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We Have Met the Vampires … And They Are Us


By Kyle G. Crider

“The fact of the matter is, if vampires truly feed with even a tiny fraction of the frequency that they are depicted to in movies and folklore, then the human race would have been wiped out quite quickly after the first vampire appeared.” -- Costas Efthimiou and Sohang Gandhi, “Cinema Fiction vs. Physics Reality: Ghosts, Vampires, and Zombies”

As a lover of both science and science/horror-fiction, I am fascinated by scientific analysis of hypothetical situations like, say, vampires feeding on humans. Atlas Obscura recently posted not just one but several such scientific analyses. The results? [Spoiler alert!] Vampires wipe out the human race – and thus, their own food supply – in surprisingly short order. Results differ according to vampiric feeding assumptions, but none of the results are encouraging. For example, per Atlas Obscura, “According to the first scenario, the Stoker-King model — based on vampires as delineated in Bram Stoker’s 'Dracula' and Stephen King’s 'Salem’s Lot' — 80 percent of the human population would be exterminated within the first 165 days of initial vampiric activity.”

So ... why am I talking about vampires on TriplePundit? Well, as many of you have already guessed, the most frightening implications of these hypothetical analyses have very real-world applications. Replace “vampires” with “humans,” and you get the picture.

Wait, you may say: “Modern” humans go back at least 10,000 years – to the dawn of our agricultural revolution – and we have yet to wipe out our global food supply. True; however, only in the last century have we acquired near-superhuman powers in our ability to consume the planet’s resources on a truly global scale. And the result – a sixth mass extinction – places us in the same league as planet-killing asteroid impacts.

“[W]e are facing a typical consumption-resource trade off. The vampire society derives utility from consumption of blood, but in sucking the blood of a human being and in turning him to a vampire the resource of human beings is reduced, whereas the number of vampires is increased. Both of these effects diminish the resource of humans per vampire curtailing future possibilities of consumption,”  -- Richard Hartl and Alexander Mehlmann, “The Transylvanian Problem of Renewable Resources”

The problem, as folks from Annie Leonard to Professor John Guillebaud have warned, is that, “We have reached a stage where the amount of resources needed to sustain our population exceeds what is available.”
"On a finite planet, sustainability is not an option; it’s just a matter of how it is achieved. Will the imbalance be corrected by literally billions of deaths or by fewer births?" -- John Guillebaud, University College London

Humans, like the vampires of horror literature, have the ability to collect mass harvests of resources, i.e., to “feed,” with near-impunity. However, even vampires cannot make food appear out of nothing. Vampires are thus constrained by ecological limits, aka physics and math. There is no garlic stronger than an ecological limit, and when those limits are exceeded, a stake will fall with deadly force.

Are the mere humans listening? Perhaps it is time we started eating lower on the food chain (is that a steak – or a stake?) and other means of living within ecological limits. When the 1972 book "The Limits to Growth" warned that humans were not immune to ecological limits, overshoot and collapse, it was regarded by many economists as horror fiction. Yet the world continues to track right along its business-as-usual scenario ... and the ending is not a happy one.

*Headline hat-tip to Walt Kelly

Image credit: Flickr/FICG.mx

Kyle G. Crider is Energy Project Manager for the Alabama Environmental Council and the Alabama Solar Knowledge project. Kyle holds a bachelors in Environmental Studies and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND).

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