Malthus got it right-we are doomed?

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Geography SL        Maxime Boekel

Essay on ‘The relationship between Population Size and Resource Consumption’        11 ALD

Malthus got it right-we are doomed?

How far do you agree with this statement when discussing the population-resource relationship in the 21st century?        


In 1789 the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus produced his ‘Essay on the Principle of Population’, which were based on two principles: first one being that the food supply would increase arithmetically over time, and the second one being that population would grow geometrically/exponentially. There would be a finite optimum population size (carrying capacity) in relation to food supply. So if the population would reach beyond this carrying capacity, it would lead to a decline in the standard of living – it would lead to war, famine and diseases.  

Nowadays, his prediction luckily is not the case. Since the ‘Green Revolution’ started in 1945, there has been an enormous increase in food supply provided by agricultural markets. The green revolution has enabled food production to keep pace with the increasing global population growth. The Green Revolution has provided some great benefits: “From 1950 to 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the world, grain production increased by over 250%” and “The world population has grown by about four billion since the beginning of the Green Revolution and most believe that, without the Revolution, there would be greater famine and malnutrition than the UN presently documents (approximately 850 million people suffering from chronic malnutrition in 2005).” These two quotes state the positive results of the Green Revolution. We also have genetically modified foods (GMF) now. These are foods that are derived from genetically modified organisms. These genetically modified organisms receive certain changes intro their DNA by genetic engineering. These foods were first put on the market in the early 1990s. Basically, since the time of Malthus, we have increased our food production through the following ways, but not limited to: draining marshlands, intensification, extensification, reclaiming land from the sea, cross-breeding of cattle, high-yield varieties of plants, terracing on steep slopes, growing crops in greenhouses, using more sophisticated irrigation techniques, using artificial fertilizers and pesticides, farming native species of crops and animals and fish farming etc.

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 A different view to that of Malthus is that of Esther Böserup (1910-1999), who was widely regarded as what’s called an anti-Malthusian. She claimed “Necessity is the mother of invention.” She said that people have the resources of knowledge and technology to increase food production and that when there is desperate need, we will find solutions to meet our food demands. She suggested that in a pre-industrial society, an increase in population stimulated a change in agricultural techniques, which would allow more food to be produced. Thus population growth would enable agricultural development to occur. Another anti-Malthusian is Julian Simon, ...

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An excellent review of the two different theories of resource consumption using relevant quotes and evidence. Potential for more data to be used in places. 5 stars