National Geographic : 2009 Jun
• head for the workhouses or prisons. And if they d rather die than go there, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." e industrial revolution and plowing up of the English commons dramatically increased the amount of food in England, sweeping Mal- thus into the dustbin of the Victorian era. But it was the green revolution that truly made the reverend the laughingstock of modern econo- mists. From 1950 to today the world has expe- rienced the largest population growth in human history. A er Malthus s time, six billion people were added to the planet s dinner tables. Yet thanks to improved methods of grain produc- tion, most of those people were fed. We d nally shed Malthusian limits for good. Or so we thought. ON THE 15TH NIGHT of the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, 3,680 villagers, nearly all with the surname "He," sat beneath a leaking tarp in the square of Yaotian, China, and dived every 25 years if unchecked, while agricultural production increases arithmetically---much more slowly. erein lay a biological trap that humanity could never escape. "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man," he wrote in his Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798. " is implies a strong and constantly operating check on population from the di culty of subsistence." Malthus thought such checks could be vol- untary, such as birth control, abstinence, or delayed marriage---or involuntary, through the scourges of war, famine, and disease. He advo- cated against food relief for all but the poorest of people, since he felt such aid encouraged more children to be born into misery. at tough love earned him a nasty cameo in English literature from none other than Charles Dickens. When Ebenezer Scrooge is asked to give alms for the poor in A Christmas Carol, the heartless banker tells the do-gooders that the destitute should Continuing a 2,000-year-old tradition, women harvest rice by hand on the Banaue terraces in the Philippines. Even record harvests haven't been able to support the nation's 90 million people, forcing it to become the leading rice importer.