Reflections on the ‘Malthusian Catastrophe’ as the World Approaches 7 Billion

ON October 31, 2011 the world’s population will top seven billion. That’s according to expert opinion and a recent article in Nature.[1]

Writing in 1798, when there were less than one billion people on planet earth, Thomas Malthus suggested that misery, vice and poverty would keep population in check. [2]

Malthus was wrong.

Where there is most poverty, population growth is accelerating, while in rich countries population growth is slowing. The average number of children per woman in the world’s poorest countries is 4.5, compared to 1.7 for developed countries.

It is small increases in wealth and education that can lower fertility and are likely to result in a slowing in the world’s population growth.


1. Jeff Tollefson. Seven billion and counting. Nature 478, 300 (2011)
2. Thomas Malthus. An Essay on the principle of population. Thomas Malthus, 1798

8 Responses to Reflections on the ‘Malthusian Catastrophe’ as the World Approaches 7 Billion

  1. cohenite October 27, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    Holdren, Obama’s scientific advisor, is a Malthusian; it is a form of misanthropy:

    Misanthropy takes many forms:

    Which leads me to suggest that human over-population is not an issue but the ever-present threat of extinction is.

  2. spangled drongo October 27, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    Big populations are not unprecedented in nature. There have been species like the Partridge Pigeon that were in even bigger numbers and they survived until we wrecked their habitat.

    If we can keep improving ours, and shun the people haters, we should get smart enough, barring natural catastrophes, to survive long term.

  3. kuhnkat October 27, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    This brings the idiocy of the GoreBall Warming types into full exposure. If they really care about the earth and controlling population and minimizing impacts on the environment they need to be taking steps to insure EVERYONE is at a high economic level, NOT making energy expensive and insuring the damage!!

    Of course, maybe Little Lukey wants to be PRince Little Lukey and own huge areas of the planet from which he will drive all peasants to prevent their damaging the general environment. Towns and cities may be also understood as the rich driving the poor from the best land as could be seen in France and England and probably other countries in the colonial days!!!

    The UN Agenda 21 actually sounds like a modern version of feudal times with small settlements surrounded by just enough fields to feed the people and the rest of the land off limits without specific permission which will be little and none!!

  4. el gordo October 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

    During warm times population increases are to be expected, while cooler periods reduce numbers. This is no coincidence.

    It won’t happen this time around, we have Plan B in place.

    In the short term give all the people of the world electricity, with every conceivable attachment, then population should decline.

  5. Don Aitkin October 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm #


    Are you really sure that it will happen on 31 October, and not 1 November (or next year)?

    I know you didn’t make the original statement, but this level of precision reminds me of global temperature anomaly measurements to three decimal places, when the poor thermometer is doing well to register one decimal place.

  6. jennifer October 27, 2011 at 8:40 pm #


    I totally qualified that statement with the follow-on sentences…
    “That’s according to expert opinion and a recent article in Nature.”

    Because I also think that level of precision unwise and unjustified.

  7. Debbie October 27, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    The historical evidence does point towards these facts. If we raise living and education standards; population increase slows.
    Despite the noise otherwise; we are definitely learning to raise living standards AND be environmentally responsible. We have even learnt how to enhance our environment for ourselves and other flora and fauna.
    It appears Malthus was wrong. Misery, Vice and poverty certainly creates death and destruction but it does not slow population growth.

  8. Dave Shorter October 27, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Hi Jen,
    Slightly off topic I know but your column in todays ‘The Land’ newspaper is one of your best !
    Not only should we not apologise for food and fibre production we need to start exposing the self serving wickedness of our acclaim seeking critics.
    Have you ever heard any member of The Wentworth Group Of Confirmed Misanthropists volunteer to reduce their own consumption of food and fibre ? Ever heard Ministers Wong or Garrett or Burke volunteer to go without food on Thursdays and clothes on Sundays to “save” the Murray ?Of course not. That burden will pass down to those at the bottom of the human food-chain.
    Their motto should be Save The Murray,Starve The Poor !

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