How Many People Can Earth Support?

By David L. Brown

In 1798, Thomas Malthus published his “Essay on the Principles of Population,” in which he predicted that a limit would be reached in the number of human beings that could be supported by the Earth. Much later, in 1968 Paul Ehrlich published his book “The Population Bomb” in which he made a similar projection and went so far as to predict that the limits would be reached during the last decades of the 20th Century.

So far, Ehrlich has been proven wrong—not on the basis of his Malthusian predictions, but on the timing of the event. The reason was that he failed to foresee that the so-called Green Revolution and other advances in food production would enable the world’s population to expand far beyond the levels that the planet would have been capable of supporting with earlier technologies.

That does not mean that Ehrlich was essentially incorrect in his basic assumptions, but only in a matter of timing. The disaster that was predicted both by Malthus and Ehrlich is still looming over our planet. In fact, with more than 6 billion humans alive today, there are more than 1 billion living in daily hunger and ever-present danger of starving to death. There are as many people living in famine and destitution on Earth today as the entire population less than two centuries ago.

The uncontrolled expansion of human population lies at the very root of nearly every environmental problem that we face. If population growth cannot be contained and reversed, we face a very dismal and dangerous future. This is a subject that is very delicate and must be approached with caution, but Star Phoenix Base will not duck this issue.

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