Blog Archives

On World Population, Hydroponic Cucumbers, & Milk

Countries of the world proportioned according to their populations as of 2010

I just found an excellent video on CBC News. Apparently, “the world prepares to welcome its seventh billion inhabitant sometime this year.” Its eighth billionth is projected to appear in 2025, but world population is expected to settle at 9-10 billion by 2100. As well, India is projected to become the most populous country by 2050.

Oh, and by the same institution (Agence France-Presse): Malthus, anyone? No, to invoke Malthus is to be overly pessimistic; I think that hydroponic growth sounds quite promising, especially if we can manage to do such farming in multiple floors of skyscrapers, which would provide a more efficient use of space than our clumsy acre system, and the lack of wasted resources would allow the world’s poor to be fed with little to no extra water and nutrients used (which is especially pertinent given the looming water crisis). The main problem is accumulating energy cheaply enough to make these projects profitable…

Hydroponics allows an indoor (i.e. weather-independent) means of growing foods with no waste of water & nutrients; with every variable known & controlled, hydroponics epitomizes the modernist project.

In 1988, The Newfoundland government (Canada) donated $13 million of taxpayers’ money to build a “space-age greenhouse” which would hydoponically grow cucumbers which would sprout to full size within six days. Unfortunately, because of the market being flooded with cucumbers, the company, Enviroponics, had to sell their cucumbers at $0.55 wholesale, while each cucumber costed them $1.10 each. According to a survey near that time, the average Newfoundlander ate only half a cucumber a year, and Enviroponics could not export their cucumbers at a profit, so surplus cucumbers flooded Newfoundland’s market, and its dumps (reminiscent of the semi-recent European milk crisis, except less morally ambiguous and more inept; point your mouse at the links for explanation). In 1989 Enviroponics went bankrupt, selling its facility to another company for $1. A total of about 800,000 cucumbers were produced, and the cost to taxpayers per cucumber was $27.50, compared to 50 cents for cucumbers produced out of province and sold in Newfoundland grocery stores. This “boondoggle” (i.e. fiasco) has since become a symbol of foolish government spending. (via)

Close-up of a hydroponic apparatus (cf. the diagram above)

Just a little history lesson. Nevertheless, it’s been 20 years, no? Surely hydroponic science has progressed a bit further since then. At any rate, however, the world is in no state to revolutionize farming methods anytime soon. Still, hopefully the above has suggested that the modernist dream of ‘mapping’ every variable of the world is still going strong, despite the postmodernists clamor. But then, social science is still in its infancy compared to the mass progress of the natural sciences (as Imre Lakatos asserts, with whom I more or less agree), yet it’s precisely this latter field that will most likely give representatives of the modernist project a run for their money (hopefully in the literal as well as the figurative sense).

Max Stirner: The Problem of Realism & The Heuristic Response

“Ich hab’ Mein’ Sach’ auf Nichts gestellt.”

[I have set my course on nothing.] 

~Stirner, quoting Goethe’s poem “Vanitas! Vanitatum Vanitas!”

Max Stirner (the penname of Johann Kaspar Schmitt) was a member of the Young Hegelians (of which Marx & Engels were members), which believed that Hegel was a covert atheist, i.e. that his ‘theology’ could be removed from his system with no significant loss. As well, they abided by Marx’s now-clichéd line: “The philosophers have hitherto explained the world. The point is to change it”[1]. Feuerbach in his book The Essence of Christianity & Bruno Bauer in his book Critique of The Gospel History both rejected religion in favor of a humanism which is also evident in Marx’s earlier writings. Stirner worked as a teacher in a girl’s school, a job which he very much cherished, but which he left before publishing his magnum (and for that matter, only) opus, Der Einzige Und Das Eigentum[2] (The Ego & Its Own), in order to prevent scandal when the book’s authorship was traced to him. Indeed, it caused something of a scandal in Germany, and was entirely unexpected by Stirner’s fellow Young Hegelians, as Stirner was one of the most quiet and benign members: the book is a fierce invective toward each of the Young Hegelians, one of his arguments being that Feuerbach & Bauer had merely replaced God with ‘Man’, another hypostatized notion that was hardly better than before. 

Marx himself spent 300 pages arguing against Stirner in The German Ideology (at times in an embarrassingly puerile fashion), before ultimately leaving the book unpublished. Bauer & Feuerbach also countered Stirner, but were refuted in another of his essays, this one under the guise of a university student, called Stirner’s Critics. Bernd Laska and J.L. Walker’s introduction to The Ego & Its Own both argue that Stirner was a founding influence on the thought of Nietzsche, and it is Stirner’s book to which Foucault refers when he asserts that Nietzsche’s writings about the ‘death of God’ were actually obliquely referring to the death of Man. The book was also read by Adorno, who is reported to have said that Stirner “let the cat out of the bag”, as well as by Jürgen Habermas and perhaps Carl Schmitt.

Read the rest of this entry