David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Dickson Despommier On Population Growth and Food Production

Dickson Despommier:
Well, if I were Malthus I’d give you that answer of course. My name is
Charles Darwin, I’ll give you another answer. In fact, if I was Adam
Smith I’d give you a third answer. Well, I have too many answers for
you. The mechanical era has sort of obviated the need for doomsday
predictions with regards to out of control populations because every
time it appeared that we couldn’t do anything more, we could do
something more. So we had the first green revolutions which I just
talked about. The second green revolution came when it became obvious
that if you don’t start fertilizing the ground with fertilizers, with
food supplements I should say, and if we don’t start trying to get rid
of the competitor species, mainly the weeds with herbicides and also
the pests that want to eat this crop, that we can outgrow to profusion
as a result of the invention of dynamite by the way. Yeah, because it
allowed us to clear the fields of all those rotten little trees that we
had to get rid of. So too bad, because we can use those trees again. We
now find ourselves in another dilemma where we think the population
will peak, and the food supply will dwindle, so we’ll be once again
involved in a Malthusian mind game. I don’t believe that for a minute.
I think that that whatever problem is presented to the human species,
we’ve got such a big cerebral cortex we can solve it if we all agree
to. And that’s the issue. Do we want to solve the next problem to usher
in the third green revolution? The second one was all of those
pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer things, plus not genetically
modified foods but certainly highly selected foods, and in fact, if you
look at our foods today virtually every crop that’s grown originated
from some wild plant that you would not recognize. An apple was about
the size of a little pea. It started out in Russia someplace, and if
you took a bite of it you wouldn’t be able to eat for a week. Your
mouth would be closed. It’s so sour that you wouldn’t believe that
someone would actually want to eat this thing. But yet domestication of
that plant has now resulted in believe it or not 20,000 different
varieties of apples from a single unit plant. All right, so you look at
wheat, it’s been the same. You look at rice, it’s been the same. We’ve
been marvelous at selecting crops to fit into climates that are suited
for the optimum growth of those plants. But what was there before?
That’s the point. There was a natural ecosystem there before we planted
those crops.

Recorded on: 6/10/08

Dickson Despommier gives four answers: the Malthusian, the Darwinian, the Smithian, and his own.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less