could be perfected so that people everywhere could enjoy prosperity and well-being, but he came to the conclusion that rapid population growth was a major cause of human poverty and misery. Malthus was writing at a time when England was in stage 2 of the demographic transition and its population was rapidly increasing. Perhaps these factors inﬂuenced his argument that the food supply increased arithmetically— from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4, for example—but that population increased geometrically—from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 to 16, and so on. The result, he claimed, was that the number of people in a country would quickly exceed their food supply. According to Malthus, positive checks such as famine and disease would then spread, raise mortality, and reduce the population. In essence, population size was held in check by a country’s food-producing capacity. To avoid such dire events, Malthus, who was also an Anglican clergyman, argued that people would need to implement voluntary preventive checks such as postponing marriage and practicing sexual restraint.
Neo-Malthusians and Cornucopians
means “horn of plenty.”) Boserup was by no means the ﬁrst cornucopian, but her work presented an important challenge to neo-Malthusianism (Figure 3.11).
Food Insecurity One of the key issues that both the cornucopians and neoMalthusians overlooked is that of food insecurity—when people do not have physical or ﬁnancial access to basic foodstuffs. Conditions leading to food insecurity include poverty, population growth, war and civil strife, natural resource constraints and environmental degradation, and natural disasters. Chronic problems with food insecurity in East and West Africa have prompted the development of the Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), an initiative led by
*«Õ>ÌÊ«ÀLiÊÀÊ«ÀÃi¶Ê ÊUÊ }ÕÀiÊÎ°££Ê Neo-Malthusians contend that population growth needs to be strictly controlled in order to avoid a future characterized by great loss of human life, environmental catastrophes, and poverty, whereas cornucopians consider people to be the most valuable resource. Some cornucopians consider population control misguided.
Malthus’s views are provocative and, to many people, extremely pessimistic. Nevertheless, more than two centuries after the publication of his Essay Malthus’s work still prompts debate about population size and rates of population growth. Signiﬁcantly, after World War II, neo-Malthusian thought shaped the population control strategies adopted in many parts of the developing world. Neo-Malthusians are people who share the same general views of Malthus. They argue that, since the world’s resources are limited, there is also a natural limit to the number of people the Earth can support at a comfortable standard of living. This limit is the world’s carrying capacity. One of the major criticisms of Malthusian population theory is its assumption that the environment is the main determinant of population size because environmental conditions constrain food production. Malthus simply could not imagine that food production could be signiﬁcantly expanded. Moreover, he neglected to consider the inﬂuence of political factors on the distribution of food. One of Malthus’s critics was the development theorist Ester Boserup, who, beginning in the 1960s, argued that with more people to provide labor, food production could actually be increased. Boserup’s argument provides a good example of cornucopian theory—a theory positing that human ingenuity will result in innovations that make it possible to expand the food supply. (The word cornucopia Population-Environment Interactions