Working Papers

Limits on and Consequences of
Human Population Growth

R. Jeffrey Blair
contact information
Aichi Gakuin University, Nagoya, Japan
rough machine translation ... [ Eng=>Jpn ]

This article reviews some theories and predictions about population, then suggests some simplified mathematical models that demonstrate that fertility rates, rather than longevity or the timing of parenthood, drive population growth. These models show why a total fertility rate close to the replacement value of 2 children per couple would minimize the burden on the tax-paying, child-raising generation. The paper goes on to discuss the dangers of a Malthusian catastrophe.

        The Population Bomb (1968), which predicted that mass famine, war, disease, or a combination thereof would occur in the 1970s and 1980s, became a best-seller when I was a college student. Although such a Malthusian catastrophe has not materialized on the grand scale that Paul Ehrlich [1932-] envisioned, his concerns about human population growth are still at the center of many of the problems facing our world today.
        A new generation of college students has replaced my generation, while I have moved to the front of the classroom. Although I'm just an English teacher, there is inevitably a content component to what I teach. You can't really teach language or even use it in a complete vacuum. Language classroom content may provide a valuable bonus to new vocabulary, grammar, and communication practice. While teaching a language, instructors can also provide important facts, useful academic skills, and stimulation for the student's imagination with opportunities to think deeply and produce original ideas (Table 1).

. declarative
ability to think procedural
language VocabularyCommunicationGrammar
content Important factsImagination and
original ideas
Useful skills

Table 1. Educational components at language and content levels.

        With this in mind, I would like to explore human population growth and the danger it poses to human civilization. The classical formulation in this field came from An Essay on the Principle of Population ... (1798) by T. Robert Malthus [1766-1834] in response to the utopian visions of the future that were published by William Godwin [1756-1836] and Marquis de Condorcet [1743-1794]. His more pessimistic theory holds that the geometric progression of population (driven by "passion between the sexes") will with mathematical certainty outstrip the arithmetic progression of food production and concludes that the inevitable result is a world of misery and vice, if not perpetual then at least cyclic. Like the subsistence theory of wages it predicts a low quality of life.


Parameters of Population Growth


Parameters of Economic Growth


Limited Resources


Stages of Population Growth


The Sruggle to Survive




        I would like to express my sincere thanks to Rik Smoody for valuable critical comments on earlier drafts. Not all of the advice received was necessarily heeded, however, and I retain full responsibility for the final product.

Points of Contact

        Any comments on this article will be welcomed and should be mailed to the author at Aichi Gakuin University, Junior College Division, 1-100 Kusumoto-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya, Japan 456-0037 or e-mailed to him. Other papers and works in progress may be accessed at http:// ~jeffreyb/ research/ index.html .


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