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August 20, 2012

Population Growth and Competitive Self Destruction

One of the great anomalies of human history is that the founding of the United States in 1787 corresponds roughly to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, less precisely defined chronologically, but acknowledged as a phenomenon that has radically reshaped the modern world over the same general interval. Since 1804, about when the IR is thought to have started, the planet's human population has grown from an estimated one billion to an astounding seven billion today.

Ironically, the fusion of thirteen separate ex-colonies, each struggling to go its own way under Articles of Confederation into a single nation under a tripartite Constitution was a critical first step in the creation of the United States. During and after its (their) subsequent erratic development as a single nation, the US has risen from relative global insignificance into a veritable superpower. By the end of World War 2 in August 1945, it had become the sole possessor of nuclear weapons and its own territory had been nearly untouched by a war that left other "advanced" nations in ruins. It had also played a decisive role in the defeat of the three rogue dictatorships that, as the Axis Powers, had been most responsible for the conflict.

Since August 1945, the United States has hosted the United Nations and become a mecca for seekers of both political freedom and economic opportunity. Its colleges and universities have helped educate hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of advanced students from around the world, many of whom later made major contributions to their chosen fields. Its own population has more than doubled from 149 million in 1945 to over 311 million today. Yet; sadly, any claim that those changes represent “progress,” or have been accompanied by an increase in overall happiness and satisfaction would be difficult to make. Quite the opposite: America leads the world in incarceration. It is increasingly seen as an inept meddler in the affairs of other nations and the attempts of its military to enforce American notions of “democracy” and "freedom" have inspired violent- even suicidal- resentment of the type that produced 9/11 and still smolders beneath the surface in many parts of the world.

At the same time,it would also be difficult to claim any other nations are in better shape on a planet struggling with economic instability, violent religious conflict, and accelerating climate change. How this state of affairs developed is something many people simply don't want to discuss- or even consider- but, as a species, we ignore such painful reality at our peril.

Concerns about the planetary consequences of human cultural devolution were beyond my wildest imaginings when I started asking cannabis applicants why they were seeking a medical dispensation in 2001. How the two have come to be so densely connected will be the subject of subsequent posts.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at August 20, 2012 04:52 PM