Posts Tagged ‘population’

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.