Written by Lester Brown

Througout most of human history, the growth of population, the rise in income, and the development of new technologies were so slow as to be imperceptible during an individual lifetime. The population growth of today has no precedent. Throughout most of our existence as a species, our members were numbered in the thousands. Today, they measure in the billions. Our evolution has prepared us to deal wtih many threats, but perhaps not with the threat we pose to ourselves with the uncontrolled growth in our own numbers.

The world economy has grown even faster. The sevenfold growth in global output of goods since 1950 dwarfs anything in history. In the earlier stages of the Industrial Revolution, economic expansion rarely exceeded 1 or 2 percent per year. The pace of history is also accelerating as soaring human demands collide with the earth's natural limits.

The central question is whether the accelerating change that is an integral part of the modern landscape is beginning to exceed the capacity of our social institutions to cope with change. When our numbers were small relative to the size of the planet, it was manmade capital that was scarce. Natural capital was abundant. Now that has changed, As human enterprise continues to expand, the products and services provided by the earth's ecosystem are increasingly scarce, and natural capital is fast becoming the limiting factor.

As H. G. Wells wrote in The Outline of History, "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."

Lester Brown, Eco-Economics, pp.19-21.

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