From The Invisibility of Success:
The Second and Third Handles on the Population Problem
Grasping the second handle on the problem—increasing food
production to feed our growing population—has given us an
unwinnable Food Race that operates just the way the Cold War
Arms Race did. In the Arms Race, every win on the U.S. side
was answered by a win on the Soviet side, and every win on the
Soviet side was answered by a win on the U.S. side, over and over
again in self-perpetuation. In the Food Race, every win on the food-
production side is answered by a win on the population side, and
every win on the population side is answered by a win on the food-
production side, over and over again in self-perpetuation. Far from
postponing the Malthus Disaster, the Food Race is hastening it.
The Arms Race could only be ended by someone reaching for the
third handle: Walk away from the race. And that’s the third handle
by which the Food Race can (and must) be ended: Only by ending
the Food Race can we end the disastrous growth of our population.
It should be noted that, while it was widely deplored, the Arms Race
gave great joy to the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex. They had a
vested interest in the Cold War and would have been delighted to
see the Arms Race continue forever. In the same way, the Food Race
gives great joy to the Food Producing, Processing, and Distributing
Complex. They have a vested interest in population growth and
would be delighted to see the Food Race continue forever.
There was a Mikhail Gorbachev to see to it that the Arms Race was
abandoned. We have no such person to see to it that the Food Race
is abandoned. You and I will have to do it—you and everyone else
who cares about the human future on this planet.
Tell everyone, print it on every surface: "Constantly increasing food
production doesn’t AVERT disaster, it HASTENS it."
If anyone tells you that we MUST increase food production to feed
our starving millions, tell them that increasing food production has
never fed our starving millions. Year after year we go on increasing
food production, and year after year the starving millions go on
starving. Increasing food production doesn’t REDUCE the number of
people who are starving, it INCREASES that number, just the way it
increases the number of blue-eyed people and the number of brown-
eyed people, the number of right-handed people and the number of
left-handed people, the number of short people and the number of
There are no starving rich people anywhere, no starving middle-
class people, no starving lower-class people, no starving working-
poor people. Only the poorest of the poor are starving—and that’s
not because there’s no food. There’s plenty of food, but they have
no money to buy it. Producing food—no matter how much—puts
no money in the pockets of the poor, and money is what they need
to keep from starving.
No other undertaking comes close to equaling the importance of
ending the growth of our population, which at seven billion is
causing the extinction of an estimated 50,000 species a year. Every
day all over the world diversity is disappearing as more and more of
our planet’s biomass is being turned into human mass. This is what
the Food Race is about. This is exactly what the Food Race is about:
every year turning more of our planet’s biomass into human
It has become my most important task to bring into view a third
handle by which this problem can be carried: the unarguable fact
that the Food Race can no more be won than the Arms Race could
be won—and for the same reason: Neither race has a finish line,
because every win made on the side of food is answered by a win
on the side of population.
The strange thing is that many people HATE hearing all this, yet I’m
clearly pointing out a path of possibility and hope for humankind.
I’m not a doom merchant, my compass is set firmly on success. Our
population explosion is a problem we canget a handle on, provided
we start reaching for it with that third hand.