Monday, November 23, 2009

"Malthusians are always wrong about everything."

Are there too many people? No, there are too many Malthusians. Brendan O’Neill explains:
In the year 200 AD, there were approximately 180 million human beings on the planet Earth. And at that time a Christian philosopher called Tertullian argued: "We are burdensome to the world, the resources are scarcely adequate for us… already nature does not sustain us." In other words, there were too many people for the planet to cope with and we were bleeding Mother Nature dry.

Well today, nearly 180 million people live in the Eastern Half of the United States alone, in the 26 states that lie to the east of the Mississippi River. And far from facing hunger or destitution, many of these people – especially the 1.7 million who live on the tiny island of Manhattan – have quite nice lives.

In the early 1800s, there were approximately 980 million human beings on the planet Earth. One of them was the population scaremonger Thomas Malthus, who argued that if too many more people were born then "premature death would visit mankind" – there would be food shortages, "epidemics, pestilence and plagues," which would "sweep off tens of thousands [of people]."

Well today, more than the entire world population of Malthus’s era now lives in China alone: there are 1.3 billion human beings in China. And far from facing pestilence, plagues and starvation, the living standards of many Chinese have improved immensely over the past few decades. In 1949 life expectancy in China was 36.5 years; today it is 73.4 years. In 1978 China had 193 cities; today it has 655 cities. Over the past 30 years, China has raised a further 235 million of its citizens out of absolute poverty – a remarkable historic leap forward for humanity.

In 1971 there were approximately 3.6 billion human beings on the planet Earth. And at that time Paul Ehrlich, a patron of the Optimum Population Trust and author of a book called The Population Bomb, wrote about his "shocking" visit to New Delhi in India. He said: "The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people sleeping. People visiting, arguing, screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating. People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people, people. As we moved slowly through the mob, [we wondered] would we ever get to our hotel…?"

You’ll be pleased to know that Paul Ehrlich did make it to his hotel, through the mob of strange brown people shitting in the streets, and he later wrote in his book that as a result of overpopulation "hundreds of millions of people will starve to death." He said India couldn’t possibly feed all its people and would experience some kind of collapse around 1980.

Well today, the world population is almost double what it was in 1971 – then it was 3.6 billion, today it is 6.7 billion – and while there are still social problems of poverty and malnutrition, hundreds of millions of people are not starving to death. As for India, she is doing quite well for herself. When Ehrlich was writing in 1971 there were 550 million people in India; today there are 1.1 billion. Yes, there’s still poverty, but Indians are not starving; in fact India has made some important economic and social leaps forward and both life expectancy and living standards have improved in that vast nation.

What this potted history of population scaremongering ought to demonstrate is this: Malthusians are always wrong about everything. .... [more]
Too many people? No, too many Malthusians | spiked