On Thursday, May 3rd, we will have Dr. Russell Hopfenberg here to discuss his work on the links between food supply, carrying capacity, and population growth. In two peer reviewed journal articles, one coauthored by David Pimentel, Russ has analyzed and investigated the relationship between between human population and food supply. His conclusion is that global food supply is the variable which best accounts for human carrying capacity, and that human population will continue to grow as long as food supply increases.
The first of those articles is available here, the second here. (update 10/04/07, the latter became unavailable online, except for the abstract. I’ll try to provide a PDF in the future. As an alternative, see the slideshow here.)
An important precursor to Hopfenberg and Pimentel’s work has been the writing of Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, who said, “The program of totalitarian agriculture is to increase food production in order to outpace population growth that is fueled by the very increases it produces, and this is what makes it unsustainable.”
The provocative conclusion is that if we want to stabilize population growth, then “halting increases in food production will halt the increases in population by means of a reduced birth rate.”
For a bit more background here are two Wikipedia articles which touch directly on this topic:
- Article section on population as a function of food availability.
- Article on the “food race.”
(I can’t vouch for the quality of those Wiki articles. I notice both contain some important unsourced statements. As far as I can tell, though, they offer a reasonable summary.)
Questions and comments for Dr. Hopfenberg
Prior to May 3rd, the comment section beneath this post will serve as the place for any questions or comments anyone might have of Russ. A number of prior questions and comments can be found under an earlier post, beginning here. Russ will have the chance to review the questions and comments in both places.
On May 3rd, I will have a new post in place at the top of the front page under which Russ will post some comments on his research, likely responding to some of the questions and comments submitted up to that point. Then, anyone can post additional comments/questions in the same place. Russ will return, probably a few days later, to follow up, again under the same post, in response to those comments/questions.
I will of course post updates if any details change.
I appreciate Russ’s taking time out to participate here. This is a rare opportunity to discuss a well known, somewhat controversial piece of research directly with its author. The implications of the work in question could potentially be profound. I hope everyone interested in questions of carrying capacity and population, and how human population growth might be stabilized will take full advantage by reading and considering some of the links above and participating in the discussion. Thanks!