Essay on Avoiding a Malthusian Catastrophe

Essay on Avoiding a Malthusian Catastrophe

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Thomas Malthus once said, “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man.” Albert Einstein might argue, on the other hand, “Necessity is the mother of all invention,” albeit in another context. So, which is it? Are we doomed to unchecked population growth followed by Malthusian catastrophe, or can we avoid it through increased food production, decreasing population growth rates, or some other means?

To say Malthusian catastrophe is inevitable is completely unwarranted. Is it possible? Certainly – it is only logical that if human population reached levels which far outstripped food supply, the resulting global famine would create easily ignitable tensions between nations, and facilitate disease through malnutrition and crowding – both contributing to a potentially massive death toll from starvation. This is a chilling prospect to be sure, but the words “plausible” and “likely” should not be confused. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that we may have already have moved away from the path towards such collapse. Even if that is wrong, it is incredibly unlikely that it is already too late to avoid through aid and intervention on behalf of developed nations to those nations most at risk.

First, according to Boserup’s research on agriculture development, Malthus’s hypothesis that population growth results from the intensification of agriculture is unjustified, and it is more likely that increasing agricultural productivity is the cause of population growth rather than the effect. The problem in establishing this conclusively, of course, is that growth rate and food production increases occur over long periods of time, and it is thus difficult to determine definitive...

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...igh to adapt to the supportable limits of the environment. What’s more, the desperate situation members of these nations will find themselves in may cause them to make similarly desperate measures to support them and their families, with potentially devastating ripple effects spreading globally. In other words – a Malthusian catastrophe. Such is the case with the tragically impoverished Somalian pirates. In this sense, it is not only humanitarian but also self-considerately wise of highly developed nations with sufficient resources to both aid the social development and curb population growth rates of those countries who threaten to return to stage one through social catastrophe if left unaided.

Naturally, this too raises many issues of its own. There are many sensitive cultural considerations must be taken into account when interacting with local populations.

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