Numbers with a lot of zeros quite easily make me dizzy.
In 1972, the Club of Rome published its famous report Limits to Growth, which presented the world with a doom scenario featuring overpopulation as one of the villains of the piece. Now, forty years later, have we gone beyond those concerns? The opposite appears to be the case: rising consumption, an aging population and the chances of unexpected calamities have added to our unease. At a university which addresses important issues such as land use, food production, climate change and biodiversity, the problem of population growth should be high on the agenda, if you ask me.
Perhaps something else plays a role in our concern about the future of our densely populated planet: human powerlessness. Can we resist the one-sided compulsion towards material gain, and what lessons have we learned from the distant or recent past? The aim justifies the means, said the Italian political philosopher Machiavelli in 1513, while the French philosopher Montesquieu proclaimed two centuries later that all power corrupts. If so, perhaps it applies more between the ears than between the legs.