Not Everything is as Bad as it Seems Part 2

This is the second installment in a series we are writing on how not everything is as bad as it seems. You can check out part one here!

Malthusianism is a theory that states that population growth is potentially exponential while the growth of food supply or other resources is linear. This discrepancy may lead to a Malthusian catastrophe, where population growth surpasses agricultural production, resulting in famine or war and, consequently, poverty and population reduction.

This idea is closely associated with Thomas Robert Malthus, an early 19th century political economist. However, it is still a very popular sentiment held by many. After all, on the surface it seems to make since. We had a population of 1 billion during 1800, now we have over 7 billion. But is this idea actually true?

When viewing the global picture, reconciling Thomas Malthus’ theory with reality presents a challenge. In fact, famine-related deaths have dramatically decreased since the 1800s. This contrast is stark and somewhat counterintuitive given the historical increase in population.

One might initially attribute this trend to advancements in agricultural productivity. Indeed, food availability on a per capita basis has seen a significant rise in recent decades, as evidenced by the increase in food production which has not only kept pace with but exceeded the growth in global population—primarily through enhanced yields per hectare.

Yet, this perspective oversimplifies the issue. A mere lack of food per capita is only one of several factors that can lead to famine deaths. Modern studies on famine suggest that the availability of food is not as critical as one might assume. Instead, these studies point to the pivotal role of public policy and violence. The majority of famines in the 20th and 21st centuries were significantly influenced by conflict, political repression, corruption, or economic mismanagement by authoritarian or colonial rulers.

This observation holds for the most severely food-insecure regions today, including the 2011 famine in Somalia, where food aid was severely limited or misdirected by the militant Islamist group al Shabaab and other groups.

Famine expert Stephen Devereux from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex encapsulates the evolution of famines across the 20th century, noting that the development of a global capacity to ensure food security coincided with governments’ increased ability to enforce harmful policies.

Consequently, the recent history of famine does not align well with the Malthusian narrative. Against Malthus’ predictions for rapidly growing populations, the per capita food supply has increased across all regions as populations have expanded. Furthermore, famines have become less frequent, not more. In the contemporary world, the presence or absence of famine and the effectiveness of prevention efforts are more significantly influenced by political actions and policy decisions than by mere population dynamics.

This is a very positive development, as it removes one of the big factors in causing famines. While famines are still undoubtedly a problem to be addressed in areas of the world. This steady decline is likely to continue and fears that we will run out of food is, luckily, unfounded.

If you want an in-depth look at how this all works, check out this great article.

Not Everything is as Bad as it Seems Part 1

There are a lot of things that are less than ideal in the world. Luckily, not everything is as bad as it is made out to be by doom and gloom clickbait articles. Mainstream news and culture have perpetuated a lot of myths, and we would like to dispel one of those today.

We recently ran an article about the surprisingly sharp drop in deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. This is great news in our opinion, but not because of the misconception that many people push, that the Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen in the world and that if it is cut down we will lose all of that air.

The truth is that while the Amazon does produce a lot of oxygen, it is so densely packed and teeming with life that it uses up all that it creates. While it is impossible to know exactly, it is calculated that its net oxygen output is around 0%.

The Amazon does do some helpful things. The rainforest helps recycle the water in the region, extending the wet season ensuring that plants in the area can grow without drying out and dying during the dry season.

The Amazon (and all forests) also helps improve air quality. Trees and plants feed on carbon dioxide to grow. If you have trees near to where carbon dioxide is being produced, the trees can absorb the gas and use it as fuel. The Amazon is able to pull in and absorb around 1.7 billion tons of CO2 per year, which is nearly 5% of the world’s annual emissions.

Hopefully you can come out of this article with a few positives. We will not all suffocate to death because of Amazon deforestation. We also have seen a large drop in deforestation. Armed with this knowledge, we all have some fun facts to repeat at our next social event.

A Sharp Drop in Amazon’s Deforestation

Amazon’s deforestation has dropped by 55% since last year, reaching its lowest levels since 2019. This decline is considered a significant achievement, particularly for the newly-elected officials in Brazil and Colombia.

The information comes from the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project, utilizing the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 satellite to track forest cover and loss across all Amazon nations, as reported to Reuters. Brazil, with a 59% reduction in primary forest loss.

The Amazon Rainforest’s role as a crucial carbon dioxide absorber is highlighted by some scientists as Earth’s primary tool against climate change. The Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project anticipates that the deforestation data will enhance the negotiating position of Amazonian countries for international conservation funding at the Paris Agreement summit, COP28.

— On a related note, we just ran an article about an amazing discovery in the Amazon that proved a very popular theory wrong. You can read it here.

Also, if you would like to know the truth, here is what the Amazon actually does in the environment and why things are better than most people realize.

Ozone Layer to Recover Within Decades

Scientists and researchers have been closely monitoring the ozone layer since the 1980s, when alarming reports of its depletion first surfaced. Now, over 40 years later, have we gotten past this potential danger?

The ozone layer, a vital shield that protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation, is on track to be fully restored within the next few decades. This remarkable recovery is likely the result of decisive action taken around world to phase out ozone-depleting substances, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), following the 1989 Montreal Protocol.

In the years since the Montreal Protocol was signed, the ozone layer has shown steady improvement. Scientists and researchers have been closely monitoring the ozone layer since the 1980s, when alarming reports of its depletion first surfaced. In the years since the Montreal Protocol was signed, it has shown steady improvement.

According to the latest UN assessment, the ozone layer is expected to be completely recovered by 2040 across most of the world, with the polar regions taking a bit longer – 2045 for the Arctic and 2066 for the Antarctic.

If you liked that article, you will probably enjoy reading this article about Amazon deforestation. Don’t worry, it is good news!