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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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A long way from our peak

Sean Corrigan's superb essay on finite resources

Now this is what I call magnificent writing in the sprit of Swift: Sean Corrigan riffs on peak oil, finite resources and the planet's carrying capacity:

It is much better to forget all that Sierra Club/WWF elitist, anti-mankind, horse manure about 'the call on the planet' exerted by us members of the 'plague species' and to take a little Bjorn Lomberg, a smattering of Julian Simon, and a riffle-through of Matt Ridley, regarding the minuscule size of the impact which our tiny little ilk - unimaginably outweighed by living forms we cannot even see - can really expect to exert on the vast, negatively-feedbacked rock which we inhabit-and to glory in the sustained quality of our response to the challenges which confront us, even under the far-from-ideal conditions under which we are usually asked to make it.

For example, just as an exercise in contextualisation, consider the following:-

The population of Hong Kong: 7 million. Its surface area: 1,100 km2

The population of the World: nigh on 7 billion, i.e., HK x 1000

1000 x area of HK = 110,000 km2 = the area of Cuba or Iceland

Approximate area of the Earth's landmass = 150 million km2

Approximate total surface area = 520 million km2

So, were we to build one, vast city of the same population density as Hong Kong to cover the entirety of Fidel's little fiefdom (not necessarily a Blade Runner vision of hell), this would accommodate all of humanity, and take up just 0.07% of the planet's land area and 0.02% of the Earth's surface.

Add in another patch or two for energy generation and maybe another few for growing food - perhaps by building super-efficient, CO₂-enriched, drip-irrigated, skyscraper hydroponics factories, by exploiting the potential of the surrounding oceans more fully, or by bioengineering photosynthetic bugs to grow us pure nutrients -  and this would partition dear old Spaceship Earth thus: six or seven bits for us weakling, co-operative mutualists and 4,720 bits for all the unimaginable cornucopia of other species to wax and wane at each other's red-in-tooth-and-claw expense, undisturbed by human hand.

Not such a bad ratio, you might think, even if you are a Marquis de Sade, equal-rights-for-plants-and-animals (plague bacilli and malarial parasites?), super-egalitarian nutcase.

 

Read the whole thing.