Thirty nine years ago (1972), the extremely prescient Limits to Growth was published, basically arguing that the Earth’s finite resources, e.g., food, water, air, etc., created a natural limit or “carrying capacity” to sustainable human populations. At or near the limits of carrying capacity, population growth must cease, or any growth that occurred would have to depend on concomitant increases in efficiency of resource utilization, rather than in quantitative resource usage, in order for the population to be sustainable into the foreseeable future. The consequences of exceeding carrying capacity were articulated long ago:
What most frequently meets our view (and occasions complaint), is our teeming population: our numbers are burdensome to the world, which can hardly supply us from its natural elements; our wants grow more and more keen, and our complaints more bitter in all mouths, whilst Nature fails in affording us her usual sustenance. In very deed, pestilence, and famine, and wars, and earthquakes have to be regarded as a remedy for nations, as the means of pruning the luxuriance of the human race.
-Tertullian (De Anima)
I love that quote, not just for the Four Horsemen and the equation of “human luxuriance” with the relief of apocalypse, but also the acute observations about wants growing more keen and complaints more bitter, which aptly describes the effects of activating the endocrine stress axis.