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View Diary: If you like quinoa, asparagus, or free trade, read this. (207 comments)

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  •  Malthus was right. (0+ / 0-)


    "... yet another troubling example of a damaging north-south exchange, with well-intentioned health and ethics-led consumers here unwittingly driving poverty there."
    made me recall a conversation I had years ago with someone regarding Thomas Malthus' theory that human population growth would inevitably outpace that population's ability to feed itself [that's my simplified version of what he said]. The person I was talking with said the so-called Malthusian Catastrophe was disproven as evidenced by several affluent, well fed countries who's populations were stable (or even declining slightly).

    In thinking about that some months later it occurred to me what was wrong with his argument. When Malthus proposed his theory it was possible to consider "a population" as an isolated entity. This is no longer true. One can't say "Look at the counter example of this affluent country" because no affluent country relies solely upon itself for food. Put another way, Malthus was talking about "self-contained" population systems and such systems used to live within manmade boundaries such as "village," or "country." But the true measure of "the system" now is the world—the whole world.

    The reason Malthus appears disproven in many affluent countries is because the problems have been relocated elsewhere. The affluent country can say "we have enough food and a near-stable population" because the starvation and population growth are happening elsewhere—they've been exported. The affluent country finances the relocation of the "bad stuff."

    This doesn't make Malthus wrong, though. It means that certain places and people can delay the negative effect for a time (for generations, in fact) but eventually the "big world" will become a "too small world" and the piper will have to be paid.

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