If there were a collapse of civilization, could people go back to hunting for survival?

I talk about some of history’s horrible famines in my economic development classes and the difficulty of getting enough food in Malthusian societies. Sometimes, some of my students ask why people starved rather than going out to hunt for food. The reason is that there are a lot more people than there are wild animals by mass. Vox did an interesting graphic comparing the mass of all living things on the planet. Here is the mass of humans:

In comparison, humans have almost twice as much mass in livestock on our farms:

Everyone cannot survive by hunting because there are a lot fewer wild mammals and birds than people and livestock. Even if they were all hunted to extinction, most humans would starve and that is why hunting has never been able to reduce the problems with famine.

During hunter-gatherer civilizations, population density averaged less than one person per square kilometer and there were a lot more wild animals compared with the mass of humans. Today every sovereign country in the world has a population density greater than that. Even countries in relatively inhospitable places like Western Sahara and Mongolia have twice the population density that hunter-gatherer societies had even in abundant ecosystems.

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Posted in Development

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