit', thus no one to race with.

It baffles me that this guy gets away with the things he says. Anyways, lets do what he says...lets stop food production to fit the amount of population we want and let the excess die off. I'm sure this theory can't cause psychological imbalances in the already imbalanced.

"We have a 'win' on the side of food production then we have a 'win' on the side of population... thats why we are annually adding 7 million people to our population... and people have this terrible delusion that we are growing more food to feed the starving, the starving do not get fed, the starving population is a growing just like the other parts of the population are growing its a delusion, we are growing more food to grow more people."

What DQ is talking about here is a problem of economics that is better suited under the title "income inequality". People with more money can buy more food, nations with more money can buy more food. Some people take care of their populations to some extant, some don't (for whatever reasons). The choices are made by society and the distribution of economic wealth (and the power associated with it). This has nothing to do with the food supply.

The belief that increasing our food supply (which began with agriculture) also increases our population is to an extant accurate [refer to posts on Guns, Germs and Steel, Part 1 and Part 2]. Tribal people could not store as much food as an agricultural population and in most cases didn't have the types of grains that could be stored for long periods of time. Being constantly on the move to look for food doesn't help a population establish itself or grow. If we have more food we can have a larger population.

Agricultural communities (such as third world countries) tend to have very high birth rates which, historically, is normal as having a large family is helpful in the labor intensive life of farming. However, it is also a historical fact that as the economic wealth of a country increases and it moves from a mostly agrarian economy to an urban one, the birth rates drop. In the urban lifestyle, where children are meant to go to school - not to work - it makes no economic sense to have a large family (generally speaking, individuals may have different preferences but the community as a whole will cut down on kids if they have to support them).

With the increase in economic wealth in a country and the movement of jobs towards the services industries, many people have opted to have smaller families. This way they can enjoy greater economic prosperity (assuming there are child labor laws in place that are enforced or such laws have been around long enough for them to become a part of societal belief).

The following links and extracts are meant to show economic trends which disprove DQ's theories on food and population.

1. In industrialized countries there is a movement from large families to small ones:

Global population ageing is a by-product of the demographic transition in which both mortality and fertility decline from higher to lower levels. Currently, the total fertility rate is below the replacement level in practically all industrialized countries. In the less developed regions, the fertility decline started later and has proceeded faster than in the more developed regions. Yet, in all regions people are increasingly likely to survive to older ages, and once there they are tending to live longer, as the gains in life expectancy are relatively higher at older ages.

2. The drop in birth rates in industrialized (economically wealthy) countries is so large that some economists are worried that the populations are going to start shrinking. [This is called replacement level fertility]

The overall fertility rate increased 2 percent between 2005 and 2006, nudging the average number of babies being born to each woman to 2.1, according to the latest federal statistics. That marks the first time since 1971 that the rate has reached a crucial benchmark of population growth: the ability of each generation to replace itself.

"It's been quite a long time since we've had a rate this high," said Stephanie J. Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics. "It's a milestone."

While the rising fertility rate was unwelcome news to some environmentalists, the "replacement rate" is generally considered desirable by demographers and sociologists because it means a country is producing enough young people to replace and support aging workers without population growth being so high it taxes national resources

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