Cornucopians (for cornucopia, the horn of plenty): growth can be unlimited because science and technology will always find the solution to problems and how to obtain and optimize resources. The Malthusians (by Thomas Malthus): predict that resources are going to be depleted and that growth cannot be indefinite.
The point is, Cornucopians have been getting it right for centuries . We have increased life expectancy, we have reduced the average environmental footprint, we have surprisingly optimized resources, we have found better resources when the ones we used ran out. With a scab: if we stop, if we adopt asceticism, we will end up polluting more, reproducing ourselves more quickly and, in addition, it will take more time to solve the problems that plague us.
A race forward (which, yes, can lead to extinction)
If science does not arrive in time, we will become extinct as a civilization or suffer some kind of collapse. Nobody knows what is going to happen. Nor is it very clear what to do. The only thing we know a little better, just a little bit, is what has already happened : whenever there has been energy shortage, food shortage, or resource shortage of any kind, it has been a powerful incentive for a solution to be sought.
Seeking solutions without incentives does not work. So we only seem to make leaps of prosperity when there are scarcity problems. If we try to consume less, following the degrowth logic, everyone will be exhausted the same because there are too many of us (and every time we are going to be more) .
The question, then, seems to lie in the fact that we must encourage innovation by depleting resources, but without going to one side or the other, because (again it must be remembered) we are reproducing ourselves as a species at an almost exponential speed . We will have to change the intensity depending on the circumstances (with the addition that it is difficult to change the intensity because in reality there is no one at the wheel, or there are very few, but rather everything is a complex organizational chart of tug of war and other interactions ).
The central idea of Cornucopians, however, is that this unbridled growth brings prosperity, and prosperity reduces the number of children we have. Just by installing drinking water in a place, the birth rate is reduced. Right now population growth is mainly due to poor countries. Before, all countries were poor. Now there is less and less. In about 2050, it is expected that there will be none. Then the demographic curve, apparently, will be narrowing little by little.
Other Cornucopians, however, believe that for that year the resources, the energy, the food … everything will exist in such abundance that it will cost almost zero.
In short, we do not know which position is correct. You have to tilt from one side to the other depending on the circumstances and the new data. But one thing seems clear enough: the degrowths have never been right. All of your predictions, all of your dooming messages released during the last 250 years, have always failed .
When a resource is exhausted, another is sought and a system is invented to optimize its consumption and thus the resource is multiplied for practical purposes. It has been a constant. From horses (which almost deplete the world’s food and create an environmental problem until that extreme situation prompted the development of the car) to any other challenge. With a no less important addition: the human being does not work like that. He has always been a consumerist . We are designed to consume in an arms racein which our reputation is at stake in front of others .
We cannot organize ourselves worldwide so that we do not consume or contaminate . Poor countries do it the most: what do we do with them? Somehow, we are doomed, bound to go in one direction. We can accelerate by creating incentives and investing in developments that multiply or optimize, or we can (a few) decelerate so that the same thing ends up happening with less incentives and less pressure and trusting that we are going to invest in those developments that multiply or optimize.
Both positions have indications that the human species has it difficult to survive. The cataclysms are coming (in the history of our world there have already been five mass extinctions: in the last 500 million years, life has been on the brink of disappearance five times ). But perhaps optimism, drive, hope and the feeling that we can deal with our destiny is the only thing left for us . Not only to survive, but also to feel alive. To feel that we can conquer the stars. A spirit that no movie or television series ever conveys, except this one: Dr. Stone . You can know more about her in the following video: