This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yet More Warnings About the Danger of Overpopulation

When Malthus penned his Essay on Population in 1798 he was concerned only with the possibility that population growth would exceed the food supply, leading to "misery," by which he meant higher death rates and poverty. And, of course, his Natural Law of Population was wrong, because as Darwin realized after reading Malthus, all living things have the power of geometric growth, not just humans. And, indeed, because of human ability to apply science to agriculture, the food supply has more or less kept up with population growth, although it is not clear that we can keep it up much longer. As it turned out, however, Malthus had not reckoned with the ability of humans to damage the environment and make the planet an unlivable place. That possibility seems to be the main thrust of a new book reviewed in today's New York Times--"Countdown" by journalist Alan Weisman. Weisman is also featured in an interview about his book on Huffington Post, and I referred to it a month ago, as well, but it is important enough to bear repeating, in my opinion.

There is nothing new in Weisman's book, as nearly as I can tell (full disclosure--I have not read the book, so I could be wrong about that), but the theme is of obvious importance, and the more people who get that message, by whatever means, the more likely it is that we will finally wake up and do something about this. As I also mentioned before, this is the subtext of Dan Brown's bestseller "Inferno," in which (spoiler alert!) a vector virus is loosed upon the world by a genius lunatic, with the goal of randomly inducing sterility in humans to lower the birth rate, since humans won't act quickly enough on their own.

On the side of trying more sanely to do something about this, there is a cyberseminar going on at Columbia University's Population-Environment Research Network (PERN). You can participate by sending an email to:

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