Are We Already Experiencing the Effects of Overpopulation?

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They didn't call Thomas Malthus the "gloomy prophet" for nothing: his visions presaged an overpopulated world wracked with the resulting problems of famine and privation. His theories later fell out of favor, but with some reports tagging the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt to a spike in global food prices, it's worth wondering whether the globe is already experiencing some of the early affects of overpopulation. An article by John Yemma in the Christian Science Monitor points this out, and raises some relevant questions. By 2050, for example, the world population will hit 9.2 billion, according to the U.S. census bureau. "Because of declining birthrates, population specialists believe that will be the peak." But "can the planet carry another 2.3 billion people, the equivalent of another India and China?" And "where will the food come from? Agricultural specialists say that Africa....may be the next breadbasket."

Yemma cites a separate Monitor report that examines this, noting "how rich nations from China to Germany to Saudi Arabia are looking at the Guinea Savannah and other areas of Africa as a source of food and biofuel for their voracious populations. This is causing inevitable tensions, since African agriculture is made up of millions of small plots where families do subsistence farming. Africans are rightly wary, considering their history. The 21st century could see a new form of colonial plantation displacing indigenous farms."

"Our species can still prove Parson Malthus wrong," Yemma says. "But it won't just take wiser management of land, water, energy, and population. We'll need a wiser form of humanity this time in Africa."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.