andrewlb notes

Environment, Scarcity, and Violence

Environment, Scarcity, and Violence

Metadata

Highlights

  • century. Moreover, climate change is most likely to have a major effect on societies, not by acting as an isolated environmental pressure, but by interacting with other long-present resource pressures, such as degraded cropland and stressed water supplies. (Location 417)
  • 1 As noted there, neo-Malthusians, who are often biologists or ecologists, claim that finite natural resources place strict limits on the growth of human population and consumption; if these limits are exceeded, poverty and social breakdown result.2 Economic optimists, in contrast, say that there need be few, if any, strict limits to population and prosperity. These optimists are a diverse group including neoclassical economists, economic historians, and agricultural economists. (Location 721)
  • Empirical studies do not wholly support any of these neo-Malthusian arguments. Technological change and greater inputs of capital have dramatically increased labor productivity in agriculture; the link between population growth and low savings is unclear; changes in agrarian structure induced by such growth can sometimes increase food output; and larger populations can lower environmental degradation, if, for example, they use certain labor-intensive technologies (like slope terracing). (Location 765)
  • Indeed, some environmental systems are chaotic. In a chaotic system, nonlinear and feedback relationships among the system’s elements amplify small perturbations, making the trajectory of its development highly sensitive to minute differences in initial conditions, and making accurate prediction of the system’s state more difficult the further one tries to project into the future.48 (Location 939)
  • Unfortunately, many societies—most notably in Africa—do not have the crucial institutional prerequisites or the capital to permit such smooth adjustments.47 (Location 1924)
  • The constraints imposed by regional scarcities of land and water will be much more evident as countries’ food needs soar and as they reach the limits of potential gains from current green-revolution technologies. Projections of the developing world’s future needs are sobering. Increased per capita consumption of grain combined with population growth will boost total developing-country annual consumption of grain from 875 million metric tons in the late 1980s to 2.35 billion tons by 2030; world consumption will rise from 1.68 billion tons to 3.3 billion tons.52 Africa is already experiencing a chronic shortfall in food production. In the early 1990s, the shortfall was 12 million tons annually; by the year 2000, some experts estimate, it will reach 50 million tons; and by 2020, without major changes in resource management, 250 million tons.53 (Location 1942)
  • Supply-induced, demand-induced, and structural scarcities act singly or in interaction to boost local and regional scarcities of cropland, water, forests, and fish. These increased scarcities can reduce or constrain economic productivity (a variable that, within this figure, incorporates scarcity’s effects on agricultural production) to the detriment of both local communities and larger regional and national economies. Affected people, who are usually already economically and ecologically marginal, may migrate or be expelled to other rural lands or cities. These migrants often trigger group-identity (usually interethnic) conflicts when they move to new areas, and local decreases in wealth can cause insurgencies and rebellion. (Location 2951)
  • Perhaps the most famous modern statement of the Malthusian thesis is the computerized model described in Donella Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind (New York: Signet, 1972). The Meadows team has recently revised their model in Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jorgen Randers, Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future (Post Mills, Vt.: Chelsea Green, 1992). (Location 4114)

public: true

title: Environment, Scarcity, and Violence longtitle: Environment, Scarcity, and Violence author: Thomas F. Homer-Dixon url: , source: kindle last_highlight: 2022-02-19 type: books tags:

Environment, Scarcity, and Violence

rw-book-cover

Metadata

Highlights

  • century. Moreover, climate change is most likely to have a major effect on societies, not by acting as an isolated environmental pressure, but by interacting with other long-present resource pressures, such as degraded cropland and stressed water supplies. (Location 417)
  • 1 As noted there, neo-Malthusians, who are often biologists or ecologists, claim that finite natural resources place strict limits on the growth of human population and consumption; if these limits are exceeded, poverty and social breakdown result.2 Economic optimists, in contrast, say that there need be few, if any, strict limits to population and prosperity. These optimists are a diverse group including neoclassical economists, economic historians, and agricultural economists. (Location 721)
  • Empirical studies do not wholly support any of these neo-Malthusian arguments. Technological change and greater inputs of capital have dramatically increased labor productivity in agriculture; the link between population growth and low savings is unclear; changes in agrarian structure induced by such growth can sometimes increase food output; and larger populations can lower environmental degradation, if, for example, they use certain labor-intensive technologies (like slope terracing). (Location 765)
  • Indeed, some environmental systems are chaotic. In a chaotic system, nonlinear and feedback relationships among the system’s elements amplify small perturbations, making the trajectory of its development highly sensitive to minute differences in initial conditions, and making accurate prediction of the system’s state more difficult the further one tries to project into the future.48 (Location 939)
  • Unfortunately, many societies—most notably in Africa—do not have the crucial institutional prerequisites or the capital to permit such smooth adjustments.47 (Location 1924)
  • The constraints imposed by regional scarcities of land and water will be much more evident as countries’ food needs soar and as they reach the limits of potential gains from current green-revolution technologies. Projections of the developing world’s future needs are sobering. Increased per capita consumption of grain combined with population growth will boost total developing-country annual consumption of grain from 875 million metric tons in the late 1980s to 2.35 billion tons by 2030; world consumption will rise from 1.68 billion tons to 3.3 billion tons.52 Africa is already experiencing a chronic shortfall in food production. In the early 1990s, the shortfall was 12 million tons annually; by the year 2000, some experts estimate, it will reach 50 million tons; and by 2020, without major changes in resource management, 250 million tons.53 (Location 1942)
  • Supply-induced, demand-induced, and structural scarcities act singly or in interaction to boost local and regional scarcities of cropland, water, forests, and fish. These increased scarcities can reduce or constrain economic productivity (a variable that, within this figure, incorporates scarcity’s effects on agricultural production) to the detriment of both local communities and larger regional and national economies. Affected people, who are usually already economically and ecologically marginal, may migrate or be expelled to other rural lands or cities. These migrants often trigger group-identity (usually interethnic) conflicts when they move to new areas, and local decreases in wealth can cause insurgencies and rebellion. (Location 2951)
  • Perhaps the most famous modern statement of the Malthusian thesis is the computerized model described in Donella Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind (New York: Signet, 1972). The Meadows team has recently revised their model in Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jorgen Randers, Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future (Post Mills, Vt.: Chelsea Green, 1992). (Location 4114)