In his lifetime Thomas Malthus saw the population climb over the 1 billion mark. He started making people aware of the concerns with human overpopulation. Who was Thomas Malthus? Is the world over populated? Is there a risk of human over population? What did Thomas Malthus believe?
Most religious leaders push for growth in their congregation, some religions even ban birth control. Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus was an exception to this rule, and an exceptionally brilliant man, whose thoughts were ahead of his time, and perhaps even ahead of our current time.
Born in Surrey, England, February 22, 1766, his views were very much against the popular views of the time. When most saw European society as getting better, and thought improvement in society was virtually limitless, Malthus saw dangers to prosperity and unlimited growth, particularly with unchecked population growth.
In 1798 he published the first of six editions of “An Essay on the Principle of Population”. In his writings Malthus noted that as much as populations grow they are eventually held in check through famine, disease, or other forces. He realized that in order to have a “Perfect” society, populations had to be kept in check, because if allowed to explode there would always be suffering. He wrote “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man”.
He would have been aware of the crippling effect the Plague outbreaks had on the population of Europe only a few hundred years earlier. He would have seen the steady growth of population in his area at the time, although clearly dwarfed by the population growth of our time.
The works of Thomas Malthus were read by none other than Charles Darwin and other philosophers, intellectuals, and scientists of the time and years to come.
What angered so many at the time, particularly others in the church, as that Malthus considered overpopulation to be a “Test” by God, one that other religious leaders were failing to see. In his eyes Malthus (a clergyman) suggested that God punished humanity for overpopulation by causing wars, famine, and disease. He argued that people should be having fewer children or God would continue to offer these evils.
He noted not only that populations need to be controlled because the earth could not support continued growth, and suggested there were two types of control measures, positive, and preventative.
The preventative measures were that which controlled pregnancy from occurring, birth control, postponement of marriage, and celibacy. The positive measures (perhaps a confusing name) where those that saw increases of death, such as sickness, war, and famine. Even poverty was seen as a positive measure. Malthus (perhaps ignorant) thought that poor people would not have children they could not afford, and thus the population would be maintained.
He noted that when wages increased so did the birth rate, while the death rate decreased, and as such saw problems with wealth and prosperity.
In his lifetime Thomas Malthus saw the population climb over the 1 billion mark. A number he saw as too high. As of fall 2011 the human population is over 7 billion and we have committed the sin of relying on resources that are not replaceable, and as such we have crossed a line.
Thomas Malthus, himself the second youngest of seven children, married and had three children, and left a legacy of people who are concerned with world population growth and see the problems that most seem ignorant of.
Those people who concern themselves with world overpopulation may call themselves Malthusians, and note that at least one fact has changed from Thomas's time. He thought that the poor would limit their own population growth and not have more children than they could afford. In our times the government looks after children financially when their parents cannot afford to care for them. The wealthy are often putting off having children, or having smaller families. Money is sent to poor countries to help them keep their people alive, and money is put into staving off death from disease.
We have clearly ignored the warning of more than 200 years ago, and perhaps we are being punished...
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