“Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime”

I am sure you have heard this proverb many times. The proverb uses fish to stand for all food. It could be rephrased as: “Give a man some food and you will feed him for a day. Teach him to get his own food, and he will be fed for a lifetime.” The idea is to make a person self-sufficient.

However, the proverb presupposes two things. First, that you are allowed to fish in a particular place for free. But this is not true in places such as Illinois (where I live). I am allowed to fish only if I purchase a fishing license. Second, this assumes that there are fish in the water where I wish to fish. But given our ecological policies, there may not be any fish to fish for; or, they may be diseased and inedible.

Generalizing, in order to get food on your own, you must have free access to subsistence land. For the time being, there are indigenous stateless people who do have some limited free access; the rest of us who live in States, have to purchase or rent such subsistence land.

Collapse!

I know that it is very difficult to predict with any accuracy about what will happen to humans — there are too many factors to consider. Nonetheless, there are some generalizations which can be made. One is that the sun will burn out is some 4 to 5 billion years. Another is that given finite resources, infinite growth is impossible. It is this last generalization which has been at the horizon of my thinking — made explicit by Thomas Malthus, who in 1789 published an essay noting that resources (specifically food) grow arithmetically, while populations grow exponentially. The conclusion seemed obvious to me: there is a limit to growth. And a report by that name, “The Limits to Growth” was published in 1973, using a computer to take into account various factors. [Here is a documentary about this project:

The criticism was that the predictions failed. This is true. But the claim that there is a limit to growth with finite resources seems to me to be a truism, as does Paul Ehrich’s “The Population Bomb” (1968). Again, the criticism of these books was not that there is a population problem, but a disagreement about the severity of it, and what will take care of this problem.

We are now living in the midst of an ecological crisis, as well as with other possible global collapses. This impending sense of collapse has been analyzed and proclaimed by a host of people. One of them is Jared Diamond in his book “Collapse” (2005). Below is his 2003 TED talk on this subject:

Recently, I came across the compelling documentary film “Prophets of Doom” (2011):

It includes the following six “prophets”:

  • Michael Ruppert (1951-2014): “Confronting Collapse,” “Crossing the Rubicon”
  • Nathan Hagens
  • John Cronin: “The Riverkeepers”
  • James Howard Kunstler: “The Long Emergency,” “Home From Nowhere”
  • Hugo De Garis
  • Robert Gleason: “End of Days”

    Chris Hedges, The Myth of Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

    Kirkpatrick Sale, The Collapse of 2020, 2020.

  • Greatest Problem in the World

    David Pimentel, “FOOD, LAND, POPULATION and the U.S. ECONOMY,” 1994.

    Andrew Chrucky, The Greatest Problem in the World, 1985.

    Paul R. Ehrlich & Anne H. Ehrlich, The Population Explosion, 1990.

    Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798.

    Antony Flew, Introduction to Thomas Malthus’ An Essay on the Principle of Population (1970)