by Val Germann
Yes, it’s true. The ghost of Malthus, once thought banished forever, is once again haunting planet Earth. No, you haven’t yet seen his name in the popular prints (though the FINANCIAL TIMES did mention him last week) but it’s a bet you’ll be seeing it soon. Note the tone of the quote below, from an article appearing today on the ASIA TIMES ONLINE website. It has a decidedly Malthusian lilt:
Soaring global rice prices are hitting the stomachs of Asia’s poorest citizens. The people of East Timor, where nearly 40% live on less than 0.55 US cents a day, have just been told they may not receive their annual quota of food aid.
This concerns the new nation of East Timor even though the denizens there are sitting on billions of dollars worth of oil and gas. What must the situation be for so many other Third World locales, those with little assets of any kind? ASIA TIMES ONLINE holds out little hope for a quick upturn in their outlooks.
And the prospect of early relief for the world’s poor for cheaper rice this year appears remote. “It is not very likely that the price of rice will drop this year. The prices will not stabilize until the end of 2008,” says Sumiter Broca, policy officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Asia and Pacific regional office, based in Bangkok.
There are many reasons for this, a “perfect storm” of cause and effect, politics and economics, war and peace. But the bottom line is simple: a lack of food leading to starvation, as we are seeing in increasingly common pockets scattered across our benighted planet.
Oh, yes, we’ve had our “Green Revolution” but that is now running its course, having doubled and tripled the relevant populations just in time to have exhausted any power to provide more grain.
Let us review the words of the master, Thomas Malthus, from his “Essay on Population,” 1789. He says it best and provides a fitting close to this small missive:
“The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.”