According to White….(By Jackie)

Hello Everyone! I love our discussion in class today, everyone had at least something to say about our (Ben and I) presentation of Leslie White’s “Energy and the Evolution of Culture”.

I want to bring up another topic to continue our discussion from class. According to White, “…by means of agriculture man was able to harness, control, and put to work for himself powerful forces of nature. With greatly augmented energy resources man was able to expand and develop his way of life, i.e., his culture^14″ (2nd ed: pp 249). He also goes on to say, “In agriculture… this limit has not been reached, and, indeed it is not yet even in sight” (pp 250). My question to you is do you believe that “end” to efficiency when man is no longer able to supply himself with his most basic necessity, food, in sight? Our world’s population is quickly approaching 7 Billion people, ( It is not unrealistic to assume that our planet cannot support our increasing population without some consequences, there is only so much food agriculture can produce, only so many water resources. What’s going to happen to our culture, by culture I’m including the human race, when we come to as White claims our “end”?

It’s my opinion that man is still largely relying upon an agricultural system to supply and harness his need for food. What is the next technological advancement man needs to make if agriculture can no longer supply and feed the world’s population? What happens to our culture?

this is a link for something i found very interesting, it relates to my argument for our need to find alternative sources for fuel, energy, food, etc.


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  • zephramseazephyr  On March 13, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Jackie, I like how you supported your argument with the natgeo references, though the second was broken; I think that it is important to mention the minor flaw that is inherent to the neomalthusian way of thinking your discussion employs; there is not a shortage of food, only a poor method of dissemination of those food stores. This analysis is quite obviously taken from our good friend Malthus. Our population is not as burgeoning as we would like to believe, I also think that it is important to note that we are not the most populous species on this planet, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Rat. Members of our species are not starving because they lack the resources of foodstuffs, starvation occurs because they are unable to properly access said resources. I give you Costco and Super-Walmart as prime examples of the resources of food stuffs, and places like the central valley and Middle America as more local resources on the global scale. The food is there, the system works. The trade system behind the agricultural system is debatable, when food is wasted on the shelves in places where the need is less that is the problem, when our government subsidizes farms to grow less in order to keep the prices high that is a problem. When our own citizens cannot afford food, due to unemployment or low wages that is a problem. That is not to say that water crises and climate change are not themselves problematic, but I do not see the actual resources as being so depleted to an irreparable degree based on our rates of consumption. I disagree on the most basic level of neomalthusian population theories. Our planet has survived more dire threats than our species throughout its, roughly, 4.5 billion years. I would like to pose the following question, are population booms in countries like India and China (the former being 3.3million sq km (average 140 persons per sq km)and the latter being 9.6 million sq km (average 400 persons per sq km) problem because the resources are unavailable or because they are improperly allocated. The CIA World Factbook lists China as having a 0.493% (2011 est.) birth rate, and India as having 1.344% (2011 est.). I would like to reiterate that while I agree that there are various issues to be addressed regarding poverty, starvation, and non-sustainable resource management practices; I merely disagree with Malthusian and Neomalthusian perspective of population outgrowing the food stores.
    Furtheremore, with the use of sustainable practices, there is no reason why agriculture should fail. No offense intended, but I believe that to think in such a manner is quite defeatist, again I am not a fan of Malthus. That is to say, using basic practices of crop rotation and letting certain fields remain fallow for a time is more than what is required to sustain our crops, perhaps diverting water in ways that are more ecologically sound is also a way to go, along with sustainable fishing practices. Energy is definitely a part of which I wholeheartedly agree with, we need to find more ways to exploit the energy sources that we have available (i.e., solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, etc.) My discussions are not to discount the problems that are quite apparent, my purpose is to show my disbelief in Malthus’ oft repeated, in my opinion, nonsense. In the event that some altering event did occur, our culture, as it has for it’s entire existence, will adapt or die.

  • Kathryn barnes  On March 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Hey Jackie,
    I really enjoyed the lecture that you guys gave on this subject. To answer your question, I do believe that man will some day soon not be able to live because we are using up so much of our earths natural resources. We are cutting down trees like ten times the amount of trees we are planting. I think that if we keep going the way that we are, then all of man kind is doomed to run out. Another example is our fossil fuels. We seem to just keep using them up instead of figuring out more ways to run our cars and factories. I would think that with all of the technology they would have figured out some way to change all of this. If they have figured it out, then they need to figure out a way of making it so all of our cars can change.

  • Leslie Sipat  On March 20, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    “My question to you is do you believe that “end” to efficiency when man is no longer able to supply himself with his most basic necessity, food, in sight?”

    I don’t believe that it will be the end because of globalization. With the recent tragedy that occurred in Japan, it shows that things can be rebuild. With so much destruction there, it made Japan helpless. Japan was not helpless and started to rebuild again. With the help of many nations, they are going to be able to start anew even amidst natural disasters.

  • Fatima Ashaq  On March 25, 2011 at 8:45 am

    That is a great question Jackie, and i wanted to add that just in my math class last week we were talking about this exact issue using the “compound interest growth formula”. My Professor was making an equation to predict the worlds population in two hundred years from now, with data on how much the world’s population grows every year. I do not remember the exact number, but my math prof was saying that if our population does grow steadily at the rate it is going that in two hundred years we would only have a cubic square foot for each person in America, that is how much we are reproducing people! Crazy isn’t it! That show on Lifetime about the couple with 19 kids is not doing our world a very smart thing!

  • Martha  On March 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

    I agree with the first comment, I dont think it is necessarily the lack of food that is effecting us but rather the distribution. Daily we see for instance school cafeterias throwing away food because it was not eaten that day instead of donating it to someone who can use the food. We see this type of behaviour repeated in many other instances like resturants. Agriculture has been a great means of substenance, and even though our populatinon is on the increase we have to note all the advances that have been made to support this population. Things like hybridizing different fruits and veggestables and even cloning meat. So i believe that as population increases these methods, we will begin to use these hypridized methods to prouduce food quicker, which will essentially continue feeding a growing population.

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