The principal object of the present essay is to examine the effects of one great cause...the constant tendency in all animated life to increase beyond the nourishment prepared for it.

NameThomas Robert Malthus
Life1766 - 1834
 A "population explosion" among the neighbors, threatening to take over "my" land, is an old scare among the rich. Euripides warned us: too many people was the true cause behind the Trojan war. Many others wrote about it. In 1798 Malthus published, anonymously, the world's major classic on the subject, usually called An Essay on Population. His insight also became the starting point for Darwin. Sooner or later, Malthus said, the growth in human numbers will be greater than the growth in food. We will then have to chose between sexual restraints or catastrophes of warfare or ecology. This is the "Malthusain specter". In the poor part of the world, catastrophes are common. As more than nine-tenths of the new three billion individuals coming between 2000 and 2050, are expected here, more catastrophes are likely. In the rich part of the world, we consider ourselves superior because we have chosen restraints. In Europe we have so few children that we will not even maintain our present population size in the year 2050, UN estimates tell us. Is it really so? Have we really shown moral restraints? Or have we simply chosen material gadgets instead of children? Look around in any city; it is not the people that occupies the space, it is the gadgets. Spacious living houses, huge office buildings, and everywhere cars, going to train stations or air-ports or what not, take up much more space and pollute infinitely more than the few telephone-chattering individuals moving around on the asphalt. It is not we but our gadgets that threaten the environment. It is not the population explosion in the poor
nations, it is the luxurious consumption explosion of the rich, that is our most serious problem. Especially if Mandeville - as I believe - was right in suggesting that luxury is the only way to give bread to the poorest! Have we built ourselves into a system with no sane exit? Is the population explosion even a result of the consumption explosion? Are we prisoners of a viscous circle where the poor demand food to live, causing the rich to justify ever more economic growth and luxury for themselves while in reality helping the poor to produce ever more poor children, demanding an ever higher level of luxury to get more food,....etc. etc., ad infinitum? Worse yet, aren't the sexual "restraints" of the rich also a form of selfishness? Is "female liberation" more a liberation from children than from men? Why do both parents work so hard, if not to get more gadgets? Don't we see something that might well be called "the egoism of the middle age" at the expense of a growing neglect of children? Are we even facing an "intergenerational egoism", one in which a few generations of truly gadget-rich people are saying "après nous, le déluge", after us, ecological doomsday? Why are we always afraid of the population explosion? Of course, because we think there are not enough resources for so many. Malthus issued an intense warning for this population explosion. So far, he has been wrong. Globally, we now succeed in feeding more than one new Italy every single year that passes. If we are seriously worried about future wars and ecological catastrophes, however, we should be even more worried about the consumption explosion of the rich, that is, about the beam in our own eyes!