Human published in 1798 offers a pessimistic view

Human population is a key element
in political ecology, because human beings have a direct influence and impact
to the environment. Overpopulation to be specific have been a core topic for
debate in these past years. The impacts of population growth are perceived
differently by different people whether it is good or bad for natural resource
and the environment, and this is with an underlying concept of the earth’s
carrying capacity. At the core of the relationship debate between population,
scarcity and innovation, lies the question: can earth sustain 7.6 billion or
more people? How one answers this question depends greatly on whether one sees
population as a problem or not. Two main theories have stood the test of time, one
by Thomas Malthus in his essay “An essay on the principles of population”
published in 1798 offers a pessimistic view about the relationship. While an
alternative argument coming from Ester Boserup in 1965 through her book “The
conditions of Agricultural Growth: The economics of agrarian changes under
population pressure” is an optimistic view about population growth, seeing it
as the mother of all invention.

Malthus’ view is that the
capacity of population to grow is greater than the carrying capacity of the
earth resulting to scarcity (Robbins, Hintz & Moore, 2014). His argument was since human beings/animals
have the desire to reproduce naturally, therefore, he proposes that human
population grows exponentially by doubling with each cycle while food
production is fixed or grows at an arithmetic rate by the repeated addition of
a uniform inclement of a natural resource in each uniform interval of time for
example addition of agricultural lands. Hence to Malthus population growth and
the provision of food will never meet and be balanced. His belief is that since
earth’s resources are finite population growth will always out paces food
production resulting to scarcity of natural resources.

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A growing population leading to
depletion of natural resources, Malthus believed it could be addressed by
increasing land to plow (Robbins, Hintz &
Moore, 2014, p. 15), this meant for every birth there should be conversly an
increase in agricultural lands. However, Malthus also argued that if
earth’s resources are constrained mother nature retaliates. Given such a
scenario he saw Earth’s resources as a provider of the most definitive and
powerful limits for human growth and expansion such as such as wars, famine
disease and destitution. These natural limits act to provide checks and
balances to human exponential growth.

Moreover, Malthus argued that
policies that promote the poor’s welfare are counter productive since he
believed that the poor have the high fertility rate and that they encourage
unnecessary reproduction. Hence self-control and restraint are a solution to
resource scarcity. China with its one child policy in the 1970s is one good
example of this Malthusian belief. China implemented this radical preventative
check to control its demography effectively from a fertility rate of 2.9 in
1979 to 1.6 in 2012 (Robbins, Hintz & Moore, 2014, p. 20), however this is
associated with its on present day challenges that I will not mention in this
answer. Taking all into account Malthus’ view is that scarcity limits growth,

In contradiction Ester Boserup
had a counter argument for Malthus. Boserup “1981” believed that “necessity is
the mother of invention” (Rogers, 2008). She supported this view by making a
claim that this reaction can be depicted from earlier periods of history, the
need to feed a larger population let to technological changes from one society
to another or to the invention of new technologies and tools. She further argues
that carrying capacity of an area expands due to autonomously occurring
inventions, to achieve this she suggested agricultural/induced intensification (Robbins,P., Hintz, J., Moore, S. A., 2014). This view means
that with the rise of population there is a rise in demand for food production
and this would lead to innovation or a search for alternatives to produce more
with less.

This is historically and present
day evident as more food is produced from less land for example the green
revolution. Robbins et al. (2014) defines the green revolution as technological
innovations. To Boserup the green revolution is the answer to scarcity. The
practice of the green revolution in the past and present day using genetically
modified seed and sophisticated machinery demonstrates Boserup’s theory that
advances/ innovations will be made to increase food supply. Demographic
pressures such as population density promotes innovation and higher
productivity in use of land e.g. irrigation, weeding, crop intensification,
better seeds and labour e.g. tools and better techniques. Hence an increase in
population will stimulated humanity to look for alternatives to come up with
ideas to increase food production to meet the demand rather than to be limited
by natural limits to growth as argued by Malthus.

Several papers, based on
different case studies around the world, provide empirical evidence that both
Malthus and Boserup theories processes co-exist. Malthus’s solution to scarcity
is by avoiding population growth while Boserup suggest taking advantage of the
growth by intelligence that comes with every birth. However, to me these two
theories are not antagonistic theories rather they compliment each other. I
argue that the Malthusian theory predicts that the size and growth of a
population poses some constrains to natural resources and this contrarywise presents
some limitations to necessities/resources for human survival and Boserup is
presenting a solution to these limits. Hence Malthus predicts scarcity and
Boserup presents induced intensification as a solution to scarcity of


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