View Full Version : New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears

03-25-08, 05:54 PM
New Limits to Growth
Revive Malthusian Fears (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120613138379155707.html)

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Now and then across the centuries, powerful voices have warned that human activity would overwhelm the earth's resources. The Cassandras always proved wrong. Each time, there were new resources to discover, new technologies to propel growth.

Today the old fears are back.

Although a Malthusian catastrophe is not at hand, the resource constraints foreseen by the Club of Rome are more evident today than at any time since the 1972 publication of the think tank's famous book, "The Limits of Growth." Steady increases in the prices for oil, wheat, copper and other commodities -- some of which have set record highs this month -- are signs of a lasting shift in demand as yet unmatched by rising supply.

As the world grows more populous -- the United Nations projects eight billion people by 2025, up from 6.6 billion today -- it also is growing more prosperous. The average person is consuming more food, water, metal and power. Growing numbers of China's 1.3 billion people and India's 1.1 billion are stepping up to the middle class, adopting the high-protein diets, gasoline-fueled transport and electric gadgets that developed nations enjoy.

The result is that demand for resources has soared. If supplies don't keep pace, prices are likely to climb further, economic growth in rich and poor nations alike could suffer, and some fear violent conflicts could ensue.

Some of the resources now in great demand have no substitutes. In the 18th century, England responded to dwindling timber supplies by shifting to abundant coal. But there can be no such replacement for arable land and fresh water.
(contd (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120613138379155707.html))

03-26-08, 02:34 PM
As I have mentioned here before, <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=o8ea33eCFQgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=great+wave&ei=WIjqR9PAKZK2ygS09dTMBQ&sig=7sUp-Pki3fhkUUhlhN8lmS2-IzY">The Great Wave</a> is an eye-opening study of European history, of how population changes have affected markets in natural resources as well as politics and wars. Through good times and bad in Europe since A.D. 1200, population growth and price increases were a leading indicator of economic conditions.