Prior to the industrial revolution the graph of population over time was a slowly rising sawtooth function which levelled out at about 500 million souls.
The Reverend Malthus argued that population would always expand to exceed its food supply and die off in the inevitable famine.
The argument is that this was avoided by the Industrial Revolution and the several Green Revolutions which occured before and after it.
Another possibility is that we are in a “Malthusian Bubble” where, because of our Green Revolutions, we have managed to expand population beyond the norm but, like all bubbles, this will burst – with catastrohpic results. Sooner or later, with unchecked population growth, even given more Green Revolutions, our population will outstrip our food supply.
Could we avoid this? Yes. There are a number of ways:
1. Reduce population. Current estimates are that world population will peak and slowly decline. The question is whether it will occur before we reach our food supply limits.
2. Expand our food supply base. This can be achieved in a number of ways and some are being explored:
- Working toward more Green Revolutions
- Building hydroponic warehouses
- Expanding our living and food areas – particularly off Earth.
This last notion is only being bandied about as a thought experiment and is a good 50 years in the future. It is possibly the most viable long-term solution, however.
In the meantime we must hope that either further Green Revolutions continue to supply our need for a cornucopia – or face the consequences.