To Mother Earth News, Re: Population and Construction

I was recently given a gift subscription to Mother Earth News. I read my first issue (December/January 2004) from cover to cover and found it to be a fantastic publication. I look forward to being a longtime reader.

I have, however, what I feel to be important comments about two of your articles.

In “Growing… Growing… GONE?,” Lester R. Brown makes many excellent arguments, but one key element keeps him from being on the true forefront of the new sustainable paradigm. When Brown says that it is “more difficult to expand food production fast enough to keep up with demand,” he demonstrates ignorance of a basic ecological fact that is absolutely crucial to understanding our global culture’s unsustainable growth: population size changes in relation to the amount of food available. Thus, attempting to address hunger by increasing food production only ensures that there will be more hungry people later on — and a maximum possible number of hungry people around when food production reaches a level at which it crashes. I look forward to the next parts of his series of articles, but if they reflect the content of his book “Eco-Economy,” which expands on the mistaken notion he mentioned in this introductory article of his, then Brown and Mother Earth will simply not be making a fundamentally valuable contribution to the public’s understanding of these issues. Increasing food production to feed the hungry while instituting wide scale fertility-reducing measures are twin notions that lie squarely within business as usual, Plan A, the control-and-manage paradigm that we’re trying to overturn. Far better to simply acknowledge that our “food race” parallels the arms race, and that escalation on one side simply leads to escalation on the other, and that the only solution is to stop escalating — and that population will stabilize on its own, automatically, as soon as we do so. For more information, I refer you to:

–Human population numbers as a function of food supply, by Russell Hopfenberg and David Pimentel, Environment, Development and Sustainability 3: 1-15, 2001. A copy is currently online at http://www.ku.edu/~hazards/foodpop.pdf

–My own award-winning masters thesis, The Unsustainability and Origins of Socioeconomic Increase, available online at http://potluck.com/2001/01/the-unsustainability-and-origins-of-socioeconomic-increase/.

“Our Solar SunHawk” paints an incredibly interesting picture. But I wonder: what was the per-square-foot cost? I’d dare say far too high for the average person to afford their own similar construction. Further, the size of the home — the 2,900 square feet that the plan was scaled *down* to — is completely unrealisitic as a model for the general population. The technology may be worth understanding and emulating, but it is absurd to imagine that the cost and size of SunHawk actually embody an ecologically friendly, sustainable paradigm.

Count on me in the future to call into question those elements in your magazine which betray your own ideals 🙂

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