Technology, time overcame limits of past theories

Re: People make choices every day on caring for children and animals, Letters, Sept. 13.

To the Editor,

Re: People make choices every day on caring for children and animals, Letters, Sept. 13.

I would like to expand on Ian Poole’s reference to Malthus and choice.

Malthus was an Anglican minister, economist and social theorist who developed a theory that held the power of population was always greater than the power to produce subsistence, and that no form of social organization could create, or preserve, a just, equitable society.

He felt that agricultural growth was arithmetically linear and population growth was geometric, an imbalance that fueled his “catastrophe” theory which held that by the second half of the 19th century, large numbers of people would have outstripped agriculture and starved, returning the remaining population to subsistence conditions.

His presumption of societal injustice led him to predict food distribution would always favour the rich, relegating the poor to suffer the misery of famine and disease. He believed all of this was God’s plan to teach us virtue. The subtle underpinning of this was the social condemnation of the poor.

Time has undermined the weight of Malthus’s theories, as technology was able to overcome his concept of agricultural limits.

Furthermore, education of women brought emancipation and birth control, which radically shifted population dynamics. Societies also proved they were adaptable, responsive and not bound to a concept of divine fate.

We know there is a clear relationship between populations and maintaining the ecological systems that support them.

Just avoid buying into the fatalistic Malthusian belief that insurmountable physical constraints govern the outcome of humanity.

We have choices that can drive behaviour and behaviour can drive change that can forever keep Malthus’s catastrophe from catching up to us.

Ron Heusen

Nanaimo