A Critical Analysis of the Malthusian and Alternative Principles Underlying One Scientific Article's Model of Population Capacity as Controlled by Biophysical Limitations.

Topics: Population, Demography, Malthusian catastrophe Pages: 7 (2595 words) Published: January 11, 2011
A critical analysis of the Malthusian and alternative principles underlying one scientific article’s model of population capacity as controlled by biophysical limitations.

With natural resource depletion and the human population at all time highs, both economists and ecologists alike are asking, “How much further can our population continue to grow.” At a historical glance, this question has been gone unscaved, as mans thirst for growth has always been regulated by high mortality rates (due to diseases and inadequate medical practices). However, better health care and social improvements have increased longevity since 1800 and, consequently, the human population has seemingly grown without bound up until 1970. Now, with the world population exceeding 6 billion people, for the first time mankind is beginning to breach the capacity limitations set by the biosphere. Thomas R. Malthus, leading innovator in the debate over biophysical limits to economic growth, argues that economic activity cannot be expected to grow indefinitely unless the rates of population growth and the rates of resource utilization are effectively controlled. Modeling population dynamics and economic growth as competing species: An application to CO2 global emissions , from the journal Ecological Economics, utilizes Malthusian theory to provide a set of ordinary differential equations which model population growth as a complex interrelated function of natural resource depletion. Our Principles of Environmental Economics course explicitly examined this issue as we searched for an answer to the aforementioned question from Malthusian, Neoclassical, and purely ecological viewpoints. The following final project will incorporate the teachings we’ve developed in class, with a primary focus on Malthusian theory, and apply them towards a critical analysis of this article and its results; in addition to addressing the question posed at the beginning of this section to come up with a thorough understanding of this topic, once and for all. Malthusian Theory: Our Primary Focus

Malthusian theory dictates that human resources are finite and, therefore, will eventually limit the progress of the human economy. There are three basic postulates of the Malthusian doctrine as it applies to population limitation and growth. First, there are a finite number of resources available as dictated by the biosphere. This means that while technology can increase our efficiency of extracting and using these resources, the amount of resources available for extraction is finite. Second, if uncontrolled, the tendency for human populations is to grow exponentially. And lastly, technology cannot be perceived as the ultimate escape from resources scarcity. It follows then that under these postulate economic activity cannot be expected to grow indefinitely unless the rates of population growth or the rates of resource utilization are effectively controlled.

Malthus most criticized proposition was that population growth, if left unchecked, would lead to the eventual decline of living standards to a level barely sufficient for survival. This has been called the dismal doctrine or the Iron Law of Wages because of its dismal vice tactics. The law of diminishing marginal product supports this suggestion because since resources are assumed to be fixed in supply, more labor applied to extracting a resource will yield a proportionately smaller return. A good example is a family farm with one acre of land (a limited resource). If a farmer has a family of 5 which he is expected to provide for he can easily cultivate the land to allow his family to feast lavishly. However, if his wife continues to have more children, the farmer will have to yield more crops as he hopes to feed 8, 9, or 10 family members. The farmer is limited in the amount of food he can yield off of his one acre so that as he has 9, 10, 11 mouths to feed, each additional child means less food for...
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