Over the past 150 years, food production per capita has increased steadily, allowing populations to increase and urban population to swell. This movement away from self-produced food empowers people to specialize. Once a family no longer needs to worry about providing its members with sustenance, it is able to employ its energies in a broader range of activities. There are many benefits to a more specialized populace, such an increased GDP per capita, industrial innovation, and lifespan. Civilization, in a word. However, this massive expansion comes at the cost of increased use of fossil (non-renewable) resources.
Throughout most of the Middle East, Northern China, and the American Midwest, the overwhelming increase in food productivity comes from overdrawing from water tables that are bei...
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...es with a price not addressed on the price tag. Air quality and CO2 emissions are externalities that have an enormous impact on the environment and health. In the northwestern industrial city of Benxi, smoke from burning coal shrouds the city, giving the residents the worst rate of lung disease in the country, and occasionally making the city disappear from satellite scans.
Externalities must be addressed if our global economy is to survive. It is all fine and dandy to maximize our current global production, but if it leads to a catastrophic meltdown when resources run out, I cannot bring myself to enjoy the brief prosperity. Irresponsible overuse of finite resources is a kind of generational injustice leagues beyond the tragedy of genocide, since it will force a return to brutal, nasty and short lives, if humanity survives this sanguinary practice at all.
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