It’s Not as Clear as You Think

Following on in my series on using your mind to fight against the Will to Not Believe, I offer a vision of an age-old conundrum, the Gordian Knot. In legend, the King of Gordium tied a knot so intricately that only the future ruler of Asia would be able to untie it. Along comes Alexander the Great (or so to be the Great anyway) and hacks the knot in half with his sword. Problem solved. Hmmm. Sounds Solomonic, doesn't it? Today the Gordian Knot is understood to be any problem so intricate that it cannot be solved on its own terms.

Our culture, our community, our country, and indeed our world face a Gordian Knot of Global proportions. Tug on one end and others tighten: each loose end depends upon other ends for solutions.Let's examine our knot in terms of the loose ends:

  • Overpopulation
  • Pollution
  • Systemic Hunger
  • Climate changes (whether naturally occurring or human assisted)
  • Cultural mistrust and conflict
  • And others that I'm certain that I've omitted.


Now, to hear the pundits, candidates, and others with the need to be heard above the surf, would have you believe that these problems are new and the fault of those currently in power. They alone, given the power, can eliminate them. I have a single response to this hypothesis – Balderdash!

I've rooted out those responsible for the loose threads. Had they not done what they did, even if they did it with the best of intentions, we would be much fewer and maybe, just maybe, better off. But that's questionable as well, depending upon your point of view.

I've looked at my list and conclude (arguable, of course) that each is a subproblem of overpopulation. There are just too damned many of us on this big blue marble.

Here is a list of the culprits and I assure you that not one of them holds current public office, nor has in this or even the last century. By the way, this fits remarkably within the Malthusian theory of population; in that the human population grows more rapidly than the food supply until famines, war or disease reduces the population. Uh oh. We've been meddling with Nature, trying to stay out of the Malthusian Trap.

If there wasn't an abundance of food, would we have overpopulation? I submit that Charles Newbold of New Jersey and Cyrus Mc Cormick of Virginia are prime suspects in the explosion of food crops and, subsequently, of the population to eat them.

Newbold invented the Iron plow, capable of breaking up nearly any soil type, enabling the planting of ever larger acreage, resulting in larger harvests. More food = more people. Right?

Cyrus McCormick of Virginia invented the mechanical combine, which enabled farmers to harvest their crops of wheat more efficiently and rapidly, using less labor. I repeat: More food = more people.

Fritz Haber from Germany developed chemical fertilizers in 1913, resulting in better crop yield from less productive land. I won't repeat the more food thing.

But the winner is the Sumerians, responsible for the first insecticides more than 4500 years ago. Fewer bugs = more crops.

The point here is that our current problems are merely the lingering results of events occurring hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Now, disease has always been a great population control device. Plagues have, uh, plagued humanity (I'll leave the animals out of it. They have their own problems.) since … oh … way back. Now come the spoilers.

Let us begin with the Black Death. After all, it has better press. After killing millions over the ages, the plague (call it what you will, Black Death, Bubonic Plague, etc.) was brought to heel in 1897 by Valdemar Haffkine of Germany.

Smallpox, killer of its own set of millions over time met its match with Edward Jenner in 1798.

Typhoid, once the historical bane of crowded and filthy inner cities, fell to the hand of Almoth Wright in 1896.

While this meant fewer deaths, that translated to more people who, in their own time, would be responsible for more people … in a nearly logarithmic progression. And they had food to eat. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the 'Be fruitful and multiply' doctrine of most modern religions. But that's for another day.

The end to which we are drawn is that no single modern person or government is responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves – except for mismanaging the gifts given us by these men (they all were men) who made contributions that they truly believed were in the best interest of mankind. Were they? Or did they, each in their own way, destroy the natural balance of Nature?

More food meant more people. Better disease control meant fewer people would die. Uh, that's a recipe for overpopulation in my book.

Next time, I'm going to comb history for those responsible for pollution and global warming. Ya'll come back now. Y'hear?

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Sunday, 21 April 2024