Thomas Malthus was an optimist. His mathematics – word problems – would not be allowed in today’s schools because they are too hard, too complicated, and too unfair. Nevertheless, they were correct in their times. He predicted that population would increase exponentially (warning: word problem) while food production would increase only arithmetically (another word problem) until population exceeded food. The result would be what is sometimes called a Malthusian Crisis; sometimes, a visit by the Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (I promise to explain why five and not four before this article ends.)
Malthus suggested several outcomes, Famine and Disease being the most likely. Others have added War (to control scarce resources) and the ultimate result of the first three – Death. Those are the traditional “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” based on the myths in the Book of Revelation.
To those I would add the fifth likely cause of Death and the Fifth Horseman – Global Climate Change.
Back to my first sentence. Why do I say Malthus was an optimist? Is it not already true that the world’s population seems likely to exceed its capacity to support human life? Is it not already true that we have overtaken the amount of greenhouse gasses Earth can sustain without catastrophic results? Is it not already true that perhaps nine million people die of starvation every year? Is it not already true that half-a-million to one million people die of malaria each year? Is it not already true that more than one million people have died as a direct or indirect cause of war in the past year? Is it not already true that a quarter of a million people or more will die as a direct result of climate change in 2018? Is it not already true that antibiotic-resistant strains of staphylococcus aurous and typhoid fever (caused by Salmonella tryphi bacteria), and other deadly diseases are infecting populations – mostly in what we consider the third world? Is it not already true that in the United States black babies die at twice the rate of white babies?
Wait a minute! Where did that last come from? Malthus never…
No, Malthus never wrote about the endemic institutional racism in the United States that keeps black mothers from the pre-natal care that would keep their babies alive at the same rate as white babies.
Is institutional racism the Sixth Horse of the Apocalypse?
Based on what I read in the news, it may be. It just may be.
* * * * *
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.