Prophets of doom:
It’s nice to feel in the mainstream.  The history channel did a program on doom and gloom.  The subjects up for discussion were oil, water, finance, robots and terrorism.

The issue with oil is “peak oil” the moment when the world can no longer increase the rate at which oil is recovered.  So far as I know, this has already happened.  For a few years now pretty much all the increase in energy consumption has come from recovering low molecular weight hydrocarbons from natural gas.  That will probably increase for a time.  Of course the tragic earthquake and tidal wave in Japan and the prolonged efforts to get back in control of some damaged reactors has spread a pall over nuclear power that will probably continue for some time.  If it can happen in Japan it can happen anywhere.  There is a building near Tokyo that is often referred to as a pagoda but I understand it is really just ornamental.  It is a graceful towering structure, and the builders designed it so that successive levels would not transmit stress to each other during an earthquake.  During WW II an American bomb landed near it, whether on purpose or not I have not been told, and the edifice just shrugged.  But even Japan has had a problem with nukes.

Water is a serious issue, too.  It is not the amount but the price that is at issue.  With enough energy you can make fresh water from seawater, but subsistence farmers in much of the world would never be able to afford that, and that is where the droughts seem to be hitting the worst.

There is the possibility of a financial crisis returning.  Financial crises are always returning.  The Big Bank Bailout pumped something like a trillion dollars into the possession of rich folks.  If there are 200 million tax payers in the country, that would be about five thousand dollars each.  I would just as happily had the money myself.  I wouldn’t even have voted myself a bonus for it.  Yet we survived and I dare say will for some time.

There is a question on insufficient food for the world.  Actually there is plenty of food, but so much of it rots in the fields or otherwise never gets eaten that world hunger is very serious.  You would think we could fix that, but even if we did we would still be faced with a relative shortage as the world population continues to grow.  There are indeed too many people for my comfort.  My worry of course is how deep the decline will be after growth stops. 

There was a fear that robots would take us over.  That does not bother me so much as wondering what would happen if we found ourselves totally committed to computers and then something happened to the computers.  Even the poorest regions would not be exempt.  They mostly have cell phones, which are a great benefit to them, but which would be imperiled by something like a truly malignant computer virus or simply a day on which nobody understood the system well enough to maintain it, much less replace it.

And terrorism will always be a loose cannon on deck as long as there are populations that are unfairly dominated by other populations, and there seems to be no impulse to change that except in detail here or there with the quite plausible outcome of simply exchanging one unfairness for another.

All these issues concern somebody or other.  The notion of catastrophic fertility decline is not even up for debate. 

It needs to be.

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