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Malthusianism

  • By: Jessica Kelly
  • In: Green Politics: An A-to-Z Guide
  • Edited by: Dustin Mulvaney & Paul Robbins
  • Subject:Environmental Sociology, Environmental Technology, Policy & Management, Environmental Policy & Law (general)

In his An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) and subsequent revisions, British economist Thomas Robert Malthus set forth the political and economic concept that unchecked population growth outpaces the means of subsistence, or that population tends to increase exponentially or geometrically, whereas food supplies increase arithmetically or linearly. The result of unchecked population growth inevitably leads to economic catastrophe. Critics of Malthus's theory claim that progress in science and technology will inexorably solve the problems of scarcity of resources, particularly the food supply, as humans develop methods to increase productivity or substitute away from scarce resources in favor of less scarce or renewable resources. Malthus's controversial ideas continue to have salience today as Malthusians, or neo-Malthusians, apply Malthus's mathematical model to the increasing ...

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