Malthus’ Theory, 200 Years Later

Malthus’ Theory, 200 Years Later

Al Arabiya, UAE, November 18

On November 15 of this year, humanity reached an unprecedented milestone, as the number of the world’s inhabitants reached 8 billion people. This is a turning point in the history of human evolution. Until the beginning of the 19th century, Earth’s population had not reached 1 billion people. But in less than a century, this number multiplied itself over eight times, opening the door to many questions. In particular, this milestone reminds us of Robert Malthus, the noted English demographer and economist, who developed a theory on the relationship between population growth and the natural resources needed to sustain human life. What Malthus asserted is that the human population is growing in a geometric sequence – i.e., 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on, while the natural resources available to us globally are growing in a numerical sequence – i.e., 2, 4, 6, 8, and so on. This means that there is a big and ever-growing gap between the ability of the planet to feed its inhabitants and the rate at which these inhabitants grow. What is the main reason for this rapid and frightening growth? Will this growth continue in the coming decades? According to United Nations data, this unprecedented growth in the world’s population has been caused by the gradual increase in human life expectancy, due to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene, and medicine. It is also the result of high levels of fertility in some countries. The United Nations estimates that the population of our planet will reach 9 billion by 2037, and then hit a peak of over 10 billion people sometime between 2080 and 2100. A deeper analysis of the numbers provides us with interesting insights into the future of humanity. For example, the population increase in the next 100 years will disproportionately affect the African continent. If African countries make good use of their natural resources, promote sustainable development projects, and combat poverty, they might be able to sustain this growth. The other likely trend we will witness is a change in the demographic composition of many major countries. For example, India is likely to overtake China as the world’s largest country in terms of population in the next few years. Meanwhile, in Europe, population growth rates may reach zero percent, which draws frightening signs about the future of the continent and whether it will be able to maintain Its historical origins and roots, rather than be replaced by migrants. In addition, the shrinking population in the continent will inevitably lead to its transformation from a young and productive market to an aging one, where a shrinking workforce needs to support a growing base of retirees. So, what should humanity do to meet such an increase in the coming years? What is certain is that without a well-studied and well-crafted multilateral plan, humanity will face a growing crisis in all aspects of life. It is crucial for us to diversify our food sources and support cutting-edge agricultural solutions and methods that can improve our ability to produce food. We must also ask what the Arab world and the Middle East can do to alleviate the problem. It is very clear that, in this part of the world, fertility rates remain high and the proportion of young people in the overall population continues to grow. This means that, given the right plans and training, we should be able to secure vital, functioning economies in our countries. – Emile Amin (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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