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High School Student,

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Should humanity bend to nature or should nature bend to humanity?

Thomas Malthus theorized that there is a limit to the size of the human population on Earth based on essential resources like food and water and on the prevalence of diseases, war and other things that cause mass death among humans. Throughout the course of history we have pushed this limit (called the Malthusian limit) back with our advances in agriculture, medicine, cleanliness, etc. However, I see our popuation quickly approaching this limit. For example, there are water shortages world wide and much of in fact most of the human population lives in a country where starvation is rampant. But it doesn't have to be that way, we have the technology to yet again push back the Malthusian limit. We can push it back farther than we ever have before using technology like vertical farming and desalination. Also, we are curing and treating diseases at a rate that has never before been seen in human history.

Unfortunately, as I see it, humans will eventually reach a point where we will have to choose to tame nature so that its sole purpose is to allow for the increase of our population or to let nature remain untamed and force the human population to reach the Malthusian limit thus causing starvation, dehydration, epidemics, etc.

My view is that eventually nature will have to bend to humanity otherwise there will be death on epic proportions. However, I want to believe otherwise so please convince me that I'm wrong or if you agree with me help me fight back the hordes of optimists.


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  • Jul 8 2012: A common arguement is that humans will never have the power to bend nature to our will and while I believe that in some ways this is true some things we will be able to control. For example, for this issue if you consider nature to be the entire universe then humans, for the foreseeable future, don't have the power to manipuate it. But if you consider nature on an earthly scale then the only things I think we don't have the ability to control is the weather and natural disasters like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. If you think about it with vertical farming the restraints of area and climate disappear we could be growing corn in the middle of the sahara desert. Also, with desalination the entire oceans are available to us as a water source up unti now we have been getting by with one percent of the worlds water, we will never have water shortages again. We would not be giving up all that is green and natural because we need plants for oxygen, we would simply organize nature. We would set out specific areas for natural habitat to ensure that we have fresh air. What we would be doing is essentially is putting nature on reservations.
    Now I will admit that in some ways we will have to change, we will have to use clean energy, we will have to recycle everything, we will have to make sure that we are not harming what is left that is natural. But I think that it can be done and I think that it should be done. While I agree that it does seem selfish to do this, I think its happening is inevitable, human progress and development will march on till the day we go extinct.

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