The Paradox of Sustainability

In economics, one of the first things that undergraduates learn is Thomas Malthus’ theory of population growth. The idea is that population grows at an exponential rate while food production could only grow at an arithmetic rate. This means population growth should theoretically outpace food production and provide a natural check. As humanity typically does, we found away around Malthus’ problem and produced food exponentially with technological advantages and efficiency upgrades. We’ve been able to match our food production with our population growth, but the cost of this was the sustainability of our production. We’re exhausting resources at an alarming rate to keep feeding our growing population and it seems we’ve moved past the point of no return. If we were able to produce all food sustainably, it would definitely cut our total production, dooming millions of people to starvation. I don’t know how we could possibly get back to a sustainable production level without dropping our total