The Population Principle

Today was not the first woman to join the ranks, though uncharacteristic of the gender, of seemingly senseless workplace murderers. My curiosity was piqued because, for one, I can’t remember a single recent instance of a woman at the workplace with a gun, and an ensuing massacre.

That might sound cold, and maybe it should. There’s been more than enough to sift through. If I’m not mistaken, two made the news today. The woman in Maryland, and the kidnapping suspect with an AK-47 in Miami. So it begs the question, if the argument is going to happen regarding this violence, and whether the catalyst is small arms proliferation in society or unmanaged mental health, or some other cause, isn’t now as good a time as any.

And if they both contribute as joint factors, could there be a greater factor that’s gone unchecked, that’s busy affecting every other great tragedy on our plates.

It’s difficult not to sideline the tragedies when nature whips up disaster every fall, and every fall, our nation seems even less prepared to handle these inevitable mass casualties, than it was the year before. Even the most empathetic of us struggle to distribute our hopes and prayers evenly between the teens of Stoneman-Douglass and the toddlers from years before, to the immigrants’ children caged across the country, to those surviving floods and quakes, and all those not so lucky, and let us not forget the persecuted and the noble soldiers.

It’s damned taxing. Especially at a time where we’ve become so divided and cantankerous in our vitriol.

Thomas Malthus was a scholar and influential in the development of modern demography, which is basically the study of economics influenced by population. There’s more to the definition. Look it up.

He wrote a very influential book called An Essay on the Principle of Population. In it, he noted that human population grows unchecked at an unsustainable rate. It was published in 1798, when there were still an abundance of resources to go around.

Still, he suggested that, eventually, mankind would multiply beyond the threshold of sustainable wealth. Not currency, because that’s just a tool. Rather wealth of resource. Not just crops, but, land to grow them, soil nutrient and water to feed them. Eventually the clearing of vegetation and deforestation would shift the ecosystem so greatly that species extinction would become commonplace, even considered collateral damage for the greater good.

Once human species expansion reached that critical mass, certain seemingly unexplainable phenomena would increase. Phenomena such as severe mental toxicity, manifest in violence and inexplicable behaviour, fluctuation in birth rate in certain populations, birth defects from malnutrition, sudden disease reemergence, mutations in existing disease and increases in impact and instance.

Then, as that all took the stage, the more extreme effects of population overgrowth, or rather the byproducts, manifest in the environment.

Mass deforestation and industrial exhaust weren’t even a nightmare in the late 18th century. However, extinction and human hubris was. So he factored that in as well.

He wrote, there would be floods, quakes, cyclones, droughts, and all manner of natural disaster in quick succession. All with the innate purpose of returning balance to a strained and exploited biome.

And so, here we are. I’d read a critique of that essay when I was in the marine corps still, curiously digging through controversial lit. I’d read the communist manifesto, which led me to Darwin, who led me to Elaine Morgan and also to Malthusian logic. That was when everyone was frantic with Y2K fever. Ostensibly the first time since the Cuban missile crises, where mass hysteria went unchecked.

Of course, the sky did not fall.

Then Al Gore made a movie. And caution and reason became partisan.

In 2012, I believe there was more anticipation than dread behind the hubbub of the Mayan Calendar misreading.

But from there, I’ve watched as hopes and prayers became less and less fertile.

The U.N. Chief warned of the “Direct Existential Threat” of climate change (if left unchecked). Climate change. The Elephant in the room that none of the elephants in the room choose to acknowledge even exists.

And guns remain beloved.

Literally everything is sold as single servings, and trash continues to flow like the wine that fogs our reason by the millions.

The bees are safe for now, and the babies’ fates are up for debate again. I’m referring to the one thing we can still keep in our control.

And here’s my first opinion in this diatribe. Humanity’s overinflated sense of its own value, its sense of righteous deserving, is what’s causing the waters to rise and the bees to die and the children to murder their classmates en masse, and chicken little and the boys who cry wolf are not to blame. Not even the righteous who sit in their pews and sing hallelujah to their favorite gods.

It’s just nature. Beautiful, brutal, majestically malevolent nature and the balance of her countless microbiomes, putting to bed the hubris of another unchecked wave of her top predators.

Hopes and prayers.