On the False Conception of "Over-Population" Especially in Relation to Abrupt Climate Disruption
David Moros - January 8, 2020
The wrong headed and reactionary idea about human "over-population" was first conceived by Thomas Malthus and has been perpetuated up until today although it has been shown false as the application of science and technologies to agriculture have resulted in great leaps in the social productivity of agricultural labour and food production. In 1798 (when Malthus published his An Essay on the Principle of Population), the human population was approximately 1 billion. Malthus hypothesized that human population grows geometrically while the growth of the food supply is arithmetic; that our increasing numbers would eventually outstrip our ability to feed such numbers. Today, human population is approximately 7.5 billion! If 1 billion was "over-population" in 1800 then the 7.5 billion population today (7 times larger) should have been impossible according to Malthus's hypothesis.
The economic necessity for constant compound capital growth is at the root of the current anthropogenic climate disruptions, ecological decimation and species extinctions.
"I'm amused that Darwin, at whom I've been taking another look, should say that he also applies the 'Malthusian' theory to plants and animals, as though in Mr Malthus's case the whole thing didn't lie in its not being applied to plants and animals, but only - with its geometric progression - to humans as against plants and animals. It is remarkable how Darwin rediscovers, among the beasts and plants, the society of England with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, 'inventions' and Malthusian 'struggle for existence'. It is Hobbes' bellum omnium contra omnes and is reminiscent of Hegel's Phenomenology, in which civil society figures as an 'intellectual animal kingdom', whereas, in Darwin, the animal kingdom figures as civil society." Marx To Engels 18 June 1862 https://marxists.catbull.com/archive/marx/works/1862/letters/62_06_18.htm
Malthus knew that capitalism, of necessity, produced a surplus population of unemployed/unemployable working class, but blamed workers themselves as he was an apologist for capitalists and capitalist relations of social production. When Malthus elucidated his population hypothesis, capitalist relations were creating historically unprecedented masses of unemployed/unemployable proletarians. Instead of attacking capitalist relations though, Malthus blamed the victims. In fact, today in the USA, 5% unemployment is considered full employment!
So-called "over-population" is a red herring fallacy. In fact, the human population trend is on the decline. E.g. see video: The World's Shrinking Population https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYZPTaV-RcQ.
Climate scientists, physicists, chemists, biologists, etc. have repeatedly showed that the problem is too much heat trapping greenhouse gases (GHG's) being emitted into Earth's atmosphere, too much land being cleared, too many unnecessary domestic ruminants, etc. Science has shown this for decades. So the question must become why? Why have industrial societies not transitioned over to renewable energy sources? Why are we as a species continuing to unnecessarily decimate ecosystems and call it "development", "growth"? Why is so much meat and so much unrecycleable plastic garbage that's poisoning the biosphere produced? Who's making decisions that are leading the human species down this road to extinction and why?
As a snapshot of the world's economic setup, there's approximately 230,000,000 head of cattle in Brazil alone, while of the human population there (approximately 210,000,000) a quarter live below the poverty line. Rain forest is slashed and burned ("development") to raise cattle and grow grains to feed the cattle for export while 50,000,000 Brazilian workers live in poverty. Cattle thrive while working class families sink further into poverty. Plenty of food produced in the country to feed everyone but millions are malnourished.
Brazil Once Again Becomes the World's Largest Beef Exporter https://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2019/july/brazil-once-again-becomes-the-world-s-largest-beef-exporter/
Pushing this "over-population" fallacy only plays into the hands of the ruling classes (including those who determine national energy policies) inasmuch as it attempts to blame 'poor people havin' too many babies' or some such false idea/concept designed to distract attention away from actual causes. It's easy to point to "over-population" as a major factor vis-a-vis current ecosystems decimation and abrupt climate disruption but this only serves to muddy the waters. There's no direct correlation between human population and numbers of ruminant livestock, global GDP, air transport, CO2 emissions, etc. in the world today. There's no correlation because most all of this additional wealth (and the GHG's that go to produce it) is going to the top 10 or 1 or one-tenth or one one-hundredth of a percent of the already wealthiest. The increased production of these various commodities was not to provide for, was not a reaction to provide necessities for increasing numbers of humans. And if one looks at wealth distribution trends over the last 50 years or so, one will see that wealth has been concentrating into fewer and fewer hands. Thus, this "over-population" argument amounts to blaming the victims for their victimisation.
