Dangers of overpopulation
“Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence only increases in an arithmetical ratio.” Thomas Malthus (1766-1834).
Thomas Malthus’ warning quoted above and conveyed in his book; An Essay on the Principal of Population (1798) was then dismissed as the ranting of a sensationalist and a hue, arising from a distorted vision of seeing a rabbit and calling it a wolf was flung away as a Frisbee.
Like a demonized boomerang it has gone full circle in over 200 years and now recoils around the world in a stifling grip, leaving all of us grasping for a meaningful or a welfare enhancing life.
Thomas Malthus was no ordinary man. In addition to being an Economist, he was a clairvoyant who saw well into the 21st century. His assertion that population is increasing geometrically and food is increasing arithmetically is no longer news. What is news is that today; July 11, 2014 is World Population Day. After today, the subject of world population will be news on July 11, 2015.
Today, countries like India and China have begun to implement Malthus’ counsel by limiting the number of children per couple, legislating against adolescent marriage, legalization of abortion, use of contraceptives and sterilization (vasectomy in men and tubal sterilization in women) among other methods.
In a world of over 7 billion people and much of the people living longer because of improved hygiene and health delivery, the population of the world throws up Malthus’ concern of over 200 years ago.
His concerns of delayed marriage, proper child spacing – leading to fewer children, and increase in food production capacity are gradually suppressing the concerns of climate change and the depleting ozone layer. Unlike the changing ecosystem which is not a spontaneous action, there is an explosion on population.
“Population tends to increase faster than the supply of food available for its needs. Whenever a relative gain occurs in food production over population growth, a higher rate of population increase is stimulated; on the other hand, if population grows too much faster than food production, the growth is checked by famine, disease, and war.”
Population burst is characterized by urban overcrowding, pollution, traffic congestion, growing rate of unemployment, overstretched social facilities and lack of basic human needs – food, clothing and shelter, subsets of poverty.
Confronted with the reality of a world population explosion (over 7 billion people) and the fact of a fixed capital (land), depleting resources and damage to the eco-system and the ozone layer, mankind must peruse again these timeless views of population.
Indeed Malthus cried wolf, but what we have in the stable (the issue of a geometrically progressing population with arithmetically increasing resources) is a tiger.