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Swing Low, Sweet Chariot…………….

by on July 10, 2014

                                   Swing Low, Sweet Chariot………

                                            by Marco M. Pardi

 “The power of population is infinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometric ration. Subsistence only increases in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power in comparison to the second.” Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834).  An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. 1. 1, 1798

In the 1960’s college classrooms, often heavily endowed by major corporations such as DOW Chemical, Monsanto, and Archer-Daniels-Midlands rang with criticism of Malthus, pointing to the accelerating advances in food production technology.  Further derision was aimed at Dr. Paul Ehrlich, who in 1968 published The Population Bomb (Sierra Club-Ballantine Books, 1968).  In the prologue to that book he wrote: “Dramatic programs to ‘stretch’ the carrying capacity of the earth by increasing food production … will only provide a stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control.” Ehrlich calculated the doubling time of the world human population, showing a dramatically accelerating pace.  Unfortunately, he predicted a world famine for the mid-1980’s and, as that did not happen, the college dons were smug.

Of course, there is one obvious problem embedded in the above two paragraphs, although it takes a slightly different form in each:  the wording of Malthus’ central theme appeared to emphasize subsistence as food, an understandable position given the absence of environmental science in his day.  And, again focusing the problem on food, Erhlich failed to foresee how effective the rapid advancements in food production would be and compounded his myopia by predicting a timeframe (mid 1980’s) for the collapse of the ability to produce enough food.    

Before I go further, I would reiterate that this is a blog, not a Doctoral dissertation.  Most readers of this blog know I read at least one science based book and approximately 50 articles per week. They also know I belong to, support, and receive current information from over two dozen research institutes, foundations, and environmental organizations.  I will provide a few resource citations, but will not engage in a “show me” for every statement I make.

Unfortunately, the myriad of organizations – with the exception of a few such as the Guttmacher Institute,, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others I belong to and/or support – tend to focus narrowly on particular causes and concerns.  If we graph these problems across the board we will find one common denominator: the exponential growth in human population.

Returning to the concept of subsistence, I would invite the reader to briefly consider the realities of functional existence in the absence of technology that typically mediates between Man and everything else.  As a graduate of the Strategic Air Command Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape schools conducted in winter mountain and summer desert terrain and having put these to good use in various parts of the world I hasten to point out that survival is about more than food.  Clean water comes first; an average person can survive a surprising number of days with little or no food but only 3 – 4 days without water.  Yet, contrary to what the beer ads and the bottled water ads seem to imply, drinking water straight from a stream can be a risky proposition in much of the world.  In the absence of chlorine tablets to neutralize most pathogens  boiling the water is the best option.  That, however, requires fuel.  And burning fuel, be it wood, peat, or dried feces produces air toxins.  Of course, chlorine or boiling do not address chemical contamination of the water.  Next comes shelter.  This must be suitable for the climate, meaning warm and insulated where it is cold or open and ventilated where it is hot.  Ideally, the shelter would be established a short walk from the water source, which also puts one close to other animals using the water and whatever edible plants may be growing there.  And, even a solitary human must be mindful of where he or she digs the latrine.

Surviving a SERE course for two weeks here and two weeks there is interesting.  But the participant always has his clean, temperature controlled quarters and newly appreciated mess hall in mind.  What of those for whom survival, at various levels above the conditions described above, is a permanent way of life?  The World Health Organization,, cites indoor and outdoor air pollution as one of the top three worldwide contributors to chronic health conditions and premature death.  Industrialized and post industrialized nations are surprised to learn that much of this pollution comes from cooking and heating fires, to which infants and children are continually exposed since they are primarily kept with females who are relegated to household duties.  Compound this with poor or no access to clean water, non-existent or poor sanitation, and homes that routinely allow in vermin, scavengers, and insects and you have the erosion or negation of three of the four fundamental pillars of survival. 

While this may seem like some remote and “primitive” village in some inhospitable land, it actually characterizes the circumstances of much if not most of the “Have Nots” of this world.  And that brings up the greatest threat not only to human survival, but to the survival of most of the flora and fauna of this planet: Overpopulation.

In what seem to be cycles, various organizations have come to the medium of television to bring images of starving children into our homes.  I suspect the syndrome of dulled sensitivity among viewers started soon after.  “Those people are starvin’ and they keep squirtin’ out more kids.” “They never learn.”

