Tag Archives: Malthus

Where Humans Live: Is There Really an Overpopulation Issue?

In the last 50 to 100 years or so, there has been plenty written about humans having an overpopulation problem. When you read through these articles, you may become concerned that there really is a population problem that’s sweeping the planet. However, rarely (do you ever?) see a picture like the one I’ve included here accompanying those articles. Rather, you usually see a graph (see below), that shows the population has exploded in the last 50-100 years. While that’s true, it’s also true that much of the Earth is still not inhabited by humans.

Of course, I’m not necessarily volunteering to go live in the Arctic, but I think it’s something that’s worth keeping in mind when you hear folks talk about population problems on the planet. I’m not necessarily advocating that we — as a species — go live in the Arctic, but it would appear, at least from a superficial level, that there’s plenty of Earth for humans to spread out, too.

In addition toe “Earth” sprawl, there’s still the option for vertical sprawl. While many major cities in Asia have already ticked that box, there are plenty of areas across the United States were you could just about plant down a new city of 5 million people. There would need to be quite a bit of infrastructure set down first, but there’s room for people.

Should the population continue to grow like it is, humans are just going to have to get a lot more comfortable with each other. In Western cultures, folks are used to having their “own” space. That is, they’re used to some semblance of individuality and personal space. However, if you visit Asian cultures, you’ll find that there’s certainly a lot less focus on the “individual” person and more focus on many people at once (often times, a family — extended or nuclear).


I still remember in one of my graduate classes a few years back now, there was a student from South Africa (Note: I’m not implying that South Africa is part of “Asian” cultures.) Our assignment was to draw something where we were relating to our families. I don’t exactly remember what it was, but I want to say a family tree. Anyway, just about every student in the class (predominantly white and/or had spent quite a bit of time living in North America), completed the assignment in the conventional way that one would think to. However, this student from South Africa completed it quite differently. Instead of drawing something resembling lineage, they drew themselves in the middle and drew lines out to each one of their family members.

It was an eye-opening experience. It illustrated just how easily it is for two people to hear the same instructions, but complete the tasks in different ways.


Bringing that back to the topic at hand (adapting to conditions), I have complete faith in the human race to adapt should they need to live in areas they haven’t lived before. If there’s one things humans have become good at over the years, it’s adapting.

Twenty Online Talks That Will Change Your Life, Part 2

Yesterday, I began going through one of The Guardian’s articles about 20 online talks that could change your life. We got through the first 10 talks yesterday. In this post, we’ll look at the last 10 talks.

11. Shaking Hands With Death – Terry Pratchett

12. The Voices in My Head – Eleanor Longden

If you have no experience with schizophrenia, Longden’s talk will certainly change that. It’s important to note, not everyone comes as ‘far’ as she did. Nonetheless, I hope her story fosters empathy within you.

13. Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101 – Albert Bartlett

I don’t remember when I first saw this lecture from Bartlett, but I know that it was probably one of the first lectures I watched on the internet (maybe 15 years ago?). If you’re captivated by headlines like “Crime Doubles in a Decade,” or you’re confused about inflation then you’ll learn a lot in the first half of the video. As someone who majored (second major) in sociology, I can certainly empathize with the idea of a Malthusian catastrophe. I suppose I’m putting stock in the fact that something will change before it gets to that. You may be tired of hearing that people of time X couldn’t have predicted what life would be like in time Y, but I’d say that this is a big factor in why I think we’re not hurtling toward the future that Bartlett explains. Of course, I could be wrong, but I really think that something will change before it comes to this.

14. The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class – Elizabeth Warren

15. The Secret Powers of Time – Philip Zimbardo

If you’ve ever taken PSYC 100, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Zimbardo. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, his famous experiment will: the Stanford Prison Experiment. I remember watching the RSA Animate version of this talk a couple of years ago. Zimbardo shines a light where you might not have been looking: your relationship to time.

16. The secret to desire in a long-term relationship – Esther Perel

17. Printing a human kidney – Anthony Atala

In 2011 when this talk was given, the idea of 3D printing was brand new. To some, it may still be. I remember talking about it last year in the context of rapid technological change. If you’re still fuzzy on 3D printing, this is an enlightening place to start.

18. Do schools kill creativity? – Ken Robinson

If you’ve ever watched a TEDTalk, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of this one from Ken Robinson. As of this time last year, it was the most watched TEDTalk – ever – with almost 15,000,000 views. If you haven’t seen this one, spend the next 20 minutes doing just that.

19. Sugar: The Bitter Truth – Robert Lustig

20. Moral behavior in animals – Frans de Waal


If you liked this paper/series, you might want to check out some of the other papers/series I’ve posted.