Old Forecast of Famine May Yet Come True
Might Thomas Malthus be vindicated in the end?
Two centuries ago — only 10 years after a hungry, angry populace had ushered in the French Revolution — the dour Englishman predicted that exponential population growth would condemn humanity to the edge of subsistence.
“The power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race,” he wrote with alarm.
This was, we now know, wrong. The gloomy forecast was soon buried under an avalanche of progress that spread from England around the world. Between 1820 and the year 2000 the world’s population grew sixfold. Economic output multiplied by more than 50.
Nonetheless, Malthus’s prediction was based on an eminently sensible premise: that the earth’s carrying capacity has a limit. On Monday, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change provided a sharp-edged warning about how fast we are approaching this constraint.
Current World Population
Net Growth During Your Visit