I'm not Malthusian

Issue section: 
(451)

I was mystified and indeed a little upset at how my letter responding to Martin Empson’s excellent article in July/August SR “Are there too many people on the planet” was so badly misread by Megan James (Feedback, October SR).

She writes, “Mike Mcgrath repeats Malthus’s mistake in asserting that the cause of climate change is the number of people alive.”

Malthus is easily dealt with — in fact he argued that the linear growth in food supply outstrips the exponential growth of population. He doesn’t mention climate change as he was writing in 1798 and it would be another 100 years before the science of climate change got going with Svante Arrhenius.

What my letter did argue was that the current level, let alone the projected increase, in population is not sustainable under capitalism. Current and increasing consumption in the “developed” world and increasing consumption in the less developed world (China, India etc) almost certainly guarantees this bleak outcome because the generation of greenhouse gases will always outstrip remedial activity. There is an excellent exposition of this process in The Burning Question by Mike Berners Lee and Duncan Clark.

I do hope that this clarifies what I actually wrote and comrades will stop greeting me as a latter day Reverend Malthus.