Thomas Robert Malthus and Humanity’s Self-Destructive Nature

August 16, 2009

“The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”

via Thomas Robert Malthus – Wikipedia

I’ve been reading The Spirit in the Gene recently (borrowed from Joss Winn), by Reg Morrison. The book is essentially about humanity’s genetic predisposition to increase in number at a geometric/exponential rate. The book brilliantly describes the evolutionary journey which has led us to the present point where our fertility rate, together with our larger brain size-to-body size ratio, means we are the most advanced animal on the planet. Yet at the same time – and virtually single-handedly – we are destroying the very environment which has fed and sustained us.

The prescient quote above (from 1798) neatly sums up the crux of the problem: the earth and its resources, vast as they are, are finite; however, the rate at which humans reproduce and consume is greater than the earth’s capacity to replenish these resources.

It’s a little crass to sum up the message – of both the book and the Rev. Malthus – as “we’re doomed”, but that’s essentially it. Without a significant and conscious shift in lifestyle, humanity looks set for failure.

This could be seen as depressing, but to me it’s actually a relief to read stuff that doesn’t beat around the bush and just makes sense of an issue that’s very difficult to face.

One Response to “Thomas Robert Malthus and Humanity’s Self-Destructive Nature”


  1. […] d’assurer sa subsistance n’augmenterait  qu’arithmétiquement. Il en conclut que la croissance de population est infiniment plus grande que les possibilités qu’offre la Terre pou…. Les lois de la nature supposent un sévère et constant contrôle de la population. D’après  […]


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