Before I go further, I stipulate to having personal limits.  As I have made clear elsewhere, I react supportively to people who cannot help themselves due to age (high or low) or impairment.  I do sympathize with starving children shown on television largely because, in my view, they are too young to have brought it on themselves.  At the same time, I have seen child soldiers in various parts of the world and, while I understand that many are conscripted against their will there are those who have fully adopted their new lifestyle with vigor.  Thus, when I have seen a young person who demonstrated the competence and the willingness to use an AK47 against me, I felt entitled to ensure that he didn’t.

Many people seem to miss the root causes of the famines and the disease epidemics.  Simple ignorance factors in here, and it is not at all helped by media presentations that continually appeal for sympathy for the victims without exposing the victimizers.   The children we typically see in these ads are there for a very simple reason: the societies into which they were born have absolutely no social safety net to support the ongoing lives of parents who have become too old, too sick, or too injured to continue working.  These children, those who will survive the plethora of childhood illnesses – including malnutrition, are the homespun safety net for their parent generation.  Why no societal safety net?

Since the late 1960’s my credentials in Anthropology have enabled me to pursue a career while adopting several roles.  There have been vehicles for doing this.  For example, while a career employee at one federal agency I was on the books at another through a Participating Agency Service Agreement (PASA).  One application of this PASA placed me at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), providing for five years of travel and work throughout all of Latin America and the Caribbean.  Of course, as a “USAID Officer” I participated in Embassy meetings with host country officials as financial arrangements were made for certain forms of aid.

What emerged from some of these meetings, and related investigation, was that much of what passes for foreign aid was in fact U.S. subsidy of American big business.  X dollars are given, on paper, so that Y country can purchase tractors from Z company, a wholly owned American company in a Mid-Western State.  Reasonable on its face, if the tractors are put to proper use.  However, the tractor deal may be the frosting on a much larger cake of negotiated oil, mineral, or metals exploration and extraction rights which will often devastate the very land the tractors might have made arable.  That land which is to be arable is burned at alarming rates to provide pasture for beef sold elsewhere or fields for animal feed or palm oil used elsewhere.

Once the major companies move in the profits are shared with the host government, which then becomes a major purchaser of American weapons systems – often used to militarize the country police force against its own people.

Over arching all of this, in its many forms, is a web of interrelated mega-industries emplacing manufacturing and assembly plants to exploit the cheap and desperate labor force, enjoy astoundingly low costs, and function without any of the environmental restraints found in consumer countries.  And, these companies have apparently bought an American political party and its spin-off self-styled party.   Environmentalism is still anathema to many in the U.S., recently portrayed in the fad of “rollin’ coal”,  diesel trucks modified to exhaust huge clouds of black, unburned fuel to mock the EPA.  This is typical of the myopic posture of the low I.Q. supporters of these particular political parties.

It must be obvious, but I will say anyway that writing out an entire litany of the myriad forms of environmental destruction being suffered by this planet would take much more web space than that to which I am entitled.  Interested readers might examine: daily to see the harvest of destruction.  One might also examine a variety of foreign affairs sites to sample the environmental pillage, the refusal to make contraception easily and freely available (since the Reagan administration, every Republican administration has withheld ALL funding for foreign health clinics if they had so much as one desk in the building devoted to Family Planning), and the refusal to develop the social safety nets that would obviate the need for more children.  Of course, big business thrives on cheap and desperate labor.  What happens to these laborers after their lives have been prematurely drained of vitality is of no concern.  Desperate poverty ensures a desperate workforce.

So often, as I review the daily toll, I ask myself, “Don’t these business people and politicians have children? How ON EARTH do they think these children will survive the actions of their parents?”

When hard data get tedious, there are options.  In recent years I have heard rather smug and, in my opinion, poorly informed criticism of the author Dan Brown.  Perhaps investing in a nondescript book cover would allow for an interesting interlude with his book Inferno.  I won’t divulge the plot, but see if the criticism of this author still stands.

The bottom line is that human populations have already exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet.  We are you, when as a child running across the playground you realized you had lost your balance and it was only a matter of time before the fall.  What saddens me most is the horrendous destruction we bring to all other forms of life on this planet as we hasten toward that fall.

We are currently going through decades of religious internecine strife.  Troubling as this is, it is nothing to what can come when the Have Nots of the world identify the causes of their misery and unite.

“As crude a weapon as the caveman’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life.” Rachel Carson. Silent Spring, 1962.

