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Population explosion will likely be the major issue of our time.If the world is to be improved, it does no good to play around with utopian dreams where the streets are paved with gold and everyone eats candy without gaining weight or getting cavities.True, for reasons he lays forth, Malthus is not very optimistic about this prospect.
It seems possible, he said, through science, to increase the amount of food we can produce in order to keep up with our population.I have heard it said that Malthus was an enemy of the poor—a lassez-faire capitalist that didn’t want welfare states to impinge on the free market.Yes, he was opposed to the Poor Laws in England; but not because he cared little for the well-being of the poor.That general idea is so obvious that it seems hard to believe someone would have to come up with it, and Malthus is just the guy who laid it out most clearly.People have known that since the dawn of Humans tend to increase faster than they can create food, so at a certain point they will be unable to support themselves.That's what's happened so far: the "Green Revolution" of the 20th century greatly increased farm yield, preventing a calamitous population collapse in the nick of time. Genetically modified crops could be that bullet; just like the Green Revolution, they offer to greatly increase farm yield, bringing along a number of dire-sounding, poorly understood side effects.Unfortunately, we now suspect that rather than preventing a calamitous collapse, the Green Revolution may just have forestalled a catastrophic one; the new farming techniques are destroying our soil. (See Charles Mann's cover story in National Geographic, September 2008 for more.) We need a new silver bullet. You might explain that it'll only result in decreased sensitivity and a shortage of socks, but he is going to keep at it with endless industry and innovation. We'll either be able to innovate fast enough to barely stay ahead of our own unforeseen consequences, or something else will happen. ETA: Cecily directs me to a couple of poems that say pretty much what I've said but much better and they rhyme. I’m not sure what exactly I expected from this little book.Moreover, the writing is excellent; who expects Malthus to have a sense of humor?I also didn’t expect the feminism, and the extension of the analysis from the Well, this was not quite what I expected.The topic broadens into the public policy consequences of his theory and the metaphysical purposes of misery.I also didn’t expect the feminism, and the extension of the analysis from the of the misery produced by the imbalance in population and agriculture.