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The measure of man and everything else. Picture by William Blake.

I guess I haven’t been my usual chipper self since reading The Uninhabitable Earth – Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells and then large doses of The Next Million Years by Charles Galton Darwin. Both of these books are an analysis of the existential relationship of the human species and obvious problems that will soon confront us with oblivion. Both are logical assessments of the future and both state clearly that a shortage of food is the limiting factor, as Thomas Malthus’s theory that population expands to its food supply stated more than two hundred years ago. Wallace-Wells states it as approaching because of climate warming ruining crop production. But that serious problems are already upon us and will during the life expectancy of children now living become unendurable. Darwin, writing in 1952, wasn’t that grim, but stated that a margin of starving people was the natural human state. Strangely, Darwin didn’t discuss atomic warfare, even though he was a major player in the Manhattan project to create the first atomic bombs.

Human population history

World Population history estimates from 70,000 years ago until 2025.

I made this World Population History Smoothed five years ago and the slope hasn’t changed appreciably. It is wonderful that our planet is now feeding so many people, but the return to the natural condition that Darwin says is the natural state of man will come within the next doubling of population. The problem with that projection is that the world population doubled in fifty years from 1925 to 1975, and is on course to double again in fifty years from 1975 to 2025 because the birth rate is about the same as it was, but with a much larger population. If the pollution-created warming continues, and much of that warming is already inevitable, the food supply will fall. When that happens, there will be incredible efforts to save one’s own national group. And some of those national groups have atomic weapons.

If they are used, this will be what that population curve will look like at Doomsday and for a while thereafter.

If Doomsday repeats itself there will be repeated drops.

The destruction of food creation happens in several ways in this scenario: 1. destruction of existing food supplies located in cities, along with the people in those cities; 2. destruction of the distribution of food chains to bring food from supply depots to the people; 3. heavy overcast from dust in the air preventing the crops already in the fields from maturing; 4. lack of distribution of seed for next year’s crops; 5. lack of fuel for transportation to bring seeds and fertilizers to the areas where they can be used; 6. lack of fuel to operate the farm equipment which is needed to plant, plow, cultivate and harvest the crops; 7. infestations of insects which, without insecticides, will eat what few crops are available; 8. lack of skilled farmers to operate the equipment; 9. lack of knowledge of where and how to distribute what crops are available because of lack of infrastructure; 10. continuing hostilities and threat of new hostilities and problems of local organized and unorganized hostilities; 11. and, the unknown unknowns and the unknowable unknowns which will probably bring on the worst problems.

The use of even a few of those weapons will not only kill many people but will greatly disrupt the agriculture needed to create any food at all and world population might drop back to “Biblical levels”. That sounds impossible, but consider how difficult it will be creating food when fields can’t be used because there is no fuel to plow and harvest, and no fuel to get what is created to where you live. Our food supply is nearly impossible to create without the use of fossil fuels. On top of which, try raising your own food with overcast skies and no seed stock and nothing but human labor to do the work.

Log chart of historical war deaths

A history of major war deaths shown on a logarithmic chart.

World famine 1860 to 2016 from ourworldindata.org

If you are reading this, be thankful that of the billions of years the universe existed you got to live and participate for a while.