Pop ‘til We Drop? by JOHN FEFFER
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Vol. 3, No. 33
According to the overpopulation crowd, the current food crisis is the latest evidence that the world has become too heavy with us all. We are currently at 6.6 billion and expected to approach 9 billion some time before 2050. Mother Earth is mad as hell and isn’t going to take us anymore.
We’ve heard this all before. In 1798, to be precise, when economist Thomas Malthus predicted in his essay on population that humanity would increase more rapidly than our food supply. The mathematical logic seemed inescapable. But Malthus didn’t predict how much bird excrement – and later chemical fertilizer – would increase agricultural production. Nevertheless, his fears have resurfaced every generation or so. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich dropped his Population Bomb on the reading public with its forecast of mass famine in the 1970s and 1980s. Certainly people died of hunger then – as, inexcusably, they do today – but again increases in food production exceeded the rate of population increase and mass famine never materialized.
And now, eager to find new evidence to prove their hardy thesis, the neo-Malthusians have latched on to the food crisis. In a recent article I wrote on rising food prices, I failed to mention overpopulation as a key factor. I’ve never received so many responses to an article before, and 90% of these comments chided me for failing to see “the elephant in the room.” As one letter writer put it, “Try to remember: Hunger, poverty, injustice, environmental destruction, and global warming are just the symptoms: OVERPOPULATION IS THE DISEASE.”