February 25, 2018


Filed under: Globalization, GMOs Cannot "Feed the World", Land Reform, Peak Oil — Tags: , — Russ @ 3:56 am


The problem with Malthus isn’t that he was wrong but that he gave wrong and pernicious explanations for the things he described, and ever since he’s given aid and comfort to anyone who wants to blame the poor and hungry for their own predicament.
In modern reality there’s no such thing as “natural” hunger and famine, driven by some inertial depravity of people recklessly reproducing themselves. On the contrary, hunger and famine invariably are caused artificially, by depraved systems of agricultural production and distribution which turn food into commodities, which require money in order to access food, which dispossess and impoverish vast numbers of people by driving them off their land, rendering them unable either to grow their own food or to get the money to buy it, and which concentrates these masses in slums and shantytowns where they’re then dubbed “overpopulated”.
But they never were naturally overpopulated in the first place, they only artificially became so when they were driven off their land and concentrated. And they never were naturally hungry, they only artificially became so when they were rendered unable to produce their own food.
That’s one main artificial reason for modern hunger and famine. The other is the ecological onslaught of modern productionism which, through climate change and related environmental assaults renders much of the subsistence farmland still in the hands of the people increasingly vulnerable to drought, desertification, and flooding. Of course agribusiness locks up all the best land, driving subsistence farmers onto ever more marginal land which is less productive and more vulnerable.
Those are the reasons Malthus was a liar when he blamed the poor for their own hunger. He fails where it comes to why people become overpopulated and hungry. This doesn’t mean he’s ultimately wrong about what the end results will be. Industrial agriculture is unsustainable in multiple ways: Dependency on finite fossil fuels; dependency on finite aquifer water; dependency on finite mined phosphorus; dependency on increasingly denuded soil; dependency on increasingly weak crops and depleted crop gene pools; dependency on a pesticide arms race which inevitably will be won by the weeds, insect pests, and disease. Any of these or more likely a combination of some or all guarantees the collapse of industrial agriculture and subsequent mass famine. The Earth will restore the balance. But this too is an artificially chosen outcome which has nothing to do with Malthus’s explanations.
The point here is that if you identify the symptoms but make a completely wrong diagnosis, your prescription also will be wrong and probably make things worse. Just look at an idiot like Bono, or his hero Bill Gates who’s a combination of conscious willful predator and true-believer fanatic. That’s why I’ve always scorned Malthus.
No discussion of this subject is complete without one more point. There is one group which is grossly overpopulated and grossly gobbling up its resources, is doing so voluntarily, and is doing so out of nothing but sheer depravity. But this group isn’t from among the poor. On the contrary, this is the group of those living the extreme-footprint Western middle class lifestyle. (You know, the group which spawns the overwhelming majority of “Malthusians”.) This group, indeed, already has vastly overshot any capacity of the Earth to sustain it and will be reduced with extreme prejudice (if their corporate masters don’t liquidate them first). So if you want to engage in Malthusian moralizing, there’s the right place to look.


  1. Well said, Russ. Your writing is impeccable.

    Comment by taojonesing — March 6, 2018 @ 2:15 am

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