Parson Malthus Makes a Comeback as Overpopulation Zealots Destroy World

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 22, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Parson Malthus Makes a Comeback as Overpopulation Zealots Destroy World

by Austin Ruse
August 22, 2008 Note: Austin Ruse is president of the New York and Washington DC-based Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. C-FAM is a leading pro-life group that lobbies at the United Nations.

Nothing makes a Malthusian’s heart beat faster than a good famine and so these are feast days for good Malthusian hearts. Parts of the world are now awash in water shortages and in food riots.

Thomas Malthus was the 18th century preacher/mathematician who first postulated that overpopulation would inevitably lead to widespread starvation, galloping disease, war and other grisly large-scale die-offs.

Using Malthusian arguments the eugenicists and the population controllers waged a 20th century campaign to lower fertility rates and were successful beyond their wildest dreams. So successful were they that the UN predicts that every country in the world, with the exception of a tiny few in sub-Sahara Africa, will reach below replacement fertility by 2025.

The wild Malthusian success has ushered in fears previously unknown to man; that rapidly declining fertility is leading to rapidly aging populations and eventual population decline. The threat of "demographic winter" had become a staple of even the mainstream media and Malthusian stock went into a decades-long steep decline.

No longer; a resurgent Malthusianism is upon us — left, right and center.

A few weeks ago, the International Herald Tribune reported that the countries of the Middle East and Africa are being forced to make a choice between growing more crops to feed rapidly expanding populations and preserving an already scant supply of water. The New York Times reports that Egypt is considering a two-child policy to counter such pressures.

The impeccably credentialed conservative Arnaud de Bochgrave raised the alarms in a Washington Times column entitled "Malthus the Canary" in which he chided G8 leaders for not eating lentil soup and a crust of bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner; all the better to convey "the impression the leaders of the world’s principal industrialized nations were focused on a fast-unfolding food shortage engulfing the entire world."

In its current issue, the center-right American Interest ran a nine-page essay by Jorgen Orstrom Moller, a Scandinavian futurist, who writes that despite global gains in health, poverty reduction, agricultural efficiencies and the rest, that "attempts to revive Malthus may not have been mistaken, merely premature."

He writes that four developments saved us from the Malthusian nightmare; newly discovered land, new technologies, better markets, and the modern state. Still newer realities have made these developments moribund. Moller now believes that "we have now used up the breathing room that these four factors have provided" leaving the world pretty much where we were 200 years ago.

According to Moller, "The world faces looming shortages of food, energy, raw materials, water and habitable environment. These shortages are not confined to the ‘known world’, as was the case two centuries ago, but encompass the whole globe."

Moller believes that "shortages in agriculture, energy, and raw materials will prove manageable" but the "picture is less sanguine when it comes to water and environments clean enough to be habitable." Moller has solutions.

On the one hand he proposes new sets of taxes, not on businesses, but on consumers, what he calls a Polluter Pays Principle. The idea is that your 16 ounce t-bone gets taxed more heavily than someone else’s tofu burger because your t-bone costs more energy in the making.

Additionally, he announces "The only way to manage the threat of environmental degradation is to devise new forms of international governance." What this feeds into is the already galloping concept of global governance where unelected and unknown left wing bureaucrats at the UN and the EU determine your political future rather than your elected representative in Washington DC.

What makes the Malthusian analysis so dangerous is, like Marxism, its Promethean allure.How intoxicating to gaze across the globe from UN headquarters and solve the globe’s vast problems.

In his new book Columbia professor Matthew Connelly writes that the 20th century campaign for population control was not even necessary since with education and economic advancement people naturally reduce their fertility. What we got with the global campaign run from the UN and the United States was untold sufferings; widespread forced sterilizations, forced abortions, poor women trading their fertility for bags of groceries. A resurgent Malthusianism promises much of the same.

But don’t think that Malthusians are all doom and gloom.

Responding to a New York Times column about contraception and the demographic winter descending upon Europe, Frances Kissling, the long time president of Catholics for Choice, wrote, "The loss of human life in the Black Death is cause for mourning, but in terms of economic impact, the period following the Black Death was one of prosperity and growth in Europe."

Hope springs eternal in the Malthusian breast.


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