O mito de Malthus deve desaparecer -- ué, mas Darwin se baseou em Malthus...

quarta-feira, junho 30, 2010

Dispelling “the Malthus myth”

Issue: 127
Posted: 25 June 10
Martin Empson

Fred Pearce, Peoplequake: Mass Migration, Ageing Nations and the Coming Population Crash (Eden Project Books, 2010), £12.99

In the 200 years since the Reverend Thomas Malthus first penned his tract An Essay on the Principle of Population the question of the “carrying capacity” of the planet has repeatedly appeared. Most recently, mainstream debates around how to solve the question of climate change have boiled down to the simplistic argument that “there are too many people”. James Lovelock for instance argues “that we are treating the planet so badly that we are likely to require a population crash to about one billion people before the world can again live within its ecological means”. The Optimum Population Trust, who “support research into lower optimum population sizes” and “campaign for a lower population in the UK”, claim that “human consumption of renewable resources is already overshooting Earth’s capacity to provide”.

This argument fits perfectly with Malthus’s own beliefs. It would have been recognised by writers such as Paul Ehrlich who spent the 1960s warning the world that its rapidly growing population would soon exceed the planet’s ability to provide. It is a recipe that ends up blaming the poorest people for the world’s problems.

The idea that a growing population means a greater pressure on natural resources, which eventually exceeds planetary capacity, is a simple common sense one. It is also wrong. Since Malthus’s time, those who have followed in his footsteps have used such arguments to justify the world’s unequal distribution of wealth and argue against the possibility of social reform. Racism and scapegoating have flowed from the theory and have lead to forced sterilisation programmes, abortion and anti-immigrant legislation. The resurgence of these debates in the context of environmental crisis is a distraction from discussions about the political and economic changes required to tackle global warming.

It is in this context that Fred Pearce’s latest book is such an important contribution. Pearce turns just about every perceived wisdom about population on its head. From the publication of his first writings, Malthus’ ideas rapidly made it into the mainstream. Eugenicists tacked on their ideas of racial superiority to Malthusian concerns and the resultant poisonous mix made the perfect ideology to justify colonialism and empire. Malthus himself had become the first professor of political economy, teaching a generation of future administrators of empire about the “perils of overpopulation” and the “pointlessness of charity”. Charles Trevelyan, who oversaw the Irish Potato famine for the British government, was a student of Malthus.

The same ideas were at the back of Winston Churchill’s mind when he called for the sterilisation of the “feeble-minded”. Between the First and Second World Wars “60,000 imbeciles, epileptics and ‘feeble-minded’ were compulsorily sterilised in the US”, there were tens of thousands of further victims in countries as diverse as Sweden and Japan. The logic was taken to its brutal extreme by the Nazis, who sterilised half a million people, though as Pearce points out, their policies were “widely admired”.

In the post war period, Malthusian ideas were very much part of the ruling ideology of the Cold War. In the early 1950s, the Rockefeller Foundation was set up to ensure that industrial development was held back from countries like India until they had dealt with their population problem. Senior figures in United Nations organisations and Western governments believed that aid shouldn’t be given to “overpopulated” countries, such as Japan, until they had reduced the numbers living there.

But for leading figures in the US administration at this time, concerns about overpopulation were not driven by a desire to improve the lives of the world’s poorest. Rather they saw the issue as a strategic threat to US dominance. One government report concluded that “hungry people without enough land to grow food were likely to be seduced by dreams of land reform”. Such dreams could lead to revolution, and something had to be done. In addition to the introduction of population control programmes, groups like the Rockefeller Foundation funded research into crop improvements—the “green revolution”.
Read more here/Leia mais aqui: International Socialism
HT/TC: Darwiniana
1. Se o 'mito' de Malthus deve desaparecer, e Darwin somente após ler Malthus é que pode elaborar uma teoria da evolução através da seleção natural, que devemos fazer com a teoria de Darwin? Considerá-la como um mito também???
2. Isso é para os historiadores de ciência pesquisarem: Qual foi o verdadeiro interesse da Fundação Rockfeller em introduzir a genética no Brasil com o apoio financeiro dado a Theodosius Dobzhansky? Estudar meramente as aberrações genéticas provocadas nas Drosophila melanogaster ou outros interesses econômicos escusos contra o Brasil como os praticados contra a Índia e o Japão??? 
Prof. Dr. Aldo Mellender de Araújo, UFRGS, você pode lançar alguma luz???