Reinventing Malthus for the 21st Century Celebrating the Bicentennial of Malthus’ Original Population Essay

Celebrating the Bicentennial of Malthus’ Original Population Essay

The 200th Anniversary of one of the most provocative essays in the history of Western thought is upon us, the original edition of An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus, first published in 1798.  

This important essay first identified the geometric role of natural population increase in outrunning subsistence food supplies, prompting Charles Darwin to explore the actual patterns of evolution.  What can we learn from Malthus 200 years later?  

Approximately one billion people now go to bed hungry every night.  Several hundred thousand die of malnutrition every year.  Malthus recognized limits: can we ignore population limits in today’s world?  


Malthus’ Original Essay on the Principle of Population

William Catton’s NPG Forum on Malthus and Overshoot

Sharon Stein’s NPG Booknote Review of John Rohe’s “Bicentennial Malthusian Essay”

Malthus 200 Years Later: Selected Articles
NPR Weekend Edition, June 7, 1998
Malthusian Truths About Today’s World by Georgie Anne Geyer, May 22, 1998
Malthus + 200: Disastrous ‘Correction’ Looms Ahead, Science Daily, March 26, 1998
The Durable Reverend Malthus, by John H. Tanton, The Social Contract, Spring 1998
Defenders of Malthus Warn of America’s “Addiction” to Economic Growth,by John Omicinski, July 15, 1997



There is no remedy that can possibly avert disastrous Climate Change and Global Warming unless we first address the problem of world population size and growth, and its impact on the size of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.That means that we need to address the population size and growth of each nation, which together make up the world total.

World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!

From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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