[Marxism] Too many humans?

Paul H. Dillon illonph at pacbell.net
Wed Nov 26 08:36:00 MST 2003


I didn't mean to belittle the problem of sustainability, only to question
the utility of studies that make statements such as, "there are six times
too many human beings as is sustainable.", but simply t6 insist that human
adaptation is socio-technological adaptation (a technology of social
relations and a technology of material interaction with the environment) --
There are so many factors involved in what makes a sustainable human
population, not the least of which are energy sources and techniques for
transforming matter in general.   It is very clear that humans are the only
animal whose adaptation is based on technology.  Spider webs and beaver dams
and other such phenomena  are not "technology" for the simple reason that
they are hard-wired in the animal, not the product of social labor.  This is
important since it allows humans to adapt old and invent new technologies to
meet changing conditions whereas spiders and beavers have to find another
place with an eco-niche appropriate for their patterns of adaptation.

I don't dispute the fact that under present technology, human populations
are unsustainable, I just see human history as somewhat less predictable
than the long term behavior of other species.  If we allow ourselves to
spread these kinds of mechanistic analyses, we will only do a long term
disservice to some  deeper truths of the Marxist legacy .

Paul H. Dillon

----- Original Message -----
From: "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, November 26, 2003 7:09 AM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Too many humans?

> Paul H. Dillon wrote:
> > Comparative studies like make no sense at all.  All of Marx's criticisms
> > Malthus can be raised here.  To paraphrase Marx, humans create the
> > conditions of their own reproduction through social labor and this
> > differentiates us from every other species, even social ones like the
> > BTW did they take ant populations into account?
> One of the things to keep in mind is that when the Marx-Malthus debate
> was taking place, the New World was relatively virgin territory. If you
> want to get a feel for what things looked like, try reading Lewis and
> Clark's journal that was written in 1803:
> "I went with ten men to a creek dammed by the beavers about halfway to
> the village. With some small willows and bark we made a drag, and hauled
> up the creek, and caught 318 fish of different kinds, i.e., pike, bass,
> salmon, perch, red horse, small cat, and a kind of perch called
> silverfish on the Ohio. I caught a shrimp precisely of shape, size, and
> flavor of those about New Orleans and the lower part of the Mississippi,
> in this creek, which is only the pass or straight from [one] beaver pond
> to another and is crowded with large mussels. Very fat ducks, plover of
> different kinds, are on those ponds as well as on the river...
> "A very cool morning, the wind as usual from the N.W. Captain Lewis took
> twelve men and went to the pond and creek between camp and the old
> village, and caught upwards of 800 fine fish: 79 pike, 8 salmon
> resembling trout [8 fish resembling salmon trout], 1 rock, 1 flat back,
> 127 buffalo and red horse, 4 bass, and 490 cats, with many small silver
> fish and shrimp. I had a mast made and fixed to the boat today. The
> party sent to the Otos not yet joined us. The wind shifted around to the
> S.E. Every evening a breeze rises which blows off the mosquitoes and
> cools the atmosphere.
> "A fine morning, the wind from the S.E. I collected a grass much
> resembling wheat in its growth, the grain like rye, and also some
> resembling rye and barley. A kind of timothy, the seed of which branches
> from the main stalk and is more like a flaxseed than that of timothy."
> http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/JOURNALS/LEWIS.html#chpt1
> As the 19th century moved forward, the New World became heavily
> developed which meant transforming the wildnerness into farmland, mines,
>   timberland, ranches, etc. That had vast ecological consequences. This
> was *necessary* for the growth of an urbanized and industrial society,
> whether based on capitalist or socialist property relations. You have to
> come to terms with how ecological sustainability and economic growth can
> be managed. This poses tough questions no matter the mode of production.
> By simply labeling all concerns around such questions as "Malthusian",
> we will not be taken seriously by scientists who are growing
> increasingly alarmed by phenomena like global warming but who have not
> really thought through the ancillary socio-economic questions.
> --
> The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org
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