Extract from book 3 of The Big Fat YES debate[s]
These books are designed for clever 10 to 13 year olds (that’s all of them) and the odd thinking adult.
Overpopulation is a word that gets all its meaning from the over bit. Population is good, so the story goes, unless it’s a population of nits in your hair, overpopulation isn’t. Overpopulation means you’ve gone over the limits.
Too many people means you could run out of things like:
- Food (including pizza)
- Land and space to move
- Air (if it’s really bad)
A famous old dude named Thomas Malthus said that increasing our food supply was good for people. But only for a while, he added. He thought growing more and more food meant that populations would eventually grow too big – because well fed people have more babies – and a lot of people would eventually starve. We’d have a population crash because we’d overpopulated and outgrown our food supply.
Malthus thought it was mostly poor people who’d suffer from overpopulation. I guess was good news for wealthy people. He said there was a best or optimal population that we should not get bigger than but humans couldn’t help themselves. God – Malthus was a churchman – had imposed limits on population. Humans weren’t good at listening to God….
Malthus got it wrong; sort of.
He certainly would never have thought the earth could grow enough food to feed its current more than 8 billion people. That’s 8,000,000,000+ bodies.
We do in fact grow more than enough food to feed all those 8 billion – plus. We are not so good at getting the food to everyone though, which is why we have starving people.
Malthus was – despite getting how many was too many incorrect – very clever, and we can’t blame him for getting it wrong. He was basing his ideas on everything his world knew at that time. And they didn’t have engineered seeds and tractors and advanced agricultural techniques.
Malthus knew what had happened in the past. Good times meant people grew more food. The population increased. Then the population got too big for conditions and the food supply. Then things went ‘not so good’. Famines happened. People died.
The most famous case of this was tied in with something called THE PLAGUE, aka The Black Death...