Daily writer and apparent doomsayer Tim Rabb approvingly cites economist Thomas Malthus and worries whether overpopulation and resource depletion will produce a future where we “supplant our cars with horses and our supermarkets with backyard farms” (‘Too little, too late?’, 9/14/2011).
Chill out, man. The grim predictions of Malthus and his followers have been proved wrong time and time again.
Malthus died in 1834. In the subsequent 150 years, the population continued to grow, but thanks to innovations in agriculture, fewer people starved. Still, Malthusians in the 1970s predicted worldwide famine and resource depletion. Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor and overpopulation expert, said that by the year 2000 the United Kingdom would consist of “a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people.” Unsurprisingly, it didn’t happen.
In nearly all corners of the world, people are wealthier and healthier today than they were in 1970 or 1834 — indeed, than ever before in human history. So no matter what happens to energy prices in the coming decades, I’m willing to bet that the future will not involve some worldwide return to subsistence living. Let’s not waste valuable space on The Michigan Daily opinion page pretending otherwise.
University alum and former Editorial Page Editor of the Daily.