In the year 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus startled England and eventually the world – it took a little longer in those days – with his theory of population. In a nutshell, his theory was that the growth of population always tends to outrun the growth of production. Poverty and hunger are therefore man’s inescapable fate.
Although the “Malthusian Theory” has been proved incorrect over and over again, it still broods like a grim ghost over the shoulder of society and can be called out of retirement anytime somebody wants to start a population scare. “Unless we stop having so many kids we shall all starve and there won’t be enough room on earth for all of us. By the turn of the century there will be 6 billion people in the world and where are we going to get the food to feed them all?” If this were true it would certainly be terrifying – but it is not true.
United Nations reports
Has the Creator given us the natural resources to feed this vast world population or has He not? The best place to find the answer to that question is in the constant reports from the various departments of the United Nations. They have the men and the money and the tools to do the job.
Population is not the problem
Having read through some of these reports, one is led to the unelectable conclusion that population increase is not the problem. The problem lies in the areas of production and distribution. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, the world grows twice as much food every year, in grain alone, as is necessary to feel every man, woman and child in the world at present. And up to four times as much food could be produced using presently available land and technology.
How to explain hunger?
Hunger cannot be simply explained by saying, “too many people for to little land.” It can be far better explained by looking at how the available land and technology are being used and for whose benefit. An article entitled, “Inside Oxfam” has this to say on the subject, “It is deception to make people believe that it is possible to solve problems of underdevelopment through birth control systems. The source of underdevelopment must be located in a world system which operates for the loss of the many and the profit of the few.”
Population – three examples
There must be hundreds of examples of how this unjust system works, but I shall confine myself to three. In Central America and the Caribbean more than half the agricultural land is being used to grow fruit and other crops for export to developed countries. In the Sahel, West Africa, even during the great drought of 1974, the production of export crops like peanuts increased considerably, according to World Bank figures, while tens of thousands of people starved. In Colombia where malnutrition is common, fertile land is used to grow $418 million worth of cut flowers a year for export to industrialized countries.
The fact of the matter is that only the poor starve – poverty, not lack of food, is the root of the problem. In short, economic demand is put before human demand. Another way of putting it is this: The problem is more a question of the consumption explosion in the industrialized world than that of the population in the developing world.
The “haves” versus the “have nots”
Both actually and potentially there is plenty of food and everything else in the world to supply the present population and any foreseen increase in the future. The population of the world is divided into two kinds – the “Haves” and the “Have nots.” The “Haves” don’t want to part with what they have and the “Have Nots” have neither the voice nor the power to get what they need.
Is there any solution to the problem? Yes, but, like the food in the ground, we have to dig for it. Take your copy of the Gospel and consult St. Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 31 to 46. The solution is 2000 years old and needs a little dusting off. But it can still work if only it is tried.