Thomas Malthus and overpopulation


Thomas Malthus argument that overpopulation was inevitable because human population was increasing geometrically while the supply of food increased arithmetically was not entirely correct. This is because his argument was based on the idea that the natural human desire to reproduce human population increase with each cycle while the production of food increased in a recurrent addition of an even increment in each interval of time. According to Rosenberg, the power to reproduce is persistent and inherent and must find expression. On the other hand, the production of food is based on the law of diminishing return. These two ideas supported Malthus point that human population was inclined to surpassing the supply of food. Malthus added that if preventive measures that provide checks such as marriage at a later age or fewer children per family were not implemented, then positive control methods such as famine, war, and disease would operate (Rosenberg 1).

According to Solem et al., Malthus saw that positive checks in the human population as many reasons that contributed to the limitation of lifespans. Malthus continued to point out that factors such as poor working conditions as well as poverty might contribute to issues such as disease, war famine and low resistance to disease. While the gloomy argument of Malthus has not turned out to be entirely true, some factors and events in the modern age depict what Malthus predicted in the past. Some parts of Malthus theory cannot be discarded because issues like low resistance to diseases, famine, poverty, and war are present in the modern age especially in the developing countries. In some nations such as India and most of the regions in sub-Saharan Africa are affected by famine and poverty.  Some parts of the world are languishing in grinding poverty, high birth rates and death rates, communal disagreements and insufficient food (Conway-Gomez et al. 8).

Malthus theory might not be entirely true, but some of his predictions are seen in some of the poor countries in the world. According to Rosenberg, Malthus theory was developed before the industrial revolution and was focused on animals, grains, and plants as the key contributors of food. The industrial revolution brought about an increase in food production and land has over the years, become a less crucial factor than it was during the time of Malthus’s theory, the 18th century (Rosenberg 1).

The theory also overlooked modern age facilities such as technological advancement, which has helped the developed counties to keep ahead of the population growth. With technologies that allow irrigation, seed breeding, mechanization, soil nutrient renewal, and more, then food production can stay ahead of the human population. Developments in technology and other important features including water use, agriculture, energy, information management, disease control can allow humans to keep food production ahead of the population growth. Malthus theory was also limited by the fact that modern family planning practices together with urbanization have resulted in declining fertility and thus the number of children per family has been reduced. This suggests that the human population would avoid increasing geometrically (Sachs 1).

In brief, while Malthus’ theory might hold water in the developing countries where large populations depend on agriculture, this theory does not apply to all populations or countries in the world, and thus it is not entirely true. The most important point here is that there is a need to continue putting in place strategies that allow humans to save the earth’s resources and policies that push markets in a sustainable manner.

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  1. Conway-Gomez, Kristen, et al. “Population and Natural Resources Module: Conceptual Framework.” AAG Center for Global Geography Education, 2010, Accessed 21 Nov. 2017.
  2. Rosenberg, Matt. “Thomas Malthus’ Theories on Population, Poverty, and Food.” ThoughtCo, 17 Mar. 2017, Accessed 21 Nov. 2017.
  3. Sachs, Jeffrey D. “Are Malthus’s Predicted 1798 Food Shortages Coming True? (Extended Version).” Scientific American, 1 Sept. 2008,
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