Population Growth in Global Context
What are the consequences ‘of global population growth? Scholars do not agree on the answer 10 this question. Some biologists have warned that Earth is a finite ecosystem that cannot support the 10 billion people predicted by 2050; however, some economists have emphasized that free-market capitalism is capable of developing innovative ways to solve such problems. The debate is not a new one: for several centuries. strong opinions have been voiced about the effects of population growth on human welfare.
The Malthusian Perspective
English clergyman and economist Thomas Robert Malthus (J 766- J 834) was one of the first scholars to systematically study the effects of population. Displeased with societal changes brought about by the Industrial evolution in England, Malthus (1965/1798: 7) anonymously published All Essay II! Principle.tioll, As It Ajft!Cf5 the Future Improvemeut of Society, in which he argued that “the power of population is greater than the power of the earth to producesubsistence [food] for man.” According to Malthus, the population. if left unchecked, ould exceed the available food supply. He argued that the population would increase in a geometric
(exponential) progression (2.4.8. )6 … ) while the food supply would increase only by an arithmetic progression (I. 2. 3. 4 … ). In other words. a daubling effect occurs: Two parents can have four children. sixteen grandchildren. and so on. but food production increases by only one acre at a time. Thus. population growth inevitably surpasses the food supply. and the lack of food ultimately ends population growth and perhaps eliminates the existing population (Weeks. 2008). Even in a best-case scenario. overpopulation resultsresults in poverty. However. Malthus suggested that this disaster might be averted by either positive or preventive checks on population. Positive checks are mortality risks such as famine. disease, and war; preventive checks are limits to fertility. Fur Malthus, the only acceptable preventive check was people should practice sexual abstinence before marriage and postpone marriage as long as possible in order to have only a few children. Malthus has had a lasting impact on the field of population studies. Most demographers refer to his dire predictions when they examine the relationship between fertility and subsistence needs. Overpopulation is still a daunting problem that capitalism and
technological advances thus far have not solved. especially in middle- and low-income nations with rapidly growing populations and very limited resources.