Filipino Beliefs and Traditions

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Malthus and Africa

Africa, being a third world country with much economic oppression, is currently being debated in the General Assembly about whether or not it should have population control. Many experts believe that, if not controlled, the rate of the increasing population of Africa will have disastrous effects. Over two hundred years ago, a man by the name of Thomas Robert Malthus wrote an essay on the effects of population and the food supply titled "An Essay on the Principle of Population." This essay dealt with the growth of population and if not restrained, how it would destroy man's subsistence here on Earth (Geyer 1). Much of what he wrote applies to not only Africa, but also the entire world today.

Currently, the population growth in the Western Nations is approaching zero. This means that each family is having 2.1 children, enough to replace the current population. For North America to double, it would take one hundred years, for Europe, two hundred. But for Africa to double, it would take only twenty-four years. There are many factors as to why Africa, and many other third world countries, reproduces at such a rate. Lack of contraceptives, traditional values, high infant mortality, and poor education are a few of these factors (Duffey 2). "It is a lot easier for a country to deal with its problems if it has less people," says Brian Hailwel, who studies Malthus's theories (Kolasky 1). Carl Haub who stated, "It is almost impossible for a developing country to move from the Third World to the First World when their population is rising so rapidly" supports Hailwel's statement.

Malthus believed that the evolution of mankind existed in cycles. Good times occurred when there were high wages and good living conditions, which led to early marriages and rapid population increase. Then come the bad times. Disease, low wages, and epidemics lead to population decrease and a restored balance between population and resources. This cycle then repeats (Stundbia 4). He also felt that the Poor Laws, which attempted to support those whose incomes were too low to support themselves, were in the long run more harmful than helpful. This just leads to lower wages and families that cannot support the children they already have bearing more.

Many people seem to think that war, famine, and plague will help keep the world's population restrained. These disasters are one of the two checks on the growth of population that Malthus identifies in "An Essay on the Principle of Population." He called these two checks positive checks and preventative checks. Positive checks are famine, disease, and wars while preventive checks are celibacy, abortion, and late marriages. Africa participates very little in the second check Malthus identifies due to previously stated reasons.

When Malthus wrote his essay, he did not take into account the impact technology would have on food production. Due to the "Green Revolution" which brought about the tractor, refrigeration, chemical fertilizers, and genetic engineering, there was a tremendous increase in food production. Until the mid-eighties, food production kept up with population growth. Since then, it has been steadily declining.

Grain production is declining due to soil erosion, waterlogging and salting of irrigated land, air pollution, water shortages, and overuse of land (Berntsen 3). Technological advances compensated for the loss of farmland. Even though less land can be used, more food is being produced. Unfortunately, there are many indications that the world is, at present, producing the maximum amount of food it is capable of. The combined effect of the loss of farmland and the peaking of yield per acre impose limitations.

The same problem is in occurrence for the meat production. Nearly all of the world's rangelands are in use. Seventy-percent of the world's annual meat is range fed while the other thirty-percent is grain fed. The...
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