Now then: National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson recently had some things to say. Excerpt:
Civilization is fragile. It hinges on ensuring the stuff of life.
To be able to eat, to move about, to have shelter, to be free from state or tribal coercion, to be secure abroad and safe at home — only that allows cultures to be freed from the daily drudgery of mere survival.
Civilization alone permits humans to pursue sophisticated scientific research, the arts, and the finer aspects of culture.
So the great achievement of Western civilization — consensual government, individual freedom, rationalism in partnership with religious belief, free market economics, and constant self-critique and audit — was to liberate people from daily worry over state violence, random crime, famine, and an often-unforgiving nature.
But so often the resulting leisure and affluence instead deluded arrogant Western societies into thinking that modern man no longer needed to worry about the fruits of civilization he took to be his elemental birthright.
As a result, the once prosperous Greek city-state, Roman Empire, Renaissance republics, and European democracies of the 1930s imploded — as civilization went headlong in reverse.
We in the modern Western world are now facing just such a crisis.
Think food alone. Forget the rest; think for a moment about just eating.
Here in the United States, we are fortunate to have some of the world’s best agricultural land, and lots of it. Even here in Alaska there are a lot of very productive truck farms (potatoes, onions, carrots and so forth) and dairy farms, mostly around Palmer in the Matanuska valley.
But the land is just one link in the chain. To feed a population of 330 million people, we need modern chemical fertilizers, modern agricultural equipment, extensive and fast transportation chains. All of those things are reliant on one thing: Petrochemicals. And plenty of them.
Civilizational collapses always start somewhere. Much of the developed world is facing a demographic crisis; people in places like Japan, Germany, Russia and the UK just aren’t having babies. As scribe and commentator Mark Stein is fond of pointing out, the future belongs to those who show up for it, and much of the developed world has opted out.
But the food problem, should the various anti-drilling nutbars get their way, could dramatically accelerate the issue. A serious reduction in petrochemical production could put agriculture back to the level of say, 1900 – at which point we’d be able to sustain a 1900-level population. 67 million, not 330 million. Remember, there’s more to this issue than just fueling tractors and combines; petroleum is the source for fertilizers, various lubricants, components of repair parts, a million other things that cannot be easily replaced.
So, 67 million instead of 330 million. What happens to that excess population? Well, I’m pretty sure you can work that out.