Quit blaming ecosystems decimation and abrupt climate disruption on so-called "over-population"!
The graph 'Figure 1: Global income deciles and associated lifestyle consumption
emissions' from this paper (https://www-cdn.oxfam.org/s3fs-public/file_attachments/mb-extreme-carbon-inequality-021215-en.pdf) shows the "poorest 50% responsible for only around 10% of total lifestyle consumption emissions".
Thus, these data, if reflective of reality, conclusively show that if the last five deciles (50%!) of the population had no "lifestyle consumption emissions" at all, there would still be a GHG problem based upon the "lifestyle consumption emissions" of the other half of the population. 49% of CO2 emissions are produced by the richest 10% of the population! If the richest 10% and their "lifestyle consumption emissions" were eliminated, problem solved! This seems to prove that so-called "over-population" cannot be the cause of climate disruption, ecosystem decimation, or any of the other major social/ecological issues facing humanity. But "over-population" get's the blame. It's more like over consumption at the top than "over-population"!
As is consistent with the scientific method, especially in these times filled with "fake news" and pseudoscience, we all would do well to ruthlessly question assumptions about society that bourgeois propaganda has indoctrinated us with.
The scientific disciplines of astronomy, physics and chemistry have allowed us to understand the laws of motion of the physical universe but not of human society. The scientific discipline of Marxism has accomplished this.
An economy is an essential feature of any human group that's ever existed. Economy meaning a way in which human groups produce and distribute life's necessities. This daily activity is essential for the existence of any group whether hunter-gatherer or capitalist commodity production by wage labour. One relation that's absolutely not essential though in human economies, in human relations, is private property in the group's productive forces and the exploitation of a producing class by an owner class. If there's no private property, there's no private economic interest and no exploitation, no borders and antagonistic social relations.
"With the acquisition of new productive faculties man changes his mode of production and with the mode of production he changes all the economic relations which were but the necessary relations of that particular mode of production." Letter from Marx to Pavel Vasilyevich Annenkov - 1846
We working classes must recognise that human history has a trajectory and that modes of social production (ways of producing, appropriating and distributing necessities in societies) are not static but can and do change. History is full of class struggle. Like how a molecular cloud in interstellar space collapses to form a protostar or planetary chemistry creating biological life or a massive star going supernova represent revolutions in the evolution of these particular natural phenomena, class struggle based in material relationships and the overthrow of one economic mode and it's ruling class by another class represent evolution and revolution in human society. Slave relations replaced egalitarian relations, feudal relations replaced slave relations, capitalist relations replaced feudal relations so what relations will replace capitalist relations and which class has been historically positioned to overthrow the present ruling classes? The 99%?
"Any worker, anywhere in the world today, given state-of-the-art technology, in any branch of industry or agriculture, mining, etc., can produce great surpluses of value/products over-and-above the daily needs of the producers themselves." http://laborpartypraxis.org/
Scientific research and capitalist competition have produced technologies and productive forces sufficient to sustainably and in harmony with our biosphere provide every human being on the planet with the necessities of life with a minimal amount of labour time. Current relations of production, appropriation, and distribution though, vis-a-vis this technology and productive forces, cause class conflict instead of plenty. This society's productive forces are controlled by capitalist owners who produce only when it's profitable enough for them.
The motive force of human society is class conflict and class struggle.
"I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society." Albert Einstein, Why Socialism? May 1949
LabourPartyPraxis discussion - subscribe