There have been several debates here on Gristmill lately about capitalism, consumerism, communalism, corporatism, and, you know … The System. It’s worth remembering some crucial context.

Somewhere in the early 1800s, the number of human beings on earth reached a billion. In the 1920s, it reached two billion. In 1960, three billion. Four billion in 1974. Five billion in 1987. Six billion in 1999.

By around 2045, there will be nine billion people on the planet.

Now, I don’t want to start one of the interminable debates about population that exercise the environmental community and bore everybody else.

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It’s just a fact of note that a world with 9 billion homo sapiens on it is fundamentally different than one with a billion on it.

So the obvious answer to the question of "how should 9 billion human beings best organize their collective affairs?" is:

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No. One. Knows.

The past is no longer prologue. Maybe capitalism can keep up? Maybe some reversion to localized communalism? Maybe some combination? Or maybe it’s just impossible for 9 billion people to live on earth without causing widespread misery and disaster. Maybe no "system" can handle it.

We’re in uncharted territory. A little humility is called for all around.

That’s all.