Why Thanos Was Wrong About Overpopulation

Thanos was wrong.

Last week, an article in Vice discussed why Thanos’ ideas about overpopulation were wrong. I suggest you don’t look at it unless you’ve already seen the movie, so you don’t encounter spoilers. But in the article, Lyman Stone, an economics researcher who specializes in population issues, was interviewed to explain why Thanos’ mission was wrong.

For your convenience, I’ve listed the reasons below:

1. We have enough food on our planet to feed our current population.

Stone said, “The caloric output of current agriculture is more than enough to feed everyone, and most of the world is nowhere near maximum theoretical yields with even current technology.”

2. Our water is renewable.

According to Stone, “Maybe people think we don’t have enough water. Water stress is a big deal in many parts of the world—but water is renewable. You can desalinate it, you can collect it from the atmosphere, it literally falls from the sky.”

3. The fundamental population problem is with energy.

Humanity’s biggest problem is finding good sources of energy, not overpopulation or food shortage.

To quote Stone, “Then the question is, why do we not have enough energy? That gets to fossil fuels, global warming—but at the end of the day, there is a vast amount of energy available using fairly simple technologies like wind, hydro energy, and biomass, which is renewable since the sun is pumping energy onto us. Energy is a place where we’re making massive strides, and the potential for renewables are enormous.”

4. Reducing the human population would not do that much to reduce global warming.

I know this statistic is shocking but hear Stone out.

“Look at the calculus on global warming—global warming is caused by how much carbon it takes to produce a dollar of economic output, multiplied by the dollars of economic output per person on earth, multiplied by the number of people. The trouble is while this is a neat way to break out the problem, it makes something look causal that might not be causal, and that’s population. The question is if you reduced population, would you actually get less emissions—and the answer is not really. There’s been a lot of research on this, on what happens when you get population reduction in a society. Emissions don’t shrink nearly as much as they should. You don’t turn the power plant off because population falls 5 percent, you still have the roads, there are fixed costs that don’t change.”

So, the next time someone at a social gathering tries to argue that Thanos was right, throw down these facts to put that misanthrope in their place.

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