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  1. Nusaiba permalink

    Thank you for sharing this Mr. Pardi. You hit on many interesting points. Certainly I don’t think Malthusian fears are justified. We have enough food on our planet to feed everyone, and enough sense to be environmentally conscious. But capitalism and imperialism ensure that we keep certain people in power while exploiting others, and that we control the masses by convincing them that they NEED to consume products and that the upper class is attainable. This is evident in the famine of Bangladesh where people died on the streets from starvation yet Western control owned and was profiting from Bangali rice fields that could have solved the famine in an instant. I hope that we, have-nots, the majority of the world, do unite as you mentioned. It’s the only way to break down the power structure and maintain our planet.

    You briefly mentioned religious strife, and I think it’s truly a facade, and the true war that is happening is about Power. It’s all about who deserves Power and who does not. According to what we are taught, Muslims clearly don’t deserve Power and must be feared. Our nation as well as many European nations deeply fear Islam and Muslims. After all, it was not long ago that the Ottoman empire was existent. Religion is simply a label used to justify war and oppression, including systematic torture and rape of Muslim or colored men and women. Sadly our nation has used and continues to use these means, as we have seen in Abu Ghraib.

    I think you have a very subtle and polite way of saying things and I hope my directness is tolerable 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Nusaiba. Your depth and clarity always inspire. I agree with you that religions are used as facades for power struggles. The Crusades were excellent examples. And, I have long felt that Israel was created NOT for a homeland for Jews as such, but as a lever with which to stir the Middle East, as needed, to drive up oil prices whenever the energy giants wanted to do so. Britain, the U.S. and France were well aware of the oil reserves even before their war against the Ottomans.

      I agree that we can now feed what is here. My primary concern is the unchecked reproduction rate across the world, and the indescribable damage done to the planet in the process.

      Thank you again, and your intelligent directness is very, very welcomed. Marco


  2. THIS WAS SOMEHOW LEFT OFF Nusaiba’s ORIGINAL COMMENT: I think the solution is to deconstruct our power structures, the best way is via revolution really. This will take generations to come, but we can begin by participating in campaigns such as occupy wall street and simply by being globally and intellectually aware of current events as well as our history.


  3. My money has always been on Mother Nature. I have no idea who Jeff Rense is and have never heard of NumbersUSA, but like this letter from Mother Nature. The Numbers USA video was interesting.


    • This is fabulous, Mary. I very much hope the readers of this blog will have the time to read it. As you know, I advocate for the disempowered, and that goes beyond disempowered humans to the entire plant and animal kingdoms which are being decimated by the greed and stupidity of a relative few. Thank you, Marco


  4. Enthralling read, Marco. It totally captivated me. I do agree . Power is behind all, both in war and in peace, and religions and politics are good banners to hide behind. Just take a good look at the history of any country in this wide world.


    • Thank you, FOAL. As you may know, a rather large e-mail discussion has ensued from this particular blog. I see the up side of that, but regret that the comments are not placed on this blog site since this site is viewed world wide.

      I have been challenged to offer solutions. I will certainly cite those. But, I will also affirm that I do not for one moment think the fall is preventable. If everyone awoke today and took corrective action we are still like the passengers on a power boat racing headlong for collision with a land mass. If we completely cut the power to the boat (if we addressed the problems) today, the momentum we have already put in place will still carry us to our destruction. With three teenage grandchildren I don’t say this lightly. But I cannot turn my back on reality.


  5. It has not been my intention to avoid either this conversation, or that on the email chat; I simply didn’t have anything significant to add. I have followed both venues of thought with great interest.

    I have long been a believer in zero population growth, as a maximum. Some people are not able to care for children, either financially or emotionally, and those persons should not bring offspring into this world. There are far too many people in this world already, taking up natural resources and my good fresh air.

    I have done all that I knew how to use only my share of what cannot be replaced, and to give back where I could. It’s a small, sad statement I have just made; would that I could have done more. If everyone could honestly say the same, it might have been enough to keep us going until a valid solution could be found. Sadly, I agree with you that it is too late to make it right again, and I fear the end will come within my lifetime.

    If the apocalypse comes in our lifetime, I want you on my survival team. You have all the skills necessary to survive, and perhaps even thrive, in the world that is to come. Rose


  6. Thank you, Rose. Conversations such as these are understandably difficult for thinking, feeling people to enter. There is a sense of, What’s the use? I think things will be considerably different in my remaining lifetime; they are already manifesting. But it’s like what used to be said of nuclear war: the survivors will envy the dead. As I, and several others have stated, I most regret the horrible toll this is taking on all the other life forms on this planet.


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