Foreign Policy, according to long time activists and observers, is a US magazine that has consistently in the past been the place where new directions/features in US foreign policies are first spelled out.

This makes the following article particularly alarming:

It highlights a study by two economists, and essentially said that the Black Death of the 14th century - which wiped out
between one-third and one-half of the continent's population - was the cause of Europe's prosperity, its rise from "global backwater", and the "foundations
of modern Western civilization".

Judging from the abstract of the Black Death study (full article:, it seems all it claimed is that their model is consistent with the following:
Population reduction of the Black Death lead to higher wages for labor, which lead to higher purchasing power, which lead to higher demand for urban products, therefore expansion of urban centers, the filthiness of which lead to more deaths, aided by wars, leading to even more urbanization, and higher per capita incomes, without technological change.
So urbanization and higher monetary income values are equated to the “Rise of Europe” (not surprising given that it's done by two economists).  It seems to me that this interpretation is only suitable for that historical time, even if one accepts that higher monetary income equates "rise" of a civilization.  Today our problems are very much associated with urbanization, industrialization, and the replacement of natural riches with monetary/artificial riches.

I also suspect that the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment, as well as some earlier Greek philosophical thoughts, DID indeed profoundly shape the direction European civilization and thought process undertook, in terms of how it viewed the natural world, human relations to it, how to quest for knowledge about it, etc.  

What is truly alarming though, is the fact that Foreign Policy chose to highlight such a study, wholly uncritical of its findings, and paired it with another one that predicted that high death rates from HIV could lead to higher
incomes in South Africa (in future generations, through simulation study).  It ended with a very suggestive statement: "Fortunately, no one's yet gone all apocalyptic
when searching for a solution to Europe's current economic woes."


 From: Lance Olsen <[log in to unmask]>
To: maggie zhou <[log in to unmask]> 
Cc: Climate And Biodiversity <[log in to unmask]> 
Sent: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 8:40 AM
Subject: Thinking beyond apocalypse: Consequences of human dieoff
Human population has long been subject to a now-familiar controversy. 
While many have pointed out that human overpopulation sets the stage 
for conflict of many kinds, others have pooh-poohed such concerns and 
insist instead that human underpopulation is the real concern.

More recently, questions have arisen over a potential crash of the 
human population -- or even extinction -- if emissions from fossil 
fuels push global average temperatures above 2 Celsius. This risk is 
for many the most disturbing of the questions raised by a world where 
the heat is clearly rising. And it will be miserable indeed for the 
many who will be affected during their own lifetimes.

But, looking beyond the generations affected directly as large parts 
of the planet become uninhabitable, what might the consequences be 
for the subsequent generations? Here too, we face controversy over an 
intrinsically sensitive question. But
 the topic of human life after 
human dieoff has not been entirely neglected by the behavioral/social 
sciences, and economists have been leading the discussion. Now, 
Foreign Policy reviews the possiblities, and points to some reading 
that many of us will and should take seriously.

"He who knows he has enough is rich."
"The first commandment of economics is: Grow. Grow forever. Companies 
get bigger. National economies need to swell by a certain percent 
each year. People should want more, make more, earn more, spend more 
-- ever more."

Donella Meadows, co-author, Limits to

" ... all of us, including scientists, will have to give serious 
thought to the notion that economic growth and true sustainable 
long-term wealth may now be antithetical."

Kurt Cobb, "Should Scientists Embrace Economic Growth?" Scitizen, 16 Oct, 2007
"If we are concerned about our great appetite for materials, it is 
plausible to increase the supply, to decrease waste, to make better 
use of the stocks that are available, and to develop substitutes. But 
what of the appetite itself? Surely this is the ultimate source of 
the problem.
 If it continues its geometric course, will it not one 
day have to be restrained? Yet in the literature of the resource 
problem this is the forbidden question. Over it hangs a nearly total 
silence. It is as though, in the discussion of the chance for 
avoiding automobile accidents, we agree not to make any mention of 

John K. Galbraith. "How much should a country consume?"
In Jarrett, Henry (editor), Perspectives on Conservation.
John Hopkins Press. 1958

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