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Main article: Environmental attitudes

A cornucopian is someone who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by advances in technology. Fundamentally there is enough matter and energy on the Earth to provide plenty for the estimated peak population of about 9 billion in 2050. However, this must also mean that there is enough for the current world population but starvation and fuel poverty have not been eradicated, suggesting that the problem is not a lack of resources but the distribution of said resources by the current economic and political system. Looking further into the future the abundance of matter and energy in space would appear to give humanity almost unlimited room for growth.

The term comes from the cornucopia, the mythical "horn of plenty" of the Greek mythology which supplied its owners with endless food and drink magically. The cornucopians are sometimes known as "Boomsters", and their philosophic opponents—Malthus and his school—are called "Doomsters" or "Doomers."

Description by an opposing viewEdit

A cornucopian is someone who posits that there are few intractable natural limits to growth and believes the world can provide a practically limitless abundance of natural resources. The term 'cornucopian' is sometimes used derogatorily, especially by those who are skeptical of the view that technology can solve, or overcome, the problem of an exponentially-increasing human population[1] living off a finite base of natural resources.

In practice, the cornucupian view relies upon the economic law of supply and demand, which has the following implication: as long as the price of a good is free to adjust, all consumers who wish to purchase the good at the going price are able to do so. Resources do not run out, they simply become more expensive.

Peak oil Edit

In the Peak Oil debate, cornucopians posit that higher oil prices increase the amount of oil which is economically recoverable, and also spur the development of alternative fuels. Peak oil proponents ("Peakniks") question the cornucopian view that the market will solve the problem by itself, as the market may not adequately discount the future cost of an unanticipated decline in petroleum production. That is, by the time the market responds to a developing global shortage of oil, economies may lack the necessary time to adjust. Peakniks stress that liquid petroleum is a finite resource, and Hubbert peak theory posits that production will not increase above some finite maximum rate, no matter how much demand increases. Hubbert peak theory predicts that the world production rate of conventional oil will reach a peak, most likely without warning, and then production will irreversibly decline in the years following the peak, perhaps too fast for industrial economies to adjust. Peakniks also argue that alternative energy cannot simply be plugged in, since these alternatives lack the fungibility, portability, and energy density of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. For example, transportation in the United States depends on petroleum for about 97% of its energy, and replacing the existing vehicle fleet to run on a different energy source (e.g., electricity or hydrogen) would require decades. The petrochemical industry and industrial agriculture also depend critically on petroleum, and would be similarly hard-pressed to find suitable substitutes if world oil production were to peak unexpectedly and then decline quickly after the peak. Adjusting may be all the harder once the oil production decline is underway, as high petroleum prices may shrink economic output and reduce the availability of capital for replacing the petroleum infrastructure.

Peakniks contend that because transportation, food, and petrochemicals are so critical to modern economies, and because these sectors depend so heavily on petroleum, the peaking of world oil production combined with the general lack of preparation for it may pose a stiff challenge both to the cornucopian view of economics and to the modern way of life.

Key namesEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • The Doomslayer
  • The Problem of Denial
  • Julian Simon & Perilous Optimism
  • Homer-Dixon, Thomas F. "On the Threshold: Environmental Changes as Causes of Acute Conflict." International Security, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Autumn, 1991), 76-116.
  • Homer-Dixon, Thomas F, "Environment, scarcity and violence", Princeton, 1999.
  • Simon, Julian L. "The ultimate resource", Oxford, 1981